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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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14.10.2022

Ensuring There are No Billy No Mates

Men have two friendship problems, says Max Dickins.

One, we may have lots of mates, but tend to lack intimacy with the friends we have. Two, with the friends we do have, we grow further apart as we get older.

Dickins is a comedian, which comes across in his book in some of the genuinely hilarious anecdotes, turns of phrase, and cultural references. He explores the state of male friendship, and he finds that across the board we are losing the battle. Billy No Mates is a painful and fascinating journey through the science and sociology of masculine relationships, peppered with comical self-conducted experiments including renting a friend on the internet for the afternoon. 

Why don’t we, as Christians, talk about friendship more? If we know the God who is relational to his core, surely we should be the best friends in the world? Jesus said people would know we are his disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35). Surely this has a lot to do with friendship. 

In fact, we should be the best friend-facilitators in the world. Jesus, even as he is dying on the cross, asks John to look after his mother. He is the great connector and, as Jesus followers, we have that opportunity and mandate too. At its best, I have seen the church help isolated people make friends. In the words of Psalm 68, ‘He sets the lonely in families.’ 

At the end of the book, Max resolves to start a ‘Pub Club’ where he tells his friends he will be at a certain place for a few hours, and invites them to come and hang out and chat. It works. If there is nothing like that in your life, why not think about starting something? If there is, Max’s encouragement is to ‘show up, when asked.’ 

Recent research has shown that not only is a lack of close friendships is the number one barrier to sharing our faith, but these relational connections play a hugely significant role in people becoming Christians. 

So, can we do better here? Can we be that bit more intentional about showing up when invited, instigating meet ups, and daring to take the conversation deeper? 

My prayer is that men and women become less isolated and that we instead regain a deep relational connection in our workplaces and communities. May we be the best of friends, and may there be no Billy, or Betty, no-mates. 

Phil Knox
Phil is Head of mission to young adults at the Evangelical Alliance and author of Story Bearer: How to Share Your Faith with Your Friends. His book on friendship, The Best of Friends, will be published in February 2023.

Comments

  1. Love the idea of pub club. Why do we expect people to come to our comfy place ‘church building’ when we could go to theirs- the pub? It’s where most folk do their talking, their debating and their connecting. We need to start thinking differently to fulfil the great commission.

    By Moira Deans  -  14 Oct 2022
  2. Hi Phil

    To answer your question why the church doesn’t facilitate friendships? In a brief space well here goes…

    The evangelical/charismatic church in the uk has consistently deprioritised friendship, relationships and community in favour of evangelism (they don’t get the irony of this) and worship/teaching/services. Which is ultimately an individual activity even if sat in a church with hundreds of people.

    This trend is compounded by appointing church workers at all levels who seem to have no idea of how to work with people. And church leaderships full of introverted professionals who idea of heaven is “we love Covid lockdowns we don’t have to talk to people “.

    A further trend is de valuing men in general and creating increasingly feminine churches.

    It’s not rocket science. We just need leaders with an ounce of humility to actually model Jesus not just talk the talk.

    Happy to discuss further

    Jeff

    By Jeff Lewis  -  14 Oct 2022
  3. This is such an important issue as present. Our church does a Pints of View group – the men in the group meet down the pub on a monthly basis and then go off for a curry – great for their mental health, but not so good for the waistline!
    Other initiatives we have which might be helpful for others to think about include The Bereavement cafe, Space [a 2 hour afternoon where people meet in the church hall for coffee, cake, board games and chatting] and Mindfulness Mondays where there are different areas in the church set aside for different individual Mindfulness activities

    By Debby Johnson  -  14 Oct 2022
  4. An incisive and very helpful comment. This is something I need to work on urgently.

    By Alan J F Fraser  -  14 Oct 2022
  5. What a superb article which I will be emailing to Christian friends and non-believers who are also friends. I’m 82 and there is no doubt that as we get older, sadly, we do tend to loose touch with long standing friends. I like the idea of meeting up in the pub – a none threatening environment. Well done Licc and thank you very much.

    By Bob Mynett  -  14 Oct 2022
    • Hi Bob. I sent my brother this article. He bought the book and sent me a copy and we are going to talk about it. It really is a enjoyable read…. Max has a hilarious way of putting things.

      By Neville  -  28 Oct 2022
  6. Great thought, thanks

    By Bruce Gulland  -  14 Oct 2022

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