Last month, I attended a men’s retreat in Orlando, and it was an amazing and rich experience. First off, I got my first private jet ride; we went from Winston-Salem, NC, to Orlando, FL, in record flying time!

Second, we heard from former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp, who was the keynote speaker. Jeff spoke primarily about developing Level 5 friendships. Read through his Levels of Friendship list and determine where your friendships fall:

  • Acquaintance—you’ve met this person but may not remember their name.
  • Casual friendship—you act friendly, barely connect, and speak about the usual “surface stuff.”
  • Good friendship—you’re close enough to joke around and open up a bit. There’s some trust … and some caution. They know about you, but nothing very deep or private.
  • Strong friendship—you trust each other and will talk about meaningful parts of your life. You’re open and honest, but not completely.
  • Deep friendship—you’ve added a purposeful commitment to meet and consistently connect. You disclose struggles, pray for each other, confess sins, erase secrets, stay accountable, and pull each other closer to Jesus.

One way to create Level 5 friendships is through a Friendship Huddle (Jeff’s football analogy). However, developing a Level 5 friendship requires learning to love effectively. Loving effectively entails:

  • Awareness—sharing your story (formative years, successes, failures, redemption)
  • Understanding—listening with empathy to understand intentions and desires
  • Acceptance—allowing others into your circle of friendship
  • Affirmation—encouraging others with what God has to say about them, using Scripture and prayer

We love effectively by loving people for who they are in Christ, not for who you want them to be!

Level 5 friendship is discipleship—investing in another person and helping them become more like Christ. We like to use the Strength Deployment Inventory coupled with the book Three Passions of the Soul. Together, these two resources provide objective data and allow us to notice things about ourselves that we haven’t seen before (our Motivational Value System, Conflict Sequence, Strengths, and Overdone Strengths which are conflict triggers for others).

The greatest friendship we can ever have is with Jesus: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14-15 ESV).

This passage uses the Greek word philos for “friend,” which means “a companion, an associate, one who is fond of you, a neighbor.” “Servant,” in Greek, is doulos.

Jesus is saying here that our relationship is no longer strictly hierarchical. He has elevated the status of our relationship so there is now much greater intimacy and access. We are in His inner circle, His circle of love, of family. And we now have access and keys to God’s kingdom to understand His mysteries as revealed by His Spirit.

Brothers, let’s allow our friendships to be an opportunity for mutual discipleship.


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