Last night I finished reading Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction by David Benner. The book has been out for several years, but I only came across it this year thanks to the recommendation of Adam McHugh. I wanted to read it for two reasons: (1) Adam said it was good for introverts; and (2) It was honestly the first Christian book I’ve come across that addressed the idea of spiritual friendship. I’ve had friends before who’ve challenged me to grow in my faith, or who have walked alongside me at different points in my journey, but I rarely consciously reflected on the power of such friendships, or how to engage in them intentionally. Sacred Companions proved to be extremely helpful in providing that opportunity for reflection and guidance in how to intentionally pursue spiritual friendship.
Mike and I read and discussed it together over the past few months and have found it very helpful in thinking through how we relate as friends and co-pastors. Chapters 2 and 3, “Hospitality, Presence & Dialogue” and “The Ideals of Spiritual Friendship” have set the tone for the way we seek to relate to one another as both friends and coworkers. One of the most rewarding parts of working on The Upper Room so far has been the friendship that Mike and I have developed, and these chapters both helped us articulate what that friendship is called to look like and spurred us on in growing together.
I also especially appreciated the third part of the book. Chapter 8 addresses the idea of “spiritual accompaniment groups” – small groups that gather around discerning and sharing where God has been present in their lives (rather than focusing primarily on Bible study or fellowship). I didn’t have the name for it at the time, but this is what the Tuesday night men’s group of Open Door was for me during my final year of seminary. I’m grateful for that group of guys and wish we had been able to read this together then. Chapter 9 gave an honest, realistic, and encouraging picture of what marriage looks like as a shared spiritual journey, including both the struggles and the rewards spiritual intimacy in marriage.
Lastly, the book has an incredible annotated bibliography. Be careful – it’s one of those books that makes you want to read seven more.