“Great job this weekend, you sounded amazing!” I said to Pastor Lawrence with my hand outstretched for a congratulatory handshake. I knew I had 20 seconds to encourage him before the town hall questions from the congregation began. It was worship candidate weekend where Aspen Ridge Church saw him up close jamming out to the God of the Bible. Members would vote the following weekend on whether to hire him as our new worship pastor, but there was no doubt in my mind at that point that he would get the “gig.”
“Thanks man!” came his smiling response as we shook hands. We then exchanged a few sentences of small talk that I can’t remember, before he spoke the words I’ll never forget. The words he said next were simple, yet so sincere. Friendly yet fearless. They were powerful and felt providential.
In that brief exchange, Pastor Lawrence said, “Let’s be friends!”He said the words with such warmth and enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but believe them to be true and right, maybe even prophetic in a way. He left me with those words as he had to run to answer town hall questions.
Over the course of that day, week and then month, I couldn’t stop thinking about those simple words—”Let’s be Friends!” They warmed my heart and spurred my imagination. I thought of all my friends over the years and couldn’t remember anyone making such a declaration. I couldn’t remember ever saying those words to anyone else, either. I kept searching the recesses of my memory and still couldn’t think of anyone who had made such a warm invitation as this. As I thought back as far as I could remember, I believed this was the first time I had heard such words asking for my friendship, yet, at the same time, I knew I had heard them somewhere before. During my life, I had been asked to parties, small groups, social events, church, dances, football games and so on. And while I could remember tons of invitations to things, I couldn’t remember a single invitation for friendship. The more I thought about it, the more it gnawed at me. I kept thinking and thinking. Then, it hit me…
Jesus, the ultimate friend, had invited me to be his friend! I’ve never audibly heard from God, but he invited me to be his friend through his word and the words of others (Matthew 11:18-19; Luke 7:31-34). And, shockingly, his invitation came while I ignored him, rebelled against him and laughed at his followers. His invitation for friendship came after I had betrayed him as a friend and went my own wayward way. It would be like Pastor Lawrence sincerely and warmly saying “let’s be friends” after I sneered at him and told him he would never get the worship pastor job.
Jesus said “let’s be friends” again and again to me. He didn’t give up. He used my friendship with Pastor Jeff to draw me to him. He opened my eyes and ears to him through small group life at Aspen Ridge Church. After a wayward road and then a lukewarm spiritual roller coaster ride, I finally said “Yes – 100% all in!” to Jesus, and I’ll never look back. He’s the leader of my life and the best friend I’ve ever had. He is the friend above all friends.
Those who don’t know Christ Jesus as friend are missing out on the truest friend in the universe. Jesus may be saying “let’s be friends” to you right now. That hole in your life, the deep dissatisfaction that you feel even with the best of friends or the kindest family member, can only be filled by him. That anger, resentment, pride and guilt can only be fixed by him. He is a kind and gentle friend. One that will never disappoint or let you down. He’s the friend that will fill you with joy and keep you coming back for more. He will guide you on the right path and listen to your every word…there through thick and thin. That is the friend I know. A friend that literally died for our sins. A friend that rose from the dead three days later to conquer sin and death. Don’t delay, make him yours today!
“…[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
“You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).
Those of us who know Jesus as friend already have an amazing opportunity to introduce him to others by being their friend. True and sacrificial friendship with others is the greatest evangelism tool that we have as believers. As he laid down his life for ours, lay down something you value for a friend who doesn’t know him (John 15:13). Lay down your social media accounts, and smile at people face to face. Really listen to them. Lay down your wealth and pride to serve those in need. Be warm and enthusiastic about a relationship with those that you meet.
Maybe you can say, “let’s do coffee or lunch,” to a neighbor. Maybe you invite someone who is unsure about faith things or someone new you see at church to your small group by saying, “let’s get to know each other in small group!” You could even say, “let’s be friends!” Your friendship with someone may be the only chance they get to see the love of God in action. And it may lead them to a friendship with Jesus that lasts forever.
I am so thankful Pastor Lawrence said those words to me that candidate weekend. I pray we become great friends. I have a feeling the Pridmore family will have many friends in this community as they warmly make their way around. Without knowing it, Pastor Lawrence taught me to be warmer and encouraging in my words to others. Through those simple words, he taught me how to make personal and powerful invitations of friendship and to small group life. Most importantly, he reminded me of how Christ invited me to be his friend.
Aspen Ridge stands with eager anticipation now that the Pridmore family has arrived in Evergreen to begin their ministry. We stand with our arms open, ready to hug and encourage the Pridmore family as part of our family. We stand with our hands and hearts raised in worship to honor the one we worship together. We stand ready to be friends with them and with fresh inspiration to say, “let’s be friends,” to those inside and outside of the walls we call home.