Build ‘Bridges’ for Effective Witness

Build ‘Bridges’ For Effective Witness

Chapter Two

Build 'Bridges' For Effective Witness
Bridges And Paths 27 "Reaching Out In Love" To Singles 35
Bridge Building 29 A Loving Game Of Cat And Mouse 37
Caring For A Neighbor 31 'Bridging The Gap' Between Different Nationalities And Religions 38
The 'Forgotten Group' In The Church 33 Discussion Questions 40

2 Corinthians 2:1-11

Bridges And Paths

I remember seeing a program on the 'discovery channel' about a jungle tribe in New Guinea. Of particular interest was the portion pertaining to the marriage rituals. This documentary show described the bargaining process of a man who wished to obtain a bride. The bride, who belonged to another tribe, lived across a river in a distant part of the jungle. The groom-to-be and his father, along with other male members of his tribe, traveled to the bride's village, and, after stating their purpose, they engaged in a long and complicated bargaining process. After the transaction was completed, the groom and his group returned to their home. Upon their return, their entire village began to make preparations for the arrival of the new bride and her tribe. At a point closest to the village, the men began to build a bridge, high across the raging river. The women and children began to gather stones from the river to build a solid path to the village for the bride. All the while that the men and women and children labored, they laughed and sang and they seemed to actually enjoy their hard toil. Why? Because they were all working together toward accomplishing a 'common goal' – proper preparation for the arrival of the new bride who would soon become a member of their tribe.

This tribal custom reminded me of what the 'family' of God should be – a group of loving and happy souls, all working together for the advancement of God's Kingdom! 'Building bridges' to many lost persons who are called by God to become 'new members' of the 'tribe' of God! Are you excited about 'building bridges' to the lost ones through loving friendship? Are you cooperating with your 'fellow believers' in earnest effort to bring new persons into the fellowship of God's family (tribe)? Are you actively trying to meet the spiritual needs of hurting (lost) persons? Christ is called the 'Bridegroom". Sinners, through conversion, become members of the church, and the church is called the 'Bride' of Christ. As a Christian you must do what you can, in cooperation with other fellow believers, to prepare for converted souls (who are called the 'bride' of Christ) to become 'incorporated' and 'assimilated' into your local church (as new members of the 'new tribe' – 'the tribe' of Jesus Christ!). Make it easy for new believers to 'feel at home' in your local fellowship (church). Introduce them to other believers who may have something 'in common' with the new believers. When the new 'bride-to- be' arrived to become the new wife of a man of another tribe, she was welcomed with enthusiasm and zeal! Are you excited and enthusiastic when you see new persons who 'appear' in your church meetings? Do you accept them with 'wide-open' arms of welcome and warmth and love? The greatest 'service'? Acceptance of new people!

"Father, help me always to welcome the newcomers into the local church where I regularly worship. Help me, like the men in the jungle tribe, to work hard and joyfully in preparation for the 'grand incorporation' of new believers into the 'tribe' (church) of Jesus Christ!"

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I determine always to work with my fellow believers to make room for more new believers in the 'circle of fellowship' in my local church!

– Joyce Calkins –

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Galatians 2:2; Hebrews 13:16

Bridge Building

Joseph Dies in his book, Bridges and Men says: "Few of man's inventions are more basic than the bridge. The oldest engineering work devised by man, it is the only one universally employed by him in his pre civilized state."

A bridge is to a road what a diamond is to a ring. Bridges have been the object of writers, poets, and painters. A bridge is always an interesting engineering feat of study and to look upon. Throughout the world there are famous bridges built by men who have become famous as a result: Verrazano-Narrows in New York completed in 1965 and 4260 feet long; the Golden Gate in San Francisco, in 1937 4200 feet; Mackinac Strait in Michigan, 1957, 3800 feet; Oakland Bay in San Francisco, 1936, 2310 feet; and Chesapeake Bay, 1952, 1600 feet. Each one has a story to tell.

