The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Wisdom Lab: Friendship on the Frontline

In a culture of widespread loneliness, how would Jesus have us befriend those beyond the church?

Jesus was famously described as ‘a friend of sinners’ (Luke 7:34). Eating, drinking, and partying with all the wrong sorts, he demonstrated a radical way of building relationships across every social divide. And following his example, the early church became a light to the nations, revealing a new way to be human.

Yet two millennia on, many of us struggle to name even a few friends beyond the church. What is happening to friendship today – and how can we model the kind of friendship Jesus and the early church offered the world?

The need is great: around 20% of people in the UK have no close friends. But it’s not a straightforward question. Can Christians be committed to those who don’t share our commitment to Jesus? Aren’t we warned that being friends with the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4)? Perhaps it’s safer to just be friendly without really becoming friends?

And on the flipside, how can we offer true friendship if we’re just looking for an opportunity to bring Jesus into the conversation, pulling away from people if they’re not particularly interested?

We need a better conversation about how to practice friendship on our frontlines – the ordinary places where we meet those who don’t follow Christ.

That’s what this Wisdom Lab is all about. Building on a four-part blog series, we heard from four experienced leaders deeply invested in being good friends, not just to members of our faith community, but with people deeply different from us.

Through evidence-based insights and honest dialogue, we were inspired to live more fruitfully right where we are, from a place of friendship, secure in God’s love.

Now it’s your turn! Whether as an individual, or with your small group, this resource is designed to help you join the conversation as we seek a wise way forward together.

The event was recorded on Zoom on 12 June 2023.


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Discussion guide | Friendship on the Frontline

Download the discussion guide from the night itself, for watching this session with your small group or church and facilitating your own conversation.

Helpful articles

As part of their contribution to this Wisdom Lab, each speaker wrote a blog article exploring their topic further:

  • Part one: Sheridan Voysey helps us listen to what’s going on now in our lonely culture and think about forces shaping why it’s going on
  • Part two: Chloe Lynch helps us imagine what should be going on as we follow Jesus – the greatest friend and God’s gift to strangers – in a ‘delight-full embrace of the world’
  • Part three: Corin Pilling explores how we can create healing action through the practices of lament, gratitude, and play
  • Part four: Phil Knox explores how we can communicate the good news of Jesus in a way that makes sense to friends on our frontline
Connecting with Culture

Blog articles which engage with issues in our culture, considering how we might respond in our everyday lives in a Christlike way:

Word for the Week

A four-part devotional series by Dr Chloe Lynch on ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, reflecting on what Scripture says about Jesus’ practise of friendship, looking at the living word and what it means to live it in our everyday lives. 

Also, see this six-part series, written by Alianore Smith on ‘The God who befriends’, which considers what we can learn from various friendships depicted throughout Scripture, and also explores what the theme of friendship can teach us about God himself.

Check out Phil Knox’s spoken word on friendship below.




Open Book: A Public Faith

Join us for a three-week discussion of Miroslav Volf’s modern classic, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good.

Be Wise: Theology for Everyday Life

Join us for an in-depth, 11-session online course, designed to help you grow in wisdom – equipping you to live in a way that’s distinctly and intentionally Christian on a 24/7 basis, becoming a ‘peacemaker’ in your daily context.