If you hadn’t heard already, Englewood did win a $25,000 grant from State Farm for our garden project!!!! Huge thanks to everyone who voted for us, we are very grateful for your friendship. Mike Bowling, pastor of Englewood Christian Church, wrote this little reflection for our congregation’s May newsletter…
We are a wealthy church! However, our wealth does not come through the offering plate; it is not stored away in a bank vault. Our wealth is our friends. Scripture says, “Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” (Proverbs 19:4) Unlike much of the world, we do not have many friends because we are wealthy; we are wealthy because we have many friends.
Over the last three weeks, five thousand different times someone took a couple of minutes out of their day to vote for our Gardens for Growth project. They did it for many different reasons; but primarily, they did it because of a web of friendship which stretches across the world. This is not an isolated phenomenon for us. We have benefited over and over again when our friends have supported our work in our neighborhood. Of course it is impossible to have friends without being a friend, so we have responded many times to the requests of others seeking assistance. Not that anyone is counting, but I am fairly confident that Englewood receives far more than we give. Disparity in receiving and giving usually puts quite a strain on a friendship, but receiving in order to partner in common causes eases the tension somewhat.
Some within Christian circles would point to some of our friends and remind us “that friendship with the world is hostility toward God”, and in stronger terms, “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) I would only remind those folks of Jesus important and often quoted words in John 3:16. While James cautions the church not to pander after the world’s approval or to swallow whole the world’s agenda, Jesus reminds us that the world in all of its fallen state is the focus of God’s redemptive love. One needs to look no further to support this idea than Jesus’ own words about friendship.
Jesus said to his disciples, “but I have called you friends”. He says this after commanding them to love one another, and setting the limits of love at laying down one’s life for “a friend”. (John 15:12-17) Friendship, according to Jesus, is the goal of all human relationships. Having lots of friends and being a faithful friend to many may be the best indication that a church is actually participating in God’s mission. So while most of the world is building wealth by accumulating money and power, let’s keep on accumulating friends by being a faithful friend.
Friendship is not a theological concept that is often used in churches. Mike says: “Having lots of friends and being a faithful friend to many may be the best indication that a church is actually participating in God’s mission.” Agree? Disagree? Why?