Bridges are built for the purpose of communication. They allow traffic to move more rapidly from one place to another, whether by car, train, or on foot. They carry loads, transportation of freight from one city to another.

In our concern for others we should build bridges of communication. We want to share Christ with them; to tell them of what He can do for them, just what He did for us. Paul did this in his ministry: "And I went up to Jerusalem by revelation, and COMMUNICATED unto them the gospel." (Galatians 2:2). "Let him that is taught in the word COMMUNICATE unto him that teacheth in all good things." (Galatians 6:6) "Willing to COMMUNICATE". (1 Timothy 6:18) "But to do good and COMMUNICATE forget not" (Hebrews 13:16)

The price for building bridges is expensive. The Verrazano-Narrows bridge cost $325 million. The bridge which God built to span the great distance between Himself and man was costly, very costly – the death of Jesus Christ.

In some areas demolition is first necessary, the tearing down of invisible walls. Through the years barriers and walls have been erected. Demolition is often very costly and time consuming, but necessary. To build a bridge of communication from yourself to an unsaved acquaintance will cost time, planning, and prayer.

The possibilities of building bridges are always present. Someone had to dream, envision the need, and make plans and blueprints to build a bridge across the river. Otherwise, it would never have been accomplished.

There are people in every community who are broken, frustrated, lonely, without God, habitually-bound, living in little islands alone. There is always the possibility of bridge-

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building there. "Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness; chords that are broken will vibrate once more."

A man would ask a person applying for a job the question: "Would you like to build a bridge?" If he answered in words similar to these, "Why, yes, I would," he was hired on the spot. The man saw possibilities and was able to dream of doing something beyond his ability.

Bridge building. What an exciting assignment!

"Dear Lord, in my bridge building between myself and others, help me not to forget the purpose of such a structure. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, today I will seek opportunities for building bridges for the purpose of communication.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Luke 10:25-37

Caring For A Neighbor

A lawyer once approached Jesus with a question, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus took this as a cue to speak from the Shema (Hear) that great distillation of moral law given in Deuteronomy 16:4-9, with its two tables of the LAW, first, 'Love the Lord you God' and second, "Love your neighbor as yourself.'

He then illustrated what it meant to be a neighbor by telling the story, Luke 10:25-37, of the Good Samaritan.

A man in trouble on the Jericho road was helped by a stranger manifesting a true and living faith, having compassion and showing mercy.

The Biblical episode has been repeated countless times to support the Christian ethic of social concern, regardless of the social status of those involved. Thus, a Samaritan helped the man though Jewish men of standing spurned the opportunity to help.

My wife and I were in Israel on holiday a few years ago and witnessed a re-enactment of this old story, on site, as it happened. We were in a taxi driven by an Arab guide, "Driving Michael" by name, who was taken to be a Christian as he worked for Christ Church Hospice in Jerusalem.

We had been to the ancient sites of Qumran and Jericho where we saw the very ruins of places where vital events happened in Bible history, and were on our way back to our hotel, traveling up the highway as it parallels the very old pilgrim road that descended from Jerusalem to Jericho.

On a lonely stretch of that historic track, our car passed another taxi, stalled by the roadside. As we passed, we could identify it as having a Jewish driver, and that it needed water for a steaming radiator.

Suddenly, Driving Michael slowed our car to a stop and began to reverse until he was alongside the stalled vehicle. "Do you need help?" he asked.

"Yes," the Jewish man replied. "Do you have any spare water?"

"No, Michael replied. "But if you go to that abandoned inn by the old road just a few yards away, you will find a cistern that still has water in it."

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After receiving the Jewish driver's thanks, our driver again headed for Jerusalem, having-given us a living illustration that Jesus' words still had deep meaning, evidenced when an Arab man paused to give vital help to a Jewish man – on the Jericho road, in 1972!

