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Friendship is one of the most important and formative features of the human experience, and one of its sweetest pleasures. Because of its significance, literature is filled with moving examples of friendship, from Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings to Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. These stories, and others like them, invite us to make friendship a priority.
The Bible also speaks of friendship’s important, formative effect on our lives. From the example of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1–5) to the language Paul uses in his epistles to Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), the witness of Scripture testifies that friendship is a blessed good. Solomon himself reveres friendship, using words like “sweetness” (Proverbs 27:9) to describe its joys and “love” (Proverbs 17:17) to convey its depth and devotion.
Friendship is not just a blessed good but a generous gift from God.
Since we’ve been created in the image of the triune God (Genesis 1:27), we are made for community—for friendship. In some ways, it comes natural to us. We gravitate to others, finding common bonds, common interests, and common loves. And yet, because we and the world have been fractured by sin, friendship is hard. We sin against our friends, they sin against us, and relationships suffer and sometimes break.
In Genesis 2 and 3, the Bible implies that life for Adam and Eve was to be marked by fellowship (or friendship) with God. It was apparently normal for them to speak with God and to walk with him. But then, Genesis 3:6–7 happened—the fall—and their fellowship was disrupted. With one fateful bite of fruit, Adam and Eve effectively “unfriended” God. And to this day, we live in the shadow of the fall. Like Adam and Eve, our friendship with God has been disrupted.
How would you respond to being so grievously betrayed? Would you overlook the offense? Would you abandon your friend entirely? How do you think God should react?
The New Testament tells us how God responded to our betrayal: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4,), the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34, emphasis added), and made him “who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) so we might have a right relationship with him once again. Do you hear that? In response to our sin and our ruptured relationship, the Son comes and befriends those who betrayed him.
What’s most shocking about Jesus’s friendship is that he calls us friends. Though we have betrayed him, he “chose” us (John 15:16). By his grace, he has come near to us and, knowing our disloyalty and all our fears, sins, struggles, and anxieties, he has said to us, “my friend.”
Knowing ourselves, we may wonder, “Is Jesus truly—I mean, really—my friend? Will he stick by me, even if I betray him again?”
We can know Jesus is our friend with certainty because of what he says to us in the Gospel of John: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, CSB). Jesus is the greatest friend because he laid down his life for us (John 19).
We know from Proverbs that “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Since Jesus is our friend, we can be certain that he loves us entirely, perfectly, forever—at all times. And we know that, despite what we have done or have yet to do, he “is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
So, we ask: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35), this friend of sinners, this great friend of mine? No one. Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus.
Knowing that Jesus is a devoted friend should encourage us. It should also inform the way we view and exercise friendship ourselves. Each of us needs good friends in our lives; but if we’re not careful, we might begin to think like the lawyer in Luke 10:25–37 who tested Jesus: “And who is my [friend],” we might ask (emphasis added).
While that question is not an inappropriate one, what if Jesus first wants us who have experienced his friendship to be the same kind of friend to others? What if, upending our sensibilities as he did with the parable of the good Samaritan, he is calling us to go to our neighbors who are isolated and lonely, and befriend them? Who among us will prove to be a friend to the friendless?
Jesus has come and called us friends. Today, he tells us: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
The Bible begins with God. In the book of Genesis, we see his power, creativity, and splendor in what he made. But we also see his mercy, love, and redemption through the flawed people he has made. While Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible, it also helps us see God’s glory in his creation and teaches us that he can make something out of imperfect people like you and me.
Last year, our team traveled with Dr. Charlie Dates to the redwood forests of Northern California to film a series on the book of Genesis. After speaking at the 2021 RightNow Conference, Dr. Dates spoke with us about his experience on that shoot and his hopes for this series.
Charlie: Preparing for Genesis is very different than preparing to teach other books. Genesis is a genre of history that doesn’t really fit the Psalter, Judges, or the prophets. It doesn’t have to be decoded like apocalyptic literature. I learned about the genre sensitivity of the study—that is, wrapping our minds around what the point of Genesis is—is really the best way to see God’s activity so we can teach and preach it.
Genesis could tell us about dinosaurs, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and all that kind of stuff but it doesn’t. It has a view toward chapter 50, getting the scene set for a savior who is going to come. That’s something I came to appreciate while working through the book of Genesis.
It’s different. The Bible gives us varying shades of color in different sections. It’s not monochromatic. When we study the genre, we get to see God’s Word in the fullness of his color—it comes alive. Is there anything better than 4k resolution? If there is, I don’t know. God beats that high-def stuff. Genesis helped show me that.
Charlie: I want viewers to be like, “Man, the Lord is amazing, and Charlie Dates works for Jesus.”
