Friendships with Turkeys

It’s pretty clear that as Christians, we are meant to have friends, starting with Jesus.

12″This is (O)My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

13″(P)Greater love has no one than this, that one (Q)lay down his life for his friends.

14″You are My (R)friends if (S)you do what I command you.

15″No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for (T)all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

John 15:12-17 NASB

Of course the call of friendship is not a light one, as shown here.

In our church circles, how are friendships with one another to be understood?

Does the following scripture have anything to do with our friendships?

31Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will (A)gain new strength;
They will (B)mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:31

We were taught, based on this verse, that it was a good thing to be like eagles. This led to a contrast with turkeys. Does anyone else here remember this teaching?

When I was at C3OF long ago, I remember being taught that we should ‘fly with the eagles’ and not ‘run with the turkeys’. Aspire to associate with those you see who are successful, rather than getting bogged down hanging around with those who will never go anywhere. Of course, if you had real vision or were following perhaps the churches real vision, then you would fly with the eagles. Look up, not down.

When you were sharing with others, the idea was that leaders shared up, not down. So a leader would presumably share any issues with someone above them in the leadership hierarchy, but not with people they were leading, who were ‘down’. Yet your home group was a close part of your church family, and a place where relationships – friendships – had the chance to develop. Should those leaders and members be able to be friends with one another, for real? Was this hierarchical view helpful in building a relational, loving community?

Most of my real friendships were with people who shared with me, and I shared with them. Whether they were ‘eagles’ or ‘turkeys’ was not a factor in my mind. Likewise, whether they were a leader or not. Whether we related or not was what mattered. If I had a friend going through a hard time, would I walk away because they were a ‘turkey’? Would I try to be friends only with people who were ‘soaring like eagles’?

That way of thinking seemed wrong to me. At the time I just put it to one side. Now, I wonder how its outworking has affected the culture in some areas. I wonder how widespread the teaching is. It’s not present in every church; I didn’t hear it in the next church I moved on to.

When this view is taught, what happens to those at the top of the heap, who can only ‘share up’, but have no-one left in their church to share up to? Perhaps they share with someone outside of their own church. But then they become seggregated from their own congregation, and perhaps miss the provision of many friendships there that could be very supportive and enjoyable, all because of applying this mentality.

What happens to those at the bottom of the heap, who are designated ‘turkeys’ and whom no one with an eye for advancement in the organisation would actually want to become real friends with?

Is the measure of a friend _only_ that they would lay down their lives for another, or, is it an ongoing attitude of love that does not discriminate on these kinds of measures? Does a hierarchical approach to friendships preclude the real thing for people in certain positions in a church culture? When people move on from a home group, or a church, and no longer have a structured relationship, can the friendship endure? If it cannot, was the relationship ever really what we are hoping for in our Christian family – which is what most of us see our churches as?


14 thoughts on “Friendships with Turkeys

  1. There is so much wrong with this whole concept, its difficult to know where to start.

    If one only “shares up” then it prevents real friendships because the person you are sharing with will be prevented from sharing parts of their life with you. They wont be able to share their experience, their struggles, their hopes and joys. It will then be almost like a confessional, a one-way thing.

    This could then turn into an instrument of control in the wrong hands. Friendships involve some form of mutual vulnerability and trust, but this kind of “relationship” has none of that. It could lead to a reporting-up culture.

    Then there is the whole idea of a hierarchy. We touched on this in another thread. The assumption seems to be that there is a one-dimensional ladder of spirituality and that those further up can take care of those on the lower rungs. This isnt automatically the case, one has to find someone who fits.

    The worst thing about this is that they seem to identify leadership and position in the organisation with spiritual maturity. While you’d hope there would be some correlation it should never be assumed. There may be some people who are very spiritually mature who have no ability, calling or time for organisational leadership. Conversely there are sometimes people who have a gift for organisational leadership who can be immature in some areas of spirituality.

    I havent experience this kind of practice to the extent you describe RP. I have heard Pastor’s say that they like to spend more time with the people who are “on fire for God” or are serious about God. That could be the start of this kind of spiritual apartheid.

    Sadly this practice will kill off most of the relationships which are most likely to cause believers to mature. And at worst will setup a series of levels and hoops for people to jump through, to achieve advancement in an organisation rather than closeness to God.

  2. “I havent experience this kind of practice to the extent you describe RP.” – wazza

    Well, that’s good! Perhaps it is more of a Phil Pringle thing than a broader culture. It’s also possible that the culture may have matured in this area since I moved on, hopefully, but at the time, this eagles and turkeys concept was definitely preached from time to time. I’m sure I remember PP doing some kind of imitation turkey walk to illustrate things.