"Dear Lord, open my eyes to opportunities to give loving care to a neighbor in need. Bless him with words and acts from your servant that will carry your love into his life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To be a 'Good Samaritan' I must be ready always to be God's instrument of healing.

– Eugene Stewart –

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1 Timothy 6:1-5

The 'Forgotten Group' In The Church

The position of many churches in general is to focus on nuclear families. However, a sizeable number of adults in the United States and Canada are single. And the number is growing. Single adults comprise four basic categories: the temporary single who expects to marry when the circumstances are right; the career single, unmarried by choice, design, or because the "dream-mate" didn't appear; the widow or widower without responsibilities of children; the divorced or separated person with or without children.

A single adult is a unique individual for whom Christ died. He or she has the same basic needs, wants, and desires as other persons. Today's local churches should be addressing many of these needs.

There is the need for relationships. Loneliness is generally identified as the primary concern of single adults. Often they have no one who is "special" – no one who really cares about them. Christ can provide an atmosphere so those who are alone are not lonely. Relationships with others in the "Family of God" are greatly valued.

There is the need to communicate. Situations are valuable where people open up to each other with no strings attached. Brother/sister relationships based on unconditional acceptance are essential. These need to be free from romantic implications or pressures.

There is the need for increased self-esteem. It's okay to be single. Every person has validity in himself and not just as part of a larger unit. 'One' is a whole number. Each person is a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.

There is the need to overcome bias. Society imposes a strong bias or pressure for persons to marry. But singleness is not a holding pattern for something else. It is not a time for treading water until marriage. God has called every person to live 'now'. The challenge is to be His man or woman now in the situation life has dealt each one under His direction.

There are spiritual needs. All of us need to develop the richness of the interior self committed to Christ. A widow I know related that once in a while she feels blue and feels like crying. But she says to herself on those occasions, "I can't cry now because of the children. But just wait until tonight." Then she said, "At night, the Lord puts His loving arms around me and there just isn't any thing to cry about."

"I am grateful that You, Heavenly Father, are a person's 'complete sufficiency', whether that person is married or single. Regardless of circumstances, 'in Christ' one is always

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a 'whole and complete person'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Through Christ "I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation." (Philippians 4:12)

– Dorsey Brause –

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Galatians 6:1-5; 1 John 3:10-16

"Reaching Out In Love" To Singles

The average church family is family, couple, youth, and child oriented. Special programs are planned and implemented for them. Of course, this is not all bad. But when there is a lack of vision or desire to do something for singles, many may be lost to Christ and His Church. Many may fail to develop their spiritual potential.

Any ministry to adult singles should not completely segregate them. They need the specialized activities of a separate singles program to help them find fellowship and develop maturity within the particular conditions of their lives. However, they also need to be integrated as a welcome part of the full church family. There need to be opportunities for singles to be involved with couples and families in church-sponsored and other activities.

Some churches utilize cluster family activities in connection with family month, family night during the summer, or as part of any evening vacation Bible school. This is a group of twelve to fifteen persons including one or more nuclear (biological) families, single adults, senior adults, and children or youth whose parents are not active in church. Relational and worship experiences requiring personal interaction are done as a cluster group. Sunday school classes exclusively for singles should be provided for those of college and career age. Older singles may want to be integrated into classes with other adults.

Social events such as an all-church picnic or potluck dinner should involve singles. Such events should be promoted as 'total' church affairs for everyone regardless of age, sex, marital status, membership, or attendance record. I've seen the positive results to singles of regular Sunday fellowship after the morning worship service. Coffee and doughnuts provided the setting for meeting visitors, lively discussions of the sermon, and keeping up with current happenings. Churches can organize procedures whereby singles are invited to the homes of effective, loving families. Singles should be encouraged to entertain in return.

Care for widows is a responsibility of the church (see 1 Timothy 5 and Acts 6). Several years ago my church was paid a fine compliment when a mother and her three sons moved back – some eighty miles – into our area upon the death of the husband and father. The move was made so they could resume their previous involvement in the church.

