“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”

That was the quote of motivational speaker Jim Rohn.  The blog Lifehacker recently posted this quote and it got me thinking.  Is this really true?  And if it is true, is that a GOOD thing or a BAD thing?

Perhaps that’s why so many churches are isolated from the very communities that they live in.

I’ve been taught from a very early age that those you spend time are the ones who influence you.

The end result of that:  you should only hang with people who are just like you… namely, Christians.

That’s why when you became a Christian, it was important for you to break bonds with all your current friends.

In a real way, that’s how we got Christian schools, Christian sports teams for the kids, Christian gyms… you name it.

The people we hang with reinforce who we likely are.

But how does that help lost people?

This is a difficult one for me.  I need to know more lost people.

I score an 8 out of 10 on the introvert scale.  Maybe a 9.

I work with a Christian organization.  I’m an elder at my church.  My wife doesn’t work outside the home.

I have a real passion for the lost… yet I don’t know a lot of lost people.

In fact, it’s hard for me to meet lost people.  There’s the kids sports team.  Some family members. But it’s something I’ve long struggled with.

So… this quote has me thinking this morning.  Not so much about whether I’m just like the 5 people I hang with most; but why I don’t have a couple of people who need Jesus that are in my “fav 5”.

I’m praying that God will bring more of those people into my life.

How about you?  Do you buy the quote or not?  What do you think about it?



  • david November 8, 2010 Reply

    Todd, I think you’re on to something here. I hear a lot of pastors say things like “I have a passion for the lost”, but if you were to ask them to name the specific people for whom they have a passion they would struggle.

    It’s hard to be passionate for the salvation of someone you don’t spend any time with.

    Shame on us that so many of our church-goers have NO unbelievers in their list of 5 closest friends.

  • Brian Farmer November 8, 2010 Reply

    So true Todd. That is why I volunteer as a football coach at an inner city school, play semi-pro football, am on e-mail lists for car enthusiasts, etc. There are “christian” alternatives for most of these, but going “general public” keeps me in touch with some great christians and some not yet christians. My wife and I also hang out socially with people from the public school she teaches in to increase our circle of influence and potential witness. As I tell our senior adults often, “If you only have Christian friends and acquaintences, you need to get out more.”

  • Greg Simmons November 8, 2010 Reply

    Excellent topic. At Catalyst this year, one of the speakers asked everybody to get their phones out and scroll through the phonebook. He then asked, us to find the lost in that list.

    While I believe it is true that we have to be mindful of our circle of friends from an influence standpoint, I also believe the speaker’s point was a little more granular. The last part reads “you spend the most time with”. Most is the key word there. Sadly, most of us choose to surround ourselves with others just like us ALL the time.

    Maybe we need to say, “OK, most of the time I will surround myself with folks that will challenge me, hold me accountable and encourage me…but part of the time I will spend time with others that don’t know Jesus so I can build relationships with them.”

  • Andy November 8, 2010 Reply

    An excellent point! My wife and I felt much the same way two years ago. We looked around and saw that all of our friends were church attending believers and we knew no one that was lost/unchurched. Unlike you though, we both score highly extroverted.

    We were bummed that we had no real influence on the world outside the four walls of the church, even as leaders in the church. We decided that we would put our son in the dreaded public schools as a way to connect with lost people. The next step for us was to not only have him in public school but to be as active in the school as is humanly possible. We figured that we should find a school with high parent involvement and meet people that way.

    The first year was rough. We were the outsiders, something VERY unfamiliar to us. We fought hard to be accepted and included in a tight group who had been together for several years. It took almost a full year for us to be accepted, but now we know some folks and are able to start building relationships. It has been SO worth it. New friendships have been formed and we even have some respect in the school. More important, we now have a venue to share Hope, Love, and forgiveness through Jesus. It was scary @ first, but we really aren’t that different than most of the people!

    We are enjoying getting to know people outside of the church, but at the same time we stay grounded by being a part of the church.

    My wife’s grandmother always said, “As I associate, so I become.” And then there is scripture, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” But we still have to intermingle with those we are trying to reach, even if we stink a bit afterwards.

  • Jay Kelly November 8, 2010 Reply

    The issue for me historically has been ‘I don’t really like people who aren’t Christians.’ When I started being intentional about being around people who weren’t Christians, my initial ‘plan’ was to do so for the purpose of sharing my faith. But that’s pretty disingenuous. I was really trying to be friends with people with the motive of seeing them come to faith.

    That didn’t work so well because I had a pretty big hidden agenda.

    I had to get to a place internally where my only agenda was to make friends and be a friend. Then the issue was to arrange my social life so that I was in places where I wasn’t surrounded by Christians. For me, when I didn’t have an ‘evangelism agenda’ (YUCK!) and when I was hanging out in places that didn’t have crosses displayed everywhere, real friendships happened. Some of those are with Christian people. Lots of them aren’t.

