As I think and pray about She Speaks, our annual Speaker/Writer/ Leadership Conference, that’s only a few months away, I keep thinking about the importance of friendship. Friendship is a vital part of leadership. Without quality, biblical friendships, we are apt to grow weary and wayward. We may even model a flawed lifestyle.
Today, I can think of four types of friends we need most to succeed in life and ministry.
The Developer…is the kind of friend that will always bring out the very best in you. I can’t help but think of David and Jonathan’s friendship in the bible. Jonathan, who was the next in line to be king, gave his rightful place to David. He knew David was God’s man and the best man to be king. So Jonathan did not what was best for himself but rather what was best for David. The Developer is a friend who believes in you and strives to help you be all you can be. This person is usually described as your best friend. My best friend is my spouse, Pat. He believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. When I’m ready to throw in the towel, Pat reminds me of who I am and whose I am. He’s played a major role in my development as a spokesperson for God.
The Designer… is someone who models life for you. They are a mentor.
We tend to think of mentors as a personal, hands-on coach. The Latin and Greek define them more as “advisors” or “wise men.” Jesus was a master mentor. He ministered to thousands, trained hundreds, equipped twelve, and had an intimate friendship with three men.
I’ve had many “designer” friendships who have modeled and mentored me through the years. My parents were my first models. I’ve had many meaning influences—my youth pastor and pastor, bible teachers and prayer warriors. Some of my mentors I’ve never met like Oswald Chambers and Campbell Morgan. One lady, by the name of JoAnn, mentored me through the death of my spouse, my confusion about God and the truth of His Word. Today, she prays for me and my ministry. Designer friends are those who model the Christian life before you, and then, help you achieve it for yourself.
The Disturber… is constantly raising the bar.
We need friends who will shake up our status quo. Disturbers ask us difficult questions, forcing us to take a closer look at motivations and ambitions. Disturbers know when we have retreated into our comfort zones, and they call us out to greater effectiveness. God uses disturbers in our lives to become the object of greater force that breaks inertia and propels us to greater achievement.
A biblical picture of a disturber is in Deuteronomy 32:11. In this passage the mother eagle tears up the soft nest to reveal sharp thorns that bring discomfort to the eaglets. Because of discomfort, the eaglets leave the nest and learn to fly. The mother develops her young by repeatedly pushing them out of the nest and catching them until they become skilled flyers. Eagles were never meant to stay in the nest and neither were we. The disturber pushes us to learn to fly.
I have lots of these types of friends. I guess God provides them because He knows how lazy I am. My “disturber’s” friends know how to kick me in the tail and jump-start my engine. The first one that comes to mind is my assistant, Sue. I thank God for her. She’s like a life coach. She gets me where I need to be. When I’m down, she lifts me up. Mostly, she gets me out of bed and on the move when there is ministry to do. Sue has what I don’t—organizational skills. I’m always learning how to “do it better, easier and faster” from Sue. Trust me, that’s a disturbance. I rather stay in my comfort zone.
Another “disturber” friend is Lysa Terkeurst. Talk about setting the bar. I’m not sure she sleeps. Lysa doesn’t allow her Proverbs gals to fall into a “comfort zone.” No! It’s nothing but excellence. She lives it and she demands it. She constantly challenges me. Just when I think I’ve met the challenge, she raises the bar. In all honesty, Lysa has taught me how to fly in ministry. And I’ll be forever grateful.
The Discerner… is most known as accountability partners. Discerners bring the gift of spiritual insight into our lives. They know how to speak the truth in love. They know how to exhort and rebuke, seeking to keep their friend on the right track. Proverbs 27:6 reads, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” The verse always reminds me of a scene in Shrek when Donkey says, “Only a true friend would be that honest.”
You and I don’t need “yes” men. We need friends who will be honest with us, who will rebuke and correct us. My friend JoAnn is good at this. I recall a time I was crying on her shoulder over losing something that I really felt like I had worked hard at and deserved to head up this next phase. When it went to someone else, I complained to JoAnn. She didn’t sympathize with me like I wanted. Instead, she reminded me that I didn’t deserve a thing! God’s blessings are God’s blessings and He gives them to whom He pleases. She was right. I let it go, thanked God for my part of the project and moved on. That same year, while someone else was busy doing what I thought was mine to do, my personal speaking ministry exploded. That was my true desire. Had I gotten what I thought I wanted, I would have missed God’s best.
Discerners are valuable friends. They’re not afraid to hold you accountable or tell you when you’re wrong. Always be slow in choosing your discerners and even slower in leaving them. We need those who can keep us on track spiritually.
Bottom line—the true friends who will walk into the room of your life while everyone else is walking out.