Duncan said to me a few weeks ago, "We're just not popular people." It was said in the context of my frustration about my seeming inability to get people to commit to events I invite them to (I'm not insisting they come, but I'd like them to say 'yes' or 'no', rather than simply ignore me). In contrast, we have friends who can organise a last minute event and get hoards of people along. These, are what Duncan calls, 'popular Christians' - individuals, couples or families who know everyone and everyone knows them (in Christian circles). They get invited to everything, you namedrop and everyone knows who you're talking about, they have 500+ friends on Facebook....
Ok, I suffer from the green-eyed monster occasionally because it doesn't seem fair. We feel isolated partly because of where we live. I'm not well known in Christian circles at all...my family isn't Christian for a start! Duncan's family is slightly more well-known, partly because his brother did MTS, and his parents know a lot of people.
But then I remember that, although a lot of people seem to have forgotten us a bit, we have some really good friends who always make the effort to head south from Perth to visit. We are very blessed.
In recent years I've tended to avoid intentionally forging friendships with people who have lots of friends and acquaintances. My reasoning has been that their lives are already chockers with people, they don't need any more people clambering for their time, and they don't have the time to be a good friend to me. By me not pursuing their friendship, it is one less burden on them, and I don't get disappointed about a lopsided friendship. I've tended to avoid friendships with those in full-time ministry because I've often wondered in the past if they actually like me as a friend, or if they're just spending time with me out of duty, because I'm one of those people they HAVE to minister to. Maybe they're not reading the Bible with me because they enjoy it, but because they're being paid to, that they actually think I'm a pain in the butt! That's not me being paranoid; I've actually talked to ministry people who have admitted that there are 'challenging' people in their churches...am I one of those people? (I wonder if it was just 'ministry' if they or I leave the church and we don't keep in touch). I know those in full-time Christian ministry are already stretched to the limit regarding time and people, so I felt it was easier not to add to that...be kind and loving, but not pursue a deep one-to-one friendship (obviously this would only be with women).
But last year, I came to the realisation that, although being a well-known Christian looks exciting and cool, it has its drawbacks. Several friends in full-time paid ministry (or married to those who are) have said that being a pastor, pastor's wife, missionary etc. can actually be very lonely. They often can't share their hearts with those they lead because they might use it against them if there is a church conflict later on down the track. They might KNOW heaps of people on a surface level, but they don't really KNOW and are KNOWN by heaps of people, if you get my drift. Maybe lots of people have assumed, like I did, that their lives are already full of great friendships, so they don't need anyone else. Then they don't have anyone pursuing a proper friendship with them, they just have lots of acquaintances who come and go.
I have repented of that wrong thinking. While it's true that Duncan and I have drifted apart from friends who have become 'popular' in Christian circles, there are others in full-time ministry who we value deeply and have genuine friendships with. These friendships keep on enduring because it is more than 'ministry'. And now I want to reach out to those in full-time ministry, to let them know they are valued as people, and not just for their Bible teaching.