    “If one only “shares up” then it prevents real friendships because the person you are sharing with will be prevented from sharing parts of their life with you.”

    Yup – I lost one friendship to it when the person entered a pastoral role. As you say, it then became one-sided, one-way. It was a real shame.

    In terms of a ladder – for some people, there was one, and this thinking did affect their behaviour and where they expended their social energy. I guess this happens in many other settings, not just church, but the teaching on sharing up not down, and the eagle/turkey thing would have reinforced the thinking that led to that behaviour.

    Good points re leadership and maturity.

    Also, good points re aiming for advancement rather than closeness to God. I think that for some people (not all) advancement was seen as confirmation of closeness to God – after all, He anoints those in positions of leadership, no doubt because they’ve earnt His approval, so perhaps no distinction was made between the two. However, there is a difference. Advancement in a church organisation can be a result of maturity and closeness to God, but not necessarily. If the organisation is more focussed on external things than fruit of the spirit in terms of character, then closeness to God and maturity might not have as much to do with who ends up in authority compared with other measures.

  3. I always thought the eagle/turkey thing was to do with living up to our potential as spiritual beings and not being limited to the natural, rather than social or material aspiration, being seated in heavenly places in Christ, and not confined to earthly circumstances, but then again, maybe I heard from other speakers.

  4. Sounds like “living to our potential as spiritual beings” can be construed as the law. What if we don’t live up to that “potential”? It doesn’t change our status in Christ therefore it shouldn’t impact on our relationships but sadly it does. The “two-tier” christian, as in I’ve gone to a higher level, so I can no longer run with you turkeys.

    Remember Robb Thompson speaking at C3 – he offended so many people, including some pastors.

  5. Even without the ‘eagle/turkey’ illustration, which not every speaker would have used, the ‘share up not down’ teaching sounds logical and was given out as advice. The idea of just sharing with someone you get on with, trust and can relate to is not really a part of that thinking.

  6. I’ve seen it work for some and not for others. Where it works, its because the friendships work, where it doesn’t its because the friendships don’t work. Godly friendships are the important thing, trying to encourage these is one thing putting an organisation template over them and expecting them to flourish is another!

  7. Re FL’s comment – yes, I think the eagle/turkey thing was about our potential as spiritual beings etc, but there were also practical outworkings, one of which was choosing the circle you hung around with. One effect of this could have been thinking of non-Christians, or people who were in ‘dead’ churches as ‘turkeys’, while we moved on loftier planes. Of course it was always good if a turkey decided to become an eagle.

    It probably is an out dated expression now.

  8. It is an Americanism.

    The way I’ve heard it preached refers to the idea that some Christians think they’re turkeys, and gobble-gobble around on the ground, earth bound, when in fact God has made them eagles, who are called to soar above the things of this world.

    It’s about discovering our true identity in God, reaching our spiritual potential, and taking our position.

    An Aussie version I have heard refers to some Christians as chooks in a chook pen, when they are really eagles called to fly on the wings of the Spirit.

    it’s a variation on the story of he ugly duckling which turned out to be a beautiful swan.

  9. Well, I don’t mind that version, which leaves out the bits about strategically choosing your associations. It is different to the way it came across to me at the time.

    Having said all this, there are times when it is a good idea for someone to move on from a group of friends when the friends make it very difficult for them to get out of some kind of trouble or other.

  10. Sorry to bring up the Latter Rain again, but Joyner coined ‘prophetic-eagle’ in some of the books he wrote about his visions. As a he is a spiritist and gnostic, his teachings have rubbed off onto other ministries.

    This teaching is still taught today. I have not heard the ‘turkey’ word used. Instead I’ve heard the word ‘ostrich’ used.

    The idea is: their are those Christian’s who live with their head in the sand – in denial of what is going around them. They think that they’ve solved the problem and now feel safe, comfortable and see them selves looking foolish. But above ground they look like a fool.

    But the Eagle/Turkey has been polished. It is still taught at C3 unfortunately and unfortunately, the teaching does it’s work well. Who wants to hang out with the losers or the ones that criticize the place? If your strong enough, take them on and bring them back to the Lord. It is an elitism – an ‘us vs them’ doctrine to a large extent. Marginalizing does happen unfortunately because of this doctrine.

  11. To counter this I’ve heard jokes that go:

    “At least ostriches have their heads grounded and don’t have their heads above the clouds.”

    “Eagles eat the dead. Aint that inspiring?”

