Philosophy of Ministry: Building Bridges
Starting with simple logs from fallen trees or a few stones strategically placed across a stream, humans have a standing history with bridges. Some are made solely for bikes and strollers while others for cars and semi-trucks; some bridges connect continents while others bring people from all over the world to see their beauty and experience their history. Many modern bridges now stand as architectural wonders, spanning across miles of distances and containing tons of steel. I can remember one of the first times observing one of these magnificent structures, marveling at the design and function of such a beast. Something that is built and structured in such a way should never exist, I remember thinking. Honestly, if one were to create an uneducated, uninformed view of the church, they might come to this same conclusion. How can a gathering of people, who follow after a man who embarrassingly died on a cross thousands of years ago, still have validity in today's world? The same wonderment I found in bridges many years ago I find in the church today. The church is the bridge for connecting the lost with the message of Jesus and I play an active role in being the bridge in people's life to bring them closer to their Creator.
The analogy of the church as a bridge has its faults; I am not naive of this fact. However, viewing my role as a minister (a member and leader of the church) as a bridge has helped me categorize and focus my energy to the areas that I believe God has called his people to be. With the title of Connections Minister in my current ministerial role my job is all about connecting people. I organize guest services, develop outreach efforts, and organize our small group ministry. My mission is to provide bridges for the lost so that they might come to know God's people through the church and know and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ; my mission is to provide bridges where our members can be actively involved in the lives of other members, but most importantly in the lives of those in our community; my mission is to provide bridges for the individual hearts that gather in my church family, providing them with opportunities to deepen and broaden their faith and trust in God. I recognize at the forefront that I am not the master architect in all these bridges, and I will certainly not have a role in every circumstance and every individual. However, as a minister of God's church, I have taken on the burden of loving and providing for the lost and searching.
One of the broadest bridges that I will actively build is the community's connection with the church body. There is certainly something magnificent that happens when God's people gather together to lift up his name in song, prayer, and thought. Bringing the lost to experience the love and acceptance of Jesus is foundational in the ministry to Jesus. Martin Luther, as a herald of the Reformation, exclaimed that the church must be profane. It must move out of the temple and into the world. Luther looked to the Latin roots of the word profane, which comes from pro-fanus (“outside the temple”). If Christ is not relevant outside the church, he is insignificant inside the church. If our faith is bound to the inner chambers of the Christian community, it is at best a disobedient faith and at worst, no faith at all. Creating bridges between the church and the community outside the church is vital in moving forward. Jesus came to save. In Luke 19:10 he says he came to seek and save the lost. And the same Jesus who came to serve and to save then says to us in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” We have been sent by Jesus to join him in his mission. We are to serve others in his name, and we are to share the good news of salvation so that people might trust in Jesus’ work on the cross—his death in our place, for our sin.
The next bridge that I am seeking to build is for the parts of the body to have a stronger connection with the body as a whole. This is primarily where ministers see their role has the heaviest emphasis. This is only natural when you take a corporate model and place it on the structure of the church. You work, build, and focus in house. Many people will come into a church and announce publicly or privately that they accept Christ, but they really have not sincerely accepted Him as their Savior. Often people know of Jesus and have an interest in Him, but they haven’t quite reached the point of truly accepting Him into their heart and life as their Savior. If we let people drift into and out of church without true relationships and a path to Christian conversion, are we really helping the cause of Christ? Are we really showing His love to others? Do we really care? As a minister and leader of God's people, I am taking on the responsibility of leading and guiding God's people to deepen their relationship with him. I am seeking to draw out the people in the church who have the spiritual gifts of evangelism, teaching, exhortation, shepherding, serving and mercy-showing so that they might use their gifts to lift others up.
The final bridge that I have identified in this philosophy of ministry is in the individual's heart and walk with God. The word of God is like a seed planted in our hearts that produces faith as it begins to grow within us ( see also Romans 10:13–17). Faith will not come from the study of ancient texts as a purely academic pursuit. It will not come from archaeological digs and discoveries. Faith comes by the witness of the Holy Spirit to our souls, Spirit to spirit, as we hear or read the word of God; faith matures as we continue to feast upon the word. As a spiritual leader, creating these bridges for individual souls and spirits is crucial. As mentioned, I will by no means have an impact on all, or even most, souls in my church, but I can have an active role in helping the bridging process. This also turns back on myself. I must ponder on the Scriptures, I must spend ample time with God in prayer, and I must have the fullest confidence in the transforming power of the Gospel. Unless I have a deep spiritual well to draw from, I will have nothing to offer to those who are seeking or asking. It is easy to be sucked under the dark vacuum of pain and suffering the world's sinful nature creates. Many attempt to not only carry their burdens, but also the burdens of others. Personally I struggle with this, but have learned that saying "no" can be just as effective as saying "yes." We each have to decide where we invest our time, energy and resources because we have a limited supply of each. Adopting the metaphor from Wayne Corderio in his book, Leading on Empty, if we pour more into others than we do to ourselves, our "gas tank" will eventually run empty and we will have nothing left to offer. Ministers must be responsible of how they manage their life as they build these bridges.
You cannot make yourself the light of the world. Jesus says you are the light of the world because of your relationship with him. “The God who said, ‘Out of darkness the light shall shine!’ is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). This is a portrait of discipleship. Jesus, who is the light of the world, re-creates us into the light of the world. We are light, not because of anything in ourselves, but because we are in a supernatural union with the light of the world. He calls us to follow after