[laughs] Okay, seriously, I want viewers to walk away with a bigger picture of God. If God really did create time, space, and matter and if he did choose one family, and through that family wove this wonderful narrative, then surely he can work through the matters of my life. Surely God can bring something out of nothing where I live. I hope when you see Genesis, you feel the power and presence of God.
Charlie: When you film with RightNow Media you need to do, like, four weeks of yoga. We were in the middle of nowhere—in the Redwoods with trees that looked like they were out of a Narnia book—and I climbed on a [fallen] tree and was walking on it, balancing. I was thinking, “If I don’t get home safely, my wife’s not going to be happy about this.” [laughs]
They go to great lengths to capture the most epic and beautiful scenery to match the picture of the text, so they can deliver what I think is the highest quality video content.
Now, here’s what else I learned: I’m jealous. I didn’t think I was jealous, that I was envious. But the fact that they don’t live in Chicago and don’t work for us at our church . . . I had to repent of some of that. Other than that, it was great. It was fantastic.
We live in a time where isolation feels more comfortable than living in community. We are used to living alone, running errands alone, and not sharing our hopes or fears with many people. But God never intended us to be secluded from one another.
Author and speaker Jennie Allen dug deep into God’s vision for community while writing her book Find Your People, which she recently developed into a series with the team at RightNow Media. We caught up with Jennie after filming to hear her hope for the series and how living in community has changed her life.
Jennie: The RightNow Media team—they are my people! So many of them are my good friends. We’ve worked together for many, many years. I feel like I can call Phil (VP of Production) with any idea and he’s like, “Let’s go, J!”
Phil has put together such an amazing team of people. Mark (Video Producer) has spent so many hours on my stuff; Courtney (Senior Producer) is awesome—I just feel like everybody has been so gracious and kind to let me build with them.
RightNow Media is a family and I feel like I’m the adopted member of that family (laughs). I’m really grateful that they create with me. I hope that the series we make causes you to love God more—they hope that too. It’s really special and fun that we get to be creative in a way that helps people get to know God better.
Jennie: Wow—it has been a two-year journey for me, which is how working on a book or Bible study goes. But this one has changed every single thing about me—the way I live, the way I think about friendship, the way I eat, the way I run errands. Everything about me is about pulling people in and not doing anything alone.
Even this project, I feel, was a big group project. Being on set with the big locations felt like being with family. Some bad things happened to me that week, and we were all crying together in a bowling alley, praying for my family. That is the way we were meant to live. We aren’t meant to cry alone. We’re meant to cry in each other’s arms and in each other’s presence.
My hope for this series is that it will cause you to rethink hiding anything, that you will live fully known, seen, and connected to others.
Jennie: I hope people walk away from this series with friends. I think we are doing life in a more isolated way than we ever have before. The scary part of that, as a generation, is we were already doing life more isolated than any generation before us. We already had a problem, then COVID-19 and the last couple of years exacerbated the problem.
I hope that viewers don’t feel any pressure when they watched the series. I hope that when you are working through the series a desire rises up within you—a vision and a dream for the way God meant for us to live. This series is all about building a foundation in your life for community that is different from the way we live right now in America.
This study has changed my life. I can’t imagine living any differently. I have a village; I have my people. It’s messy and imperfect, but it is a better, more rich and full way to live.
It’s no overstatement to say that we are more distracted now than we’ve ever been. The “chaos machine” in our pockets constantly diverts our attention away from what matters, gluing our eyes to the things that don’t. And with our attention goes our focus.
Addressing this very topic, New York Times bestselling author and speaker Jon Acuff recently filmed a new series with our team entitled Focus: In a World of Bottomless Distractions and Endless Opportunities. We caught up with Jon to hear what he learned while preparing this series and his hope for those who go through it.
Jon: One thing I learned is how distracted we all are. I like to say that our distraction technology has outpaced our ability to focus. Think about how fast distraction has scaled. I mean, twenty years ago the only distraction I had on my phone was a game called snake. I don’t know if you’re my age, but it just was a line that went “doot, doot, doot, doot, doot.” Now, you have every movie ever made, every book ever written, and every podcast ever recorded in your pocket. You have a chaos machine in your pocket. So, it was really interesting to learn—that’s part of why it’s challenging. You shouldn’t feel bad that it’s hard to focus; the odds are stacked against you because of our technology. But there are some really simple things you can do, and that’s what was so fun about filming this series.
