Friendship as Worship

Justin Whitmel EarleyBy Justin Whitmel Earley6 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Made for People: Why We Drift into Loneliness and How to Fight for a Life of Friendship by Justin Whitmel Earley


Before we talk about how worship can be a part of friendship, it is important to remember that the act of friendship in and of itself is a real act of worship.

Recall the Genesis story and how we were made for friendship. Simply being in friendship with someone else means we are imitating the Trinity, which is inherently an act of worship.

This means that to be happy in the presence of a friend is like a song, a prayer, a sacrifice, a stick of incense. We feel the pleasure of God when we practice friendship because it is an act of worship to him, and there is nothing second to feeling the pleasure of God. It is an unparalleled power in our lives.

Often, we may think that friends need to “do something that seems Christian” to validate our friendship as an act of worship. As if we need to be friends and then pray together, or go to small group, or sing some worship songs to make our friendship an act of worship to God. These things are wonderful, but our friendships stand as acts of worship far before we even get to those other things.

Friendship itself is the main act of worship. God sees your friends. He sees you too. He sees your work in relationships, and he loves it! He rejoices in it and in you. He is pleased when you act like a friend because you are acting like Christ, and that is the image he made you in and the image he is redeeming you in.

The opposite is also true. When you’re so busy getting your family right, doing well at your job, being present for your kids, serving your spouse, and making it to the Sunday evening service and the Wednesday night small group too, there can still be a gaping hole in your worship.

It is totally possible to live the picture-perfect nuclear family and church life and still have a gaping hole in your heart because, when it comes down to it, you are living that life friendless and alone. You are not vulnerable to your spouse, no one in your small group really knows you because you don’t share, and you don’t have real friends because work and the kids take up all your time.

I believe we should look at this kind of life the way we look at the lives of functioning alcoholics or chain smokers. You can do a lot of other things right, but if this is how you’re living, you’re still on a path of death and destruction. It’s just a matter of time until you implode.

Likewise, when we live without friendship, we are missing a key area of worship to God. And worship is a matter of life and death.

This is why having vulnerable friendships in your life is probably the best spiritual medicine for anxiety or depression. This is why a counselor would prescribe vulnerable friendships if it were that simple; all the data shows that lifelong friendships are the greatest predictor of health.¹

Worship breeds health, and friendship is worship.

This is why it is hard for deep, dark secrets to exist for very long when vulnerable friendship enters the picture. Sin “wants us alone,”² but friendship declares war on such isolation.

Fighting for covenant friendship means, by definition, you are fighting the evil that prowls. We begin to do that by practicing friendship.

But we do not end there.

Friendship by itself may be worship, but worship spurs worship, and those who are seeking after the covenant friendship of Christ will find the spiritual disciplines of Scripture and prayer indispensable tools in the fight for friendship.

¹Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, “The Lifelong Power of Close Relationships,” Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2023,

²Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978), 111.

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Taken from Made from People by Justin Whitmel Earley. Copyright © August 2023 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan, www.zondervan.