In working with single adults in a local church, here is a 'basic guideline': Don't be a matchmaker. Don't imply in speech or prayer that the norm is to be married. It may not be the norm for many in your church. Creatively 'reach out in love' to all singles!

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"Heavenly Father, I thank you that Jesus, the 'expert of life' , perfectly understands all persons and all circumstances, even singlehood, for Jesus Himself was a 'single'."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's enabling grace, I will 'embrace' all – including 'singles' – as members in my 'forever family'!

– Dorsey Brause –

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John 13:34; John 15:12

A Loving Game Of Cat And Mouse

I've heard that 'cats hate meeces to pieces.' This was a quotation from a cartoon. It's just the nature of cats to chase mice, and mice to fear them.

Today as I watched a television newscast, a true story was told about a cat and mouse in Thailand. The cat, who loved to chase and catch mice, found a tiny mouse in the cupboard of its owner's home. Instead of acting on its natural inclination to kill and eat the mouse, the cat adopted the little fellow. They became buddies. The owner places them together in a cage where they share their meals. After they have eaten, the cat cleans the mouse's face and the mouse licks the cat's feet, They even lie down and sleep side by side. Apparently they are inseparable. This caused me to give thought concerning Biblical teaching. If natural enemies are able to become friends, why aren't all Christians friends? Romans 12:18 reads, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."

Some may argue, since we have different personalities, it is 'just fine' to behave as enemies. The Scripture, however, indicates that God's children are to live in peace with all people. It is easy to love people who love us, but Jesus says we are to love those who hate us, and to pray for those who despitefully use us. (Matthew 5:44)

The Apostle Paul said if we are in Christ we are new creatures: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) I understand this to mean our new self no longer responds to our old nature. Christ commands us to love one another. Our new creation in Christ enables us to love one another. It thrills me to know when God gives an order, He gives the ability to obey. The Lord is giving me a love and new appreciation for those of different denominations. I see Christ in them also.

If a cat can love a mouse, and that mouse falls in love with the cat, surely Christians can love one another.

"Dear God, I want to thank you for awakening me again to our Scripture for today. Some times I need to be reminded of Your commands."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To allow the love of God to flow – to me and through me.

– Lowell Weller –

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Acts 6:3-6; Acts 8:4-8, Acts 8:26-40;

Acts 21:8-9

'Bridging The Gap' Between Different Nationalities And Religions

Often the routine tasks, our coming and going, make us routine. Likewise the attendance of church services can become a commonality in our lives. So after while we become "groovy" people, like a record that goes around and around. But the routine of the commonplace can be transformed if we make our comings and our goings, places of consecration to God and others.

Here is Philip of the book of Acts. A common man. The Philip of the Acts was a pioneer; he stood alone. He took the common, the routine and made it into a place of consecration. The Philip of the Acts was of the seven, one of the first deacons. Because of a potential problem in the early church, the twelve decided to appoint seven men to take care of the situation. But there were certain criteria – "of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom."

So they "chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and… These they set before the apostles, and they laid their hands upon them."

Faithful in table service, the horizon of service was extended to Samaria where Philip proclaimed Christ. He was the first missionary – the first to preach the gospel beyond the walls of Jerusalem, in Samaria of all places. "Just a layman" – full of the Spirit and wisdom; but "multitudes gave heed to what was said… and saw signs which he did." Unclean spirits were cast out, many were healed, and "there was much joy in the city." Not bad for a table server!

Let's go back to the table service! Here was a conflict! Greeks and Hebrews not getting along. So men were needed – men big enough in spirit and attitude with practicality to bring a reconcilable solution in this possible breach within the early church. So Philip was chosen and he served well. Question: "Are churches and communities in need of such persons today?"