Jon: I want viewers to walk away with the idea that you can learn how to focus. It’s not a personality trait. It’s not something that some people are good at and others are bad. When you talk to people about, “Is it easy for you to focus?” or “Do you ever get distracted?” sometimes they make identity statements. They say, “I’m a really distracted person. I can never focus,” as if they can’t learn. But the one thing I want you to walk away with is you can learn, and there’s some very practical things you can do that are actually really fun. And you get to see pretty quick progress. So I want you to walk away with the idea that you can do it and that there’s things you can do.
Jon: My most memorable moment of any series—we’ve done because we’ve done three together (so, I know I’m talking about Focus, but we’ve done Soundtracks and Finish)—my most memorable moment was where I got to the shoot and there was a cliff. They had set up the shoot on the edge of a cliff that was three-hundred feet high, overlooking a river, and there was a rock that was, in my opinion, very close to the edge of the cliff. And they said, “Hey, we just want you to stand on this rock, it’ll be an amazing shot.” And I said, “What’s your second idea?” Because I talk with my hands, I move around a lot, I’m very animated. So, I said, “There’s no way I’m getting on that rock.” So, if you watch that video, I’m perched on the rock. I’m sitting on the rock, that was our compromise, but I’m kind of looking over my shoulder. That was the most memorable. The second was, we filmed in Nissan Titan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, where I live. And it was an amazing shot, and they had a drone, and it was just gorgeous. So, I love partnering with RightNow because they always do such beautifully well-thought-out work.
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins his most famous sermon with a list of characteristics, commonly known as the Beatitudes, that offer us a glimpse at what it looks like to live “the blessed life.” But they’re not exactly what we might expect.
We sent a film crew with author and pastor Matt Chandler to Big Bend National Park to film The Beatitudes, an eight-session series examining Matthew 5:1–12. In this series, Matt teaches us what a blessed life really looks like. It may not look the way we imagine, but it’s better than we could ever hope.
While filming, our team asked Matt a few questions about his preparation for and teaching of this impactful series.
Matt: Going into the series, I was familiar with the Beatitudes. I mean, I’ve been a Christian for thirty years. I don’t know that I’ve ever explicitly taught through them but certainly understood them to be Jesus unpacking what the kingdom of God would look like. So, the thing that was in plain sight that really ministered to me as I prepared was that the Beatitudes aren’t a list of things that I need to work on, but rather the kind of person that Jesus is turning me into. And I think that was the big thing that stood out, that Jesus doesn’t show up looking for this kind of person, like “let me find the man of peace” or “let me find the meek.” But, rather, he’s saying, “my people that I’m going to work in, that the Holy Spirit’s going to—this is the kind of person they’re going to become.” So, it’s not eight different people, right, but eight characteristics of the same person. So, it honestly gave me a lot of confidence that God is working these things in me and that I will continue as long as I’m here.
Matt: If I think about people in living rooms or in church rooms and buildings, and watching this, the thing that I most want them to walk away with is a confidence that God is at work in their lives. I don’t want them to listen to a single one of these episodes and feel crushed by it or feel that it’s impossible. That by episode after episode after episode that they would grow in their deep and earnest belief that God is at work in the mess of their lives. That God’s patience is there, that his shaping power is there, and that he has not forgotten them, but is actively turning them into this kind of person.
Matt: So, the thing that always stands out when I get to shoot these things is it’s always done in just stunningly beautiful places. So, there is the team, of course, that you laugh with, and you have a good time with. But you’re getting to . . . I said to somebody, I think it was early this morning, “Can you believe we get to do this?” We’re up early, everything’s new, the sun’s coming up, everything’s beautiful, and then we get to talk about the creator God of the universe. We get to point toward the gospel. We get to marvel at his goodness and grace. I think that’s the thing, and really, through all my shoots with RightNow, that’s been the thing that always has stood out as I head home or as we wrap up, that in these really beautiful places, these really privileged spaces, that we get to just talk about and point towards the king of the universe.
I’d spent my whole life in stage-of-life groups with people like me—guys with similar interests and struggles. Those groups made connecting with other Christians easy, but this new group was a challenge. I felt I had little in common with the retired empty-nesters and college students in my living room. I struggled to ignore the chaos of the toddlers playing on the floor. And I had no clue how to counsel married couples.
The people in my small group watched movies I’d never heard of, inhabited various corners of social media, held opposing political views, and even had different ideas on how to live the Christian life. How was I going to lead this group, much less help them build friendships with each other across their diversity?
I was facing the big challenge of multigenerational groups: connection. Because we gravitate to people like us, diversity can feel uncomfortable. But if we stick with the tension of getting outside of our bubble, we can find the richness of the body of Christ in all of our unique gifts, experiences, and wisdom.
