Monday, September 1, 2008

Building Bridges

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area as a child, there were many times that I would cross one of the many bridges that connect the Bay. Whether it be the San Mateo Bridge, Bay Brige or the Golden State Bridge, you could not help but recognize the beauty and grandeur of these great structures! These bridges are important to the well being of those that commute to jobs or transfer commerce. They are the life line of the Bay Area. A symbol of stregnth, yet a simple means of connecting communities to one another. By connecting communities we are able to enjoy other cultures, traditions and see things that we may not see otherwise. For Paul, this ment crossing the brige of philosophy to get into the world in which offered him an opportunity to reach others with the hope of Christ. It was not going to take a sign and stand on the corner. It was going to take getting into their world. "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible." (1Corinthians 9:19) Later on in the chapter (verse 22) Paul states, "I have become all things to all men..." Paul was building bridges within his culture. In order for us to reach our culture we must get into their world. We must see culture as they see it and be willing to build bridges that reach to them. Building that bridge requires us to understand other worldviews as well as having information that supports a Christian worldview. One Sunday morning as I was walking back to my seat at church, an older lady came to me in the church foyer and asked me, "Why do you believe the way you do?" I chukled thinking I was going to get a short sermon, yet she asked the question again. This time though there was a serious tone to her voice. I asked her what she believed. Her response blew me away. "I am a Jehovah's Witness. I was invited to this church and I disagree with what is going on!" I must admit I became nervious and scared, my faith was being challenged. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a lesson I had taught just three weeks earlier on worldviews. For forty five minutes this woman and I shared our thoughts concerning our worldviews. I was able to share my faith with her and the hope Christ brings. There was no shouting. There was no finger pointing. We sat down in that foyer and had a discussion. No, there was no salvation card passed out that day, but I believe a seed had been planted. Before we departed, I prayed with her and we went our separate ways. I was blown away at what happened, yet my faith and confidence was strengthened! In uderstanding my worldview and those around me I was able to build a bridge where God used me to plant a seed in the life of this precious lady. So many times people will cry out "Lord use me to impact people's lives!", yet they are stuck in their own world that they do not see life around them. They cannot build or cross the bridge that stands before them because they are not prepared to give an answer. Paul wrote Timothy to be prepared "in season and out of season". I beleive that when we are prepared to face our culture God will open the doors of opportunity to either plant seeds or reap in the harvest. I've always had Jehovah Witnesses knock on my door, but never in church! In David J. Hesselgrave's book Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally he writes, "understanding another person's worldview (or belief system) is the starting point for commuicating the gospel." Being a bridge-builder means getting out of our nice comfort Christian boxes and seeing the world as God sees it. That does not mean that we conform to the world and sacrifice the witness we bare. It means that we confidently rise up and step into the culture with the hope and purpose God has given to us. To build bridges that connect us to others, getting us into their world, in order to impact the surroundings with a worlview that breaths life through Christ.


NYCindividual said...

I've never had an experience like that, but I have learned not to judge others just because they are different. I used to be prejudiced against some hispanics and blacks (not all, just mostly illegal aliens and poorer peopel who like to turn their music up loud and swear a lot), but a year in NYC taught me a lot. I witnessed many different people and I learned that I can't blame them for who they are.

Antagonisto said...

Real estate developers wanted to develop an island in the middle of an Alaskan river near a small town. The problem was, the river flooded regularly, so any development there would be seasonally cut off. One congressman (supported by guess who!) got a nice, tall, all-weather, gazillion-dollar bridge added into the Federal budget. This pork-barrel project for a rich special interest group became known as the Bridge to Nowhere.

This business about building bridges to the world is a lot like that Bridge to Nowhere. The world holds nothing profitable for the Christian, but just about every modern Christian uses bridge-building to rationalize partaking in the world's entertainment and immorality.

"Oh, I need to be able to discuss the latest [R-rated] shows or [sex-saturated] music with my friends, or I'll never be able to reach them." I've heard it a hundred times, and every time, the world reaches the Christian instead of the other way around. People don't determine what's right and what's wrong by consulting the Word of God any more; instead, they rely on the mass-marketed sob stories and riducule they've seen on TV or heard in their music.

What ever happened to being in the world but not being of it? What ever happened to evil communication corrupts good morals? What ever happened to old fashioned holiness, without which no man shall see God?

The Word of God no longer controls Christians because they spend a blink of an eye with it compared to the time they let the world of fraud amuse them. Even in their music, they choose not according to doctrinal content the time-tested hymns, but rather, they choose according to popularity among their friends and according to what feels good to their fleshly tastes. And thus, they submit themselves to "artists" motivated by profit and popularity, to "artists" who praise God on the stage and divorce and remarry freely off-stage, to "artists" who might belong to any of dozens of heretical or apostate -isms.

Now we fear to exercise discernment for fear somebody will think we're judgemental or Pharisees. Gone is the "spiritual man who judges all things," who "judges right judgement." A man like Paul who separated out the sinful or one like my Savior who called men "vipers" and "whitewashed tombs" would themselves be chased out with a scourge of ropes today.

And when they do spend time preparing to reach the world, they spend their time reading about the Word or about how some cult interprets it instead of letting the Word itself read God's Spirit into them. If they spent more time learning the Word, they'd automatically recognize the frauds and the scripture-twisters. If they spent more energy on hiding God's Words in their hearts, they'd automatically arm themselves to fight error and deception.

Instead, they arm themselves by studying the world's point of view. In the end, that point of view is all they can see. They've exchanged reliance upon the Spirit for self-reliance.

Imagine yourself surrounded by terrorists. Who is going to help you: somebody just like yourself, who can converse about your favorite celebrities, or a Ninja who's separated himself from popular culture to devote himself to discipline and the study of combat? The world doesn't need to see that you're just like it. The world needs to see that you are different.

Instead of building a bridge to nowhere, try tossing the world a lifeline.