There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24, NASB1995).
I found this photograph recently while reviewing some archives of the One-Way House ministry that became Fellowship Christian Church.
We were standing in front of an old farmhouse that served as our Jesus Freak headquarters in the early 1970s.
My thought at seeing this photo again was, “Two pending spiritual giants, only one is a taller giant.” The larger giant on the left is Mark Elliott, and the other – in brown, not white hair – is me!
Mark and I married sisters . . . Mark to Beverly and Grant to Barbara. Mark moved to Nashville and now has five children and multiple grandchildren, while I stayed in Springfield and now have three children and multiple grandchildren.
Both of us still love Jesus and look forward to continuing serving God.
Mark first started attending the One Way House in 1972 and, within two weeks, told me that he wanted to be a leader in the ministry. I’m not sure whether I responded out of my incredible discernment of leadership potential or just desperation for help in a new ministry.
But I said, “Sure.”
A week later, he said that we wanted to preach his first sermon at the ministry on a Saturday night (he was sixteen), and I said, “Sure.”
Mark is still preaching, having planted or pastored five churches in the Nashville area. Since I provided his “big break,” I take credit for all his preaching success but none of his bad jokes.
Our children grew up together. I remember trips to Nashville with my three children in the back seat asking about 10 minutes after leaving Springfield, “When will we get to Nashville?”
Now all the various grandchildren are getting to know each other.
I consider Mark to be one of my best friends. When I encounter difficulty in ministry, I get a call from Mark. He has a prophetic bent and has strong advice about what I should do, and though resistant to this directness at the beginning of our friendship, I now appreciate that he says what he thinks.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).
Mark isn’t perfect. I like to remind him of this every time that I see him. While I have focused my life preaching the message of the Great Commission, Mark has focused on 2 Corinthians 5:17 . . .
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
I believe this verse is key to enduring friendship.
We live in an angry world. The over-indulgent personal focus of our lives today keeps us from learning the art of walking together in grace over the years, and thus we miss the friendships fused by good and bad times.
Do you have friends?
Many of us lose our friendships, never replacing them, while getting too taciturn and resentful. A minor incident can steal a friendship.
Those without friends are to be pitied.
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need (Proverbs 17:17, NLT),
Again, do you have friends? If you do, pray for them regularly and focus on the friendship.
I am triple-blessed with my friend Mark Elliott – first, we are friends; second, we are brothers-in-law; and third, we are both pastors. Lots to discuss when we are together. I hope that Mark reads this Interruption. I’ve said lots of nice things about him, so . . .
He should take me out to dinner when Barbara and I travel to Nashville over the Memorial Day weekend.