    “While ostriches have their heads in the ground, at least they are not getting sucked through jet engines.”

  12. I think the eagle/turkey image comes from the secular world, and has been overlaid onto the scripture from Isaiah. I first heard it in a management meeting in the early-90s.

    Its ok if one uses it to look at yourself. Its potentially very dangerous if you use it to classify (and judge) other people.

  13. Here is a testimony of the same Isaiah verse giving someone faith for their healing from MS:


    Her Cure She Sees As A ‘Miracle’
    by NAN WEBBER, Women’s Editor, Parramatta Advertiser (12/6/1991)

    This remarkable, and medically-verified healing took place many years ago, but still warrants space. Dorothy remains to this day in excellent health.

    Dorothy Lee’s sparkling health, eyes and serene manner today belie the debilitating illness which took enormous toll of her physical wellbeing for so long. She describes her return to good health after 17 years as “a miracle”.

    Recently Dorothy gave her testimony to a Healing Outreach, organised by Western Suburbs Christian Fellowship (now Holroyd New Life Church) at Greystanes Community Centre with South Australian evangelist Len Hawes.

    Dorothy lives at Guildford with her husband and three children, Peter, 15; Simon, 12, and Belinda, 9. Belinda was only three when Dorothy was positively diagnosed as having the debilitating neurological disease, multiple sclerosis. But her first symptoms had appeared much earlier.

    She deteriorated rapidly, and soon her only means of mobility was in a wheel chair. Dorothy Lee could not believe God would give her three beautiful children and then deprive her of the ability to look after them. “I wanted our family life to remain as normal as possible despite what was happening to me,” Dorothy said. “But as the months went by life became more difficult. More parts of my body were being affected.

    <<< Dorothy and family in the Blue Mountains 1985

    "My sight was blurred; my hearing was fluctuating; fatigue was an extreme problem, especially in hot weather. "It wasn't long before I couldn't walk very far. Frustrated at being left behind I bought a second- hand wheel chair." Dorothy said she was often amazed and hurt the way people treated her when she was in the wheelchair. "All this did affect the family and relatives and friends," Dorothy said. "My husband didn't know what to do or say, so he buried himself in his work. "I was tired of the pain, the weakness – I could no longer be the mother I wanted to be, or the wife. "I felt I was dying … physically, emotionally and spiritually."

    Shortly after having these feelings Dorothy was visited by two women from a Christian fellowship in a nearby suburb who had heard she had MS. "I asked about their Sunday School," Dorothy said. "Some of my happiest days had been in a church youth group, and I had hoped our children would experience that too." Dorothy convinced her family to go to this church the following Sunday. My husband wasn't too sure," Dorothy said, "but I needed him to drive us. She said the music was lively and she loved the service. She went home exhausted physically but spiritually uplifted. "Over the next few months this Christian Fellowship became a refuge to me. I received prayerful support and a new hope was growing within me."

    Dorothy believed in healing. She had read about it but it was always somewhere remote. I was encouraged to read the Bible about Jesus healing people then and now, and God’s promises to us," she said. "Each month, I was picked up and taken to the ladies’ meeting. The ladies prayed for my healing. As the months went by, I became stronger, my eyes became clearer and I walked better."

    Dorothy said it had taken many years for her body to deteriorate to such a physical mess and now, miraculously, she was being healed. "I can’t say it was easy going," she said, "but I was continually encouraged by Isaiah 40, verse 31 – Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shag run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint

    These days she can run, swim, ice skate, play tennis – in fact anything she wants to do. Three years ago, she was baptised by immersion into the Christian faith. "It was a powerful night," Rev Brian Rensford, (minister of the Church), said.

    Now Dorothy leads the' ladies’ group at church on the first and third Thursdays at 10.30am in homes at Guildford, Pendle Hill and Blacktown. "What a joy it is being involved in praying for others and seeing them being healed," Dorothy said. "Not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually." Dorothy emphasises there are good and positive things happening today in the midst of our negative, despairing society, thanks be to God.

    Today she is free of all MS symptoms and all residual damage and weakness has gone. "I hope this gives encouragement and hope for whatever situation others may find themselves" she said.

    This Testimony first appeared June 12, 1991. Dorothy continues to enjoy excellent health years after God healed her, through the persevering prayers of "ordinary people".


    Now that is a very encouraging application of that scripture in a personal way for that particular woman.

    (I found it on the website of the church I mentioned on the Joseph Prince thread. then click on the 'testimonies' tab.)

    I am doing a lot of tangental posts today.

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