Saturday, July 4, 2009

Grace@work eCommentary: A Big Deal

AMEN!!!! Another good piece from Soo Inn and some very interesting facts from research given like ... Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North
Carolina, Greensboro. "There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage,
but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on
our psychological well-being than family relationships."

But then again when I thuink about it ... it is not that surprising ... enjoy the read.

And Soo Inn, thanks for the friendship!

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GRACE@WORK MAIL 27/09
July 3rd, 2009 Edition.
This ecommentary is sent out free but your donations help this ministry in
its commitment to bring truth to life. Details below.
(Grace@Work Mail is a ministry of Graceworks: www.graceworks.com.sg)



Commentary: A Big Deal
By Soo-Inn Tan


"Spiritual friendship Is friendship that is rooted in Christ, for the purpose of
growing in Christ."


"What is the vision of Graceworks?"
Often folks would ask Bernice or myself about the nature of our work and we
usually reply by stating our mission: "to promote spiritual friendship in
church and society." The response to this is usually a quizzical look and more
questions. Which is really sad because, while the world at large is awakening
to the importance of friendship, many in the church still do not get it. Note
the following:

1. In their book, Loneliness, John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick report:

[In 1985, when researchers asked a cross-section of the American people,
"How many confidants do you have?" the most common response to the
question was three. In 2004, when researchers asked again, the most
common response --- made by twenty-five percent of the respondents --- was
none. One quarter of these twenty-first-century Americans said they had no
one at all with whom to talk openly and intimately.

Also published in 2004, a joint study by the World Health Organization and
researchers from Harvard University found almost ten percent of Americans
suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. They also found that binge eating
and drinking are up, and that our children are medicated for depression and
attention deficit disorder to an alarming degree. (Loneliness, New York, NY:
W.W. Norton & Co., 2008, 247)]

2. For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been following the lives of 268
men who entered college in the late 1930s, to try to find out if there is a
formula --- "some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation --- for a
good life." When George Valliant, the head of the study was asked what he
learnt from the study, this was his reply:

["It is social aptitude ... not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that
leads to successful ageing." Warm connections are necessary ... "That the
only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people."
(Joshua Wolf Shenk, "What Makes Us Happy?" The Atlantic, June 2009, 46)]


3. In her article, "What Are Friends For? A Longer Life," Tara Parker-Pope
writes:

[In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books
or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help
them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong
life: their friends. Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the
importance of friends and social networks in overall health.

A 10 -year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of
friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period ..."In
general, the role of friendship in our lives isn't well appreciated," said
Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North
Carolina, Greensboro. "There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage,
but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on
our psychological well-being than family relationships." (NYTimes.com, April
20, 2009)]

I could quote many more sources, but the above three should suffice to
establish the point that we need our friends to be truly alive. Or to quote my
favourite Christian book on friendship,

[... friendship is basic to our nature, a fundamental need at the heart of what
it means to be human ... A desire for friendship is one of our most basic and
enduring inclinations, as inescapable as our need for food, drink, clothing,
and shelter. (Paul J. Wadell, Becoming Friends, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos
Press, 2002, 111)]

The growing appreciation of the importance friendship may help us to better
understand why Jesus tells His disciples He is their friend. Biblical scholars
have long noted that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament
expectations that the Messiah would be prophet, priest, and king. In the
gospel of John we find that our prophet, priest and king, is also our friend
(John 15:9-17). Our need for friends point us to our need for our ultimate
friend --- Jesus. Friendship is a weighty matter.

We would think that a church who follows a Lord who is a Friend would
understand the importance of friendship. Unfortunately this is not the case.
This morning I received an email from a brother in Christ. This is part of
what he wrote:

[I feel that church is so unreal and plastic. I'm sick and tired of church.
People are just moving in and rushing out. Most of the people I talk to are
either the clergy or the younger kids. At this point of time, I'm really sick of
church and ministry. I'm feeling so lonely in church now. Been there for such
a long time, but no deep friendships formed. My closest friends are mostly
outside the church.]

I will not tell you who wrote to me. I don't need to. He speaks for many in
our churches.

Many in our churches are lonely and friendless. Most churches I know are
absorbed with getting their doctrines right and/or getting things done for
God. Few are concerned with ensuring that their people are loved and valued
for whom they are, not just for what they can do. Few ensure that their people
experience the friendship of Christ through the friendship of their brothers
and sisters.

Everyday, Bernice and I find fresh reminders of why the Lord has called us
into a ministry of promoting friendship. Perhaps our vision can be: "Everyone
having at least two close friends to share their life with." And if we are
followers of Jesus, then "every follower of Jesus having at least two close
friends in Christ with whom to follow Him." Many still don't understand what
we are trying to do. Or they are bemused by the fact that we make such a
big deal about friendship. We make a big deal about friendship because God
does. We make a big deal about friendship because we need friends for life.

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