    Faith tends to come up in conversations with my friends–Christian or not. So the point is not to make friends with people who aren’t Christians. The point is to make friends. And if my social life isn’t tethered to the church, friendships with people who aren’t Christians just tend to happen. And faith conversations follow.

    Long story short is that when I tried to make strategic friendships with people who weren’t Christians, that bombed, and I’m thankful it did.

    When I changed my social patterns and just worried about being a friend, faith conversations with people who weren’t Christians happened naturally.

  • Todd Leupold November 8, 2010 Reply

    I think the key here is the descriptive phrase “spend the most time with.” That is, those who therefore influence you the most. That is something we should be very careful and intentional about. And, as believers, yes that should be others not only of like faith but of earnestness and authenticity in that faith.

    At the same time, we are responsible as earnest believers to not confuse “most” with “all” or even “all but the trifling, obligatory other.’ Absolutely, all earnest believers should be actively and intentionally reaching out to develop connection and at least some level of relationship with non-believers. Not is not the same, however, as ‘personal intimates.’

    Also, don’t forget the flip side of this coin that I have not seen mentioned yet. That is the at least equally true and dangerous trend of using a superficial ‘love for the lost’ as an excuse and false rationale to associate more intimately with the ‘world’ than the Church.


  • Peter Hamm November 8, 2010 Reply

    I have to work hard sometimes to force myself to spend time around people who aren’t close to God… but I make it happen somehow…

  • Brian L. November 8, 2010 Reply

    Being bi-vocational helped me. However, I am not bivo anymore, so I have to be whole lot more intentional about forming relationships outside the church. One of the ways I’m trying to do that is to do a lot of my sermon prep at McDonald’s or IHOP. Going in the early afternoon (after the lunch rush), you get lots of space to spread stuff out, check your e-mails, drink lots of coffee/pop/water, and get to know the workers as you become a regular.
    – Volunteering in your community with “secular” organizations like the Red Cross or your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), volunteering at your local volunteer fire dept or ambulance service as an EMT.
    – Get a job!
    – Join your Chamber of Commerce and go to the events. (I’m trying harder in this area).
    – Host a grill-out at your house and invite only the people on your block (not your pastor – unless he lives on your block!)

    There are lots of ways to get to know people outside of Christ – if you’ll be intentional about it.

  • Ray November 9, 2010 Reply

    That’s exactly why we planted our church as a coffee shop. I’m an introvert too. But now, I make espresso drinks for the public. You should see the looks on their faces when they finally discover I’m a pastor too. It’s been a great way to build relationships with people who would never set foot in a traditional church. Like the owner of the sex shop next door! I can always name a few I’m praying for and trying to reach.

  • Christopher Fontenot November 13, 2010 Reply

    I must be incredibly blessed because I work in the oilfield…this is not the bastion of Christianity. South Louisiana is heavily influenced by catholicism so most people have some knowledge and/or belief in God which makes it easier to broach the subject.

    Todd, your apprehension in sharing the Gospel is typical. When God first saved me, I was zealous to tell everyone what God gave to me. I was terrible at it! But one night in early January 03, I saw Kirk Cameron on TBN (I was flipping through the channels ‘cuz I never watch that ridiculous channel) giving his testimony. What he experienced after his conversion is what I was experiencing. He and Ray Comfort have a website and they advertised it that night. I was one of the millions who crashed it that evening. It took two weeks to finally get on it and my Christian walk has never been the same.

  • Joan Ball March 29, 2011 Reply

    Something to consider: Speaking about people who are not Christians as “the lost” or “the unchurched” can be part of the challenge. This sort of language makes the moms, dads, teachers, kids, artists, nurses, etc. who do not share faith in Jesus seem far away and more like a pack of others than individual people with unique spiritual journeys and experiences/preconceived notions about faith. As a result, many Christians approach them with one size fits all processes for sharing the Gospel that are utterly transparent and often awkward or abrupt. My Christian faith journey has been richly enhanced by conversations with my atheist, Buddhist, Jewish and agnostic friends. They know I am a born-again Christian, that I read the Bible and make decisions based upon my best discernment of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They are interested and curious despite having very different beliefs.

  • Amanda April 16, 2011 Reply

    I have almost the opposite which is I live in quite a Christian area but teach in quite a dark and deprived area. I feel very much that God put me there to try to be a glimpse of light in the darkness of some of these kid’s (and adult’s) lives. It is HARD work being this witness. I give a lot to it. More than I have to give most of the time, and it’s only God’s strength that gets me through.

    My church (in the nice area) doesn’t seem to really get it. And sometimes they’re, “But why can’t you come to this or that meeting? Are your priorities out of balance?”

    In short, can we make sure that when we have people in our churches who are working the frontline with the “lost” that we support them through it? And not doubt their love of the Lord who put them there?

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