Some people will actually act like your friends when they are not your friends. They will pretend to you and to others that you and them are really close, even intimate, when they barely understand you and your heart and why you do what you do.
Over-familiarity is when you act like you are so friendly with someone, and the problem is that one of the hallmarks of true friendship is a sense of respect, and the familiar never seem to have that respect. This is the acting of the town of Nazareth, acting like they knew Jesus – “oh he is the carpenter’s son”. If all they knew about Jesus – who even at aged twelve, was impressing the people in the world most educated about the Scripture – was that he was a carpenter and they had no idea their “friend” could minister life and power, they did not even know Him at all. When you play-act to be someone’s friend, you only know the externals, so there is never any heart respect.
People have acted like my friend, but if they have no idea what I know about the Word and how I can inspire people to dream bigger, they are familiar not intimate and they are pretending and acting.
David’s wife Michal due to the marriage acted like her and David were very close, but when David started worshipping with passion and love, Michal started yelling at him and telling him he was a “vain fellow” who “shamelessly uncovereth himself” (KJV), or in more modern English: “shamelessly exposed himself to the servant girls like a vulgar man” (NLT). Michal did not really know David, her lack of admiration for his worship, her lack of respect for his integrity, and her lack of awareness that he was the king of the nation showed that she had familiarity not intimacy. She was acting close to him but was not.
When someone is acting like your friend, they will presume they know you, act on externals, but they will not respect or honour you. They will be confident around you in a way that shows a lack of respect. They will be like Michal – happy to yell at you and make insinuations about you. Michal was acting like she was part of the family, but she did not realize that the family worshipped! David was a man of passionate, enthusiastic, over-the-top, excited worship! Michal lost her respect for him and her friendship was now an act.
When someone works closely with a pastor or other minister or leader, it can be if they do not maintain and guard their heart, satan will tempt them to pretend at friendship and bring them to a place of over-familiarity. They will then act like they are friends and act like they are with you and close to you, but it will be just that – an act. This will at first show up in subtle ways.
Michal was David’s wife – she knew him well, she had known him since he was a child, and she had been naked with him, around him when he was unguarded and felt safe. Like I said in the first post on this topic, like Samson we cannot afford to sleep in the presence of actors. Michal had no respect for David, and it was obvious to anyone with any discernment by the fact she was happy to yell and make insinuations about her husband. I do not mind people correcting me or telling me I have done something wrong, but I will not let people I have promoted or platformed insult me or yell or make unfounded insinuations at me. That is over-familiarity, not intimacy.
When you see the king naked, you lose a little bit of the mystic of a man who is always wearing the most expensive robes. When you see the man when the battle is over and he just wants to rest, eat and use the bathroom, the mystic of the mighty warrior is lost. So Michal forgot about the grace of God on David, the anointing on his head, and turned on him. And do not think this does not happen in churches today! I don’t know how to say this and be polite but wives, just because you are the only woman who knows your husband can get gas, there is no need for you to then think they are not anointed. Do not be the next Michal, honour your husband. The danger of over-familiarity applies to close family and friends the most.
And this does not just apply to wives – or even just to close family – but to anyone who is allowed into the king’s palace. Learn this well: when you are working in the palace, you have to resist the temptation of over-familiarity.
In Daniel 1, when the Babylonians are looking for young men to serve, they are looking for certain qualities, for example the men need to be strong and healthy and handsome, they need to be able to learn well. But in addition, they needed to be able to be “suited to serve in the royal palace”. Some people are not suited to serve in the palace, because the temptation to presume they know the king will destroy them. And that attitude of over-familiarity meant that Jesus could not minister in Nazareth. Make no mistake, as soon as you step into over-familiarity, you lose your ability to receive miracles. I know some people who will never receive a miracle from my prayers. They have seen my feet of clay, they know I am the boy from Dagenham, and it kills my ability to minister to them. It stopped Jesus being able to lead and minister miracles in Nazareth, and it will stop you receiving where you are planted!
This is no small thing I am warning you about, it can easily be a life-or-death thing. As soon as you become over-familiar with a pastor for example, you start speaking to them with an unguarded tone, you stop respecting the grace of God on their life because you know the clay vessel more than the treasure and assume the clay means there is no real treasure, you dismiss the power of God on that person – that cuts you off from receiving from them. It meant some people in Nazareth walked into Jesus’ meetings blind and left blind. That is so sad! I know people who are blind today – they were close to me and knew me, but they mistook my clay vessel to mean I am not anointed, and they spoke to me out of turn, they corrected me in public on social media, they spoke about my flaws to others, they made baseless false insinuations about me – and they are sadly still blind, when I could have brought them to their miracle. Go and read Mark 6.1-5, and if you still have this problem, deal with it.
What can you do though as a pastor when people are overfamiliar? I know what Jesus did, he went to the next town and kept going! I know preachers who are the new cool thing, and they come to London and their meetings are standing room only, now just a few short years later they fail to get 10% of the crowd they got. They are normally more wise, more able to flow in God’s power and more effective than before, but now people are so familiar with them, they do not even bother going to their meetings! What is wrong with people! I saw a post recently on social media by someone who would not drive twenty miles to hear a certain preacher that I know they used to love. The preacher is better than ever, but they now think they have heard it all and know it all. Over-familiarity. When people stop getting excited that it is you preaching, when they do not bring their notebooks… selah!
When we have special services in Dagenham, people drive from the south coast, from Yorkshire, from all over the UK to hear me preach. But there are other people in the church in Dagenham who will not walk five minutes to a special service, they are over-familiar with me and have no idea of the treasure inside me. They are acting when they come on Sundays! It’s a reality.
I have found that one of the reasons I am close to some remarkable ministers and pastors, is that I have learned how to be in the palace and not get over-familiar. I allow the strengths of my mentors to lift me up, and when I see the clay, I just thank God that if they can do that being clay, and God can use a normal person like them, I have a fighting chance of doing what God has called me to do.
John was a great example of this in Scripture. He was so close to Jesus that when Jesus died on the cross, he adopted Jesus’ mum and took her into his family as his own mother. But John never stopped being in awe of Jesus, He never got so close that he ended up in unbelief. His relationship with Jesus was authentic. He was not trying to be buddy-buddy with him and ended up having a true authentic, not acting, friendship with him. John’s fellowship was with the Father and with His Son, Christ Jesus (1 John 1.3). If you are a pastor and find someone like that, who can be at home with you, realize you are a clay vessel, but still honour the grace and anointing on your life – grab hold of that person and encourage them. It is encouraging to me to see John did not fall into this trap, and therefore I do not have to, and nor do you!
Next week, we will look at the most vulnerable people to the temptation of over-familiarity and how to deal with it as a leader.