Every group is different, and leaders can try many strategies to help their group form good, lasting relationships. But, as the leader, you need a strategy to help people overcome feeling disconnected from other group members.
Leading a healthy small group is like gardening: we can prepare the soil and water the seeds but only God can make the seeds sprout and grow. You can’t force friendships, but you can create a place for them to grow.
Think about the times you have felt most welcome in someone else’s home—what did they do that made you feel comfortable and appreciated? You don’t have to throw a dinner party; sometimes people just need to be asked about their day. Find the person standing on their own and strike up a conversation with him or her. Or if there is a young mother in your group, think about setting aside a space for her infant to sleep or nurse. A little consideration can make everyone who visits your group to feel valued.
The people in your group have a wealth of experiences and wisdom—far beyond what you as a leader have on your own. Instead of worrying about what you need to teach, think about the questions you can ask the people in your group. What do you want to know about them? What insights do they have that would bless the rest of your group? What have they learned about God and his faithfulness
If you have a hard time thinking of good questions, that’s okay! Most RightNow Media Original series come with free study guides full of great questions so that you can worry less about preparing lessons and focus more on the people in your group.
Everyone is busy, and it can feel like a struggle to make it to small group every week. But if you want your members to share their lives with each other, you will need to spend time together outside of your small group meeting. Don’t make it too complicated—you could get coffee with one person in your group each week or coordinate group lunch after church on Sunday. The more casual interactions you have with people in your group, the faster you will build meaningful relationships with them.
Every church has different goals for their small groups, but we all share the same mission: to make disciples and build God’s kingdom on earth. And nothing brings a group together like working as a team. Talk to your group about the causes and groups of people God has called them to serve. What need can your group meet? If your group has little kids, consider partnering with a local non-profit that can be flexible in the way you serve and are open to family friendly projects. Or find a place to serve as a group in your local church—if you get stuck, ask your pastor or other group leaders for ideas.
No one wants the relationships in their group to remain shallow. Getting together week after week to talk about news, sports, or the weather is, quite frankly, boring. We want our groups to be hubs of deep community marked by friendships, support, guidance, prayer, and evangelism. But meaningful friendships don’t happen overnight. It can take months (or longer) for a group to feel like a community. Don’t get discouraged when relationships don’t progress as quickly as you would like. In time, God will weave people together in ways you had not imagined. Don’t give up.
The first few months of your small group will be the most challenging as people push through awkwardness and build friendships with one another. In my group, some of the most unexpected people—people who did not immediately click with one another—ended up best friends and were in each other’s weddings. They’ve built families alongside one another, leaning on each other’s wisdom and support.
The book of Hebrews can be intimidating. It is long, theologically dense, and full of cultural references that feel distant from our everyday lives. So, sadly, many of us keep our distance from this rich and encouraging book. But not Dr. Derwin Gray.
Derwin spent time with our production team in North Carolina filming our new series, The Book of Hebrews, an eight-part series walking through the thirteen chapters of Hebrews. We caught up with Derwin Gray after he preached at our recent Men's Conference to hear about his experience making this series and his hope for everyone who watches it.
Derwin: Filming with the RightNow Media crew was awesome! Not only are they professional, they are genuinely good people who love Jesus. We worked hard, but we had a lot of fun. They also helped me find some new fishing spots to catch bass. I enjoyed being around them—I feel like I made friends [working on this study]. It’s always a good thing when you can make friends and talk about Jesus while making content that helps other people make friends and talk about Jesus as well.
Derwin: Hebrews is a pensive, beautiful book that calls us to the ancient way of following Jesus in the midst of circumstances that are not going your way. There was a great deal of persecution and a great deal of suffering [in the ancient church] and the Holy Spirit led the author of Hebrews to communicate, “Trust his grace.” Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the radiance of his glory. While preparing for this study, my picture of Jesus got bigger.
Derwin: I want people to walk away from this study saying, “I had no idea Jesus was so lifegiving, powerful, near, and present.” I want people to understand that we can approach his throne of grace and mercy in our time of need. Jesus’s grace is infinite—it never runs out.
It can be tempting to think of the Bible as a list of rules and old stories, far disconnected from our everyday lives. But when we read the psalms, we find the entire spectrum of human emotion: grief, rejoicing, despair, melancholy, anxiety, hope, and everything in between. In this book of songs, God has given us permission and words for our deepest feelings.
Author and speaker Mary DeMuth recently filmed a daily devotional with our team, exploring the psalms in all of their beauty and emotional range. We caught up with Mary to hear her heart behind this devotional and hope for everyone who goes through it.
