Around 20% of people in the UK have no close friends. Does that shock you? Or maybe that's you. So many of us feel alone in the crowd, unsure how to respond to the friendship recession we are currently in. It’s a personal issue for sure. But it’s also a massive missional issue, with some 44% of new believers coming to faith through a friend’s patient witness.

Unless we know what friendship truly is, and how to cultivate it in a Christlike way, we’re missing out on one of life’s greatest gifts which we’re called to freely share.

So, how do we practise friendship well, like Jesus and the early church did, as a witness to our lonely and fragmented world?

That’s the question we at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) wrestled with this last month in our Wisdom Lab exploring Friendship on the Frontline’ in partnership with the Evangelical Alliance’s missiology specialist and the author of The Best of Friends, Phil Knox. Through deep-dive articles, an online event, and small group materials, we pulled out all the stops to equip whole-life disciples for fruitfulness in the places and activities where we regularly spend time with our not-yet-Christian friends. 

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Jesus was famously called a friend of sinners’ (Luke 7:34). He crossed every social divide. But today, many of us don’t have any close friends, be that inside the church, in our workplaces, or on our streets. So, how might we fruitfully respond?

First things first, we must ask the question: What even is friendship? 

Sheridan Voysey, founder of Friend​shipLab​.org, defines a friend as someone I can talk to, depend on, grow with, and enjoy.’ Who fits the bill for you, where you can freely come together as equals, giving and receiving in open and mutual relationship. 

Are these friends from your work, your gym, your neighbourhood or surrounding community? Perhaps it’s where you study or volunteer? And how might you meet and make more friends?

Take Jesus. Arguably His closest friend was the Apostle John. But the process to becoming the disciple Jesus loved’ (John 13:23) began at John’s workplace, fishing with his brother James on the Sea of Galilee. And it was only possible because Jesus, the carpenter, made space outside his daily grind for this piscatorial hobby, trawling for friends by the shore.

Over a few years they grew incredibly close, talking over all that happened including the mundane, like sourcing bread for a common meal. As they slowly wandered the dusty trails, they depended on one another and developed a closeness, through the highs of raising Jairus’ daughter and witnessing the transfiguration, to the lows of falling asleep as Jesus sweat anxious blood in Gethsemane’s garden.

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Jesus extended trust to John, inviting him into His very family with Mary becoming their shared mum (John 19:26 – 27). They loved hanging out together, they literally became the best of friends, reclining together at that final supper before Jesus’ passion was extended to all (John 13:23).

Doing it Jesus’ way

What about you? How do you make space to simply be with others, finding common passions and cause to wander together into life?

Friendship is not a luxury. It’s not an optional extra sucking up little remaining energy after work and serving in the church on the programme rota. Friendship is the vey substance of God’s mission, and the goal toward which we journey. 

In a fallen world, friendship is hard. Thankfully, the best friend of all, Jesus, was born for adversity. He sacrificially reciprocated the love God offered to humanity. Now we can share in His friendship with God. And we can extend friendship to those who aren’t like us, on our frontlines. In the Spirit’s power, we can enjoy a delight-full embrace of the world, becoming a trailer for the best buddy movie of all time, when friendship with God and each other in the new creation come together, face-to-face. 


"Friendship is the very substance of God’s mission, and the goal toward which we journey."

Right now, though, we’re commissioned to love one another as Christ loved us, laying down our lives for our friends as core to our mission in everyday life (John 15:12 – 17). With God’s perspective, we can learn to delight in people radically different to us, extending friendship not just to birds of a feather, but the stranger, and even natural enemies.

Take Jesus’ countercultural friendship with Mary of Magdala. On paper, you wouldn’t put these two together: Different towns, religious background, family structure, sex, and social standing. Mary was somewhat of a social outcast given her mental health history and exotic stories of exorcism (Luke 8:1 – 3).

Nonetheless, Jesus had her back, defending her against accusations of being unholy, lazy, and literally unbelievable after becoming an apostle to the apostles and the first to testify Jesus had defeated death. She overflowed with gratitude like the costly perfume poured over her dearest friend’s feet, becoming a fragrant witness to anyone not embarrassed to look on with joy (John 12:1 – 8).

So, today I challenge you to consider, who’s outside your friendship group, natural community, or even comfort zone? Is there someone that the Lord wants you to befriend? 

How wonderful would it be if every disciple practised friendship, Jesus’ way? What a powerful witness to our lonely and fragmented world! May we make time and space for these crucial relationships, growing together through conversations like this, forming friendships on our frontlines.

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