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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Old friends

Someone wrote---

Old friends are like Lego can find one

in the strangest place years

later and it fits just like it did

when it was new.

What a clever definition. It's been on my mind this week as I've encountered some really special friends. Still a nice fit.

Maybe it's just retirement sentiment, but the value of long time friends has become so clear in recent months. Worse, it might be the musings of a geezer who finally arrived at that life intersection where everyone is suddenly an old friend. But, this week I was honored to preach four messages to the Crowfield Baptist Church family on the occasion of their twenty-fifth anniversary. Since I was Pastor of First Baptist Church, Goose Creek, SC, the church that planted Crowfield, Pastor David Coleman thought it appropriate that I preach their silver anniversary services. What a blessing.

Many of the first members of Crowfield were sent by First Baptist and were therefore dear church members when I was their pastor. To re-connect with them was a time of great reflection and memories. One of my instant learnings was that, as a person with little context and a great deal of future in my strength array, I should spend more time rehearsing the faithfulness of God back there in order to be more on point out there. Just the same, to be with precious friends from more than thirty-years ago was an unexpected jolt of nostalgia and joy.

The blessings of being with these dear people, and others I encounter from four wonderful pastorates, have taught me a couple of valuable lessons---

1. The relationships of pastors and church members is precious indeed.

That I was their pastor thirty-three years ago was evident in our personal

appearance and perhaps in our time-worn memories. But, the bond of those

years must be the Lego kind mentioned in the quote above. It reminded me

how they loved and cared for me then, and communicated that so clearly now.

I'm aware that there are strained relationships in that look back too. But, they

are old friends now, and that is a bond that warmed and excited me.

2. Pastors and church staff don't often classify church members as friends.

This is a sad truth about spiritual leadership and the lines that often separate

us from one another. Perhaps they are viewed from a different angle when

considered from afar. But, this distance shouldn't be so obvious when we are

serving together. Jesus certainly referred to his disciples as friends (see John

15:13 and others). Also, I remember that when Peter and John were released

from prison in Acts 4, they went to their friends, the early church, to tell them

everything that had happened (see Acts 4:23). Friends indeed!

3. Cohort friendships should be lasting and enduring.

After time with the folks at Crowfield I reflected on other important

friendships, especially those deep bonds with other pastors and church

staff friends. I am so blessed to have genuine friendship with several

colleagues who enrich my life every single day, though we are not together

every day. Curt, Marshall, Ron, Tim, Chuck, Will, Charlie, Pete, re-Pete,

and many others are people I value and appreciate and would call in a crisis.

Dear and cherished friends.

4. Long-term friendships are a source of great encouragement and blessing.

Theologian Harvey Cox, in his prophetic book The Secular City (McMillan,

1965), predicted that the secular city of the future would be characterized by

mobility and anonymity. That is our world now, and these long relationships

are in fact rare. Every single day I am thankful for Charlie, Don, Steve, Randy,

and Roger, friends I have known since grade-school, Chuck and Lynn and David

and Jean, long-term friends who still influence life daily. WOW!

5. Friendships don't have to be old to have great value.

There are new friends like Legos too. The fit is right from the start. They may

be fewer in this mobile, anonymous world. But, they are the stuff of life, and

often become old friends even in the earliest hours of formation. Today, I thank

God for John and Christy, Chandler and Elijah, Charles and Joyce, Jim and Ellen,

Jason and Angela, and Joel and Patti, among many others. How could we live

without them.

Not to mention my best friend, Harriet T. Holmes, my best friend for more than forty-two years. Now, every time I see a Lego piece, I think of them. And, in the process, thank God for all the Lego pieces that shape my life into something meaningful.

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