Mary: It was super peaceful. I really enjoyed getting to know all of the people on the team and learning about their roles. One of the things I just love is people! So having a bunch of people there was super helpful. What I loved is that they were very professional and very intentional about getting the right shots. And there was no stress, like, “Oh you made a mistake.” I was definitely more hard on myself while they were giving me grace. It was great—I had a really good time!
RightNow Media: What is one thing you learned while preparing for this series?
Mary: One of the topics I talk about in the series is the importance of lamenting. Every time I have taught lament psalms to a group of people, I have seen God do amazing work in their lives. So, relearning and reacquainting myself with the rhythm of lament was really helpful for me in my own lament journey. It allowed me to move beyond some grief I was holding onto.
RightNow Media: What is one thing you want viewers to walk away with after watching this series?
Mary: I guess I just want them to know that they are normal. To feel pain, grief, despair, or rejoicing is totally normal. The psalms exist to give words to whatever they are going through.
Click here to check out the Prayer and the Psalms devotional with Mary DeMuth on RightNow Media today.
At RightNow Media, our goal is to provide churches and student ministries with access to a library curated with the latest teaching for youth Bible studies from premier teachers. Including series like Not A Fan: Teen Edition by Kyle Idleman and a number of RightNow Media Originals, we have thousands of options for your Bible study. Here are five video Bible studies that are perfect for your youth group or student ministry—plus check out our youth Bible study roadmap to make curriculum planning a breeze.
Christians today face all kinds of challenges when it comes to understanding who they are and what they’re meant to do. There’s no shortage of options that claim to offer “truth.” If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves chasing after popular opinion all the while neglecting the unchanging truth found in Scripture. In this four-session youth Bible study, pastor and author Francis Chan invites students into the power that comes from anchoring their identity in Christ.
Today’s world tells teens to walk around life with a mirror in front of their face. They question their looks, persona, and acceptance nonstop, thinking that one more post on social media might gain people’s attention. But God offers an alternative mirror. When God rules over our lives, he flips everything upside down. In this youth Bible study, Jonathan Evans will walk students through the parables in Luke to teach what it looks like for God to rule our lives.
Teenagers often feel trapped. They’re stuck in the same habits, depression sets in, and they wonder about their purpose. The lie that nothing will ever change pulls teenagers deeper into the rut. But Jesus offers us a way out. In this four-part youth Bible study, Nick Hall talks to students about how a relationship with Jesus changes everything—our identity, relationships, habits, and mission.
Have you ever felt stuck? Sometimes life feels rigid—as if nothing could ever really change. Maybe we’re afraid of taking a step of faith. Or maybe we’re too injured from the past to move forward. No matter where you find yourself, you can make the most of today. In this inspirational series, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow shares stories from his life to illustrate what it means to seize each day for God’s glory.
What do you want to be when you grow up? It was an easy question to answer when they were little, but life gets complicated for teen girls. When they get stuck in drama, discontentment, sadness, and shame, how can they even begin to look ahead to the future? In this four-part Bible study, Jennie Allen, founder of IF:Gathering, inspires teen girls to throw off everything that holds them back and be energized by God’s dream for them. Dreaming big starts now.
The Christmas season is full of light, joy, and beauty. At the center of our celebrations and family traditions is a vulnerable baby in a feeding trough—Emmanuel, God with us. As Christmas approaches, the season of Advent offers us a chance to reflect on our savior, his purpose, and the surprising ways he invited people near to him.
To help you and your church reflect on the coming, or advent, of Christ, pastor Derwin Gray spent time with our team filming Advent, a five-part series exploring the ways the birth of Jesus changes everything. We caught up with Derwin after he preached at the RightNow Conference to hear about his experience making this series and his hope for everyone who watches it.
Derwin: Filming with the RightNow Media team is not only fun—because they are all hilarious and we have good chemistry because they are great people—but also, they have professional expertise. The way they are able to take content and match it with locations and editing encourages me in my faith. I am excited about this Advent series because they make me better than I am!
Derwin: The biggest thing I learned about Advent was a greater awareness of God’s heart. Advent means “arriving” or “coming.” In the beginning, the Father had already determined that Jesus was going to come and reconcile all things to himself. The way he goes about that is beautiful, mysterious, life-giving, and powerful.
Derwin: I want them walking with Jesus more. Jesus is not just a Sunday friend; he is an all-week, all-the-time companion. He’s Lord. He’s Master.
The beauty of Advent is that we see the beauty and vulnerability of God entering into humanity in a fragile state and form. We see God use people to do incredible things! You don’t have to be the biggest or the best. Mary was just a teenager. Joseph was just some guy! God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things.
So, I want people to be overwhelmed with God’s grace and the gift of his Son this Christmas.