The twelve did not believe it was right for them to cease preaching and serve tables. They were probably right. Nevertheless, Philip served tables and later preached effectively and became the only one in the New Testament titled as "the evangelist" – "Philip the evangelist." Successful in Samaria-evangelism, he was willing to "step down" from the multitudes, listen to an angel, go to Gaza, and get on a chariot (a bus today). There he and an Ethiopian met. He had previously bridged the gap between the Hebrew and the Greek; now he does the same between an African and himself and Jesus

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Christ. Tradition says that this Ethiopian minister/treasurer became the founder of the Abyssinian Church; This was the beginnings of what David had said: "Let Ethiopians hasten to stretch out her hands to God". (Psalms 68:31)

Whatever our lot in life, whatever task, however common it may seem, however routine, when consecrated to God, can be transformed into a sacred ministry.

"O God, may this day with all its 'coming and goings' be a time of sacredness in my service to others and to You. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will realize anew that my common tasks are opportunities of service to God and others.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Discussion Questions

  1. As an active member of your local church, what can you do (in cooperation with other committed members) to make it easier for new converts to 'feel at home' in your church (i.e., what can you do to enable new converts to more quickly and effectively to be 'incorporated' and 'assimilated' into your 'church home')? What evidence is there that a local church, whose long-time members refuse to warmly and lovingly include new converts and new attenders into the 'circle of fellowship', is a church which is slowly (and perhaps even quickly) 'dying'?

  2. What can you do to 'tear down walls and barriers' which have willfully or unwittingly been constructed "to keep sinners out of the local church", and what can you do to 'build bridges of loving communication' to the broken and lonely and isolated people in your community, for the purpose of stimulating a 'hunger' in them for God and for fellowship in your church?

  3. What attitude and actions are required if you (and fellow Christians) are to be a "Good Samaritan", as recorded in Luke 10:25-37?

  4. Would you agree that in most (typical) local churches, the 'single adults' are too often overlooked and 'forgotten', that very few (if any) meaningful activities are specifically planned for the 'singles group' of adult in most local churches? What are several of the many needs which 'single adults' have which could be 'addressed' and perhaps even 'filled' through the programs and fellowship of a local church? Are these specific 'programs' that you (as a married person) would like to inaugurate in your local church which would 'address' some of the needs of this special group of persons (i.e., 'single persons' who have never been married, or who have been divorced or who have been widowed)?

  5. According to Romans 12:18, are you (as a believer) strongly committed to living "peaceably with all persons"? Does living at peace with all persons imply that you "agree with the viewpoints and actions" of all persons? Why or why not? With persons with whom you strongly disagree (in terms of philosophical and theological viewpoints, or in terms of behavioral expectations and practices), do you maintain a 'charitable attitude' of tolerance and acceptance and respect? Have you learned to "disagree agreeably" with certain persons who are 'very different' from you in attitudes, and personality, and convictions, and lifestyle? What specifically have you done (or that you intend to do) to affect a 'reconciliation' between you and another person with whom you are presently 'alienated' (because of 'differences' which have resulted in 'hurt feelings')?

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  6. What can you do to avoid the 'trap of complacency' and the 'temptation to casualness', in your routine attendance of your local church services and in your frequent contacts with regular members in your local church? What can you do (in terms of your actions and attitudes and 'speech') to bring a renewed sense of appreciation and excitement and 'enthusiastic fellowship' to the congregation of your local church?

  7. As a 'lay person', who works actively in your local church, is it your desire to be a person "of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, full of grace and power"? (See Acts 6:3, Acts 6:8)

  8. Do you think that some of the 'misunderstandings' and 'disputes' in local churches could be resolved if every believer was willing humbly to serve (without a desire for 'recognition' and 'applause'), using the various talents and gifts which God had distributed according to His sovereign will? (Acts 6:1-7)

  9. What characteristics did Philip manifest which made him such an effective servant of God, such a 'fruitful and useable layman'? (Note Acts 8:4-40)

  10. Tell with what degree of 'conviction' you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "Whatever our lot in life, whatever task, however common it may seem, however routine, when consecrated to God, can be transformed into a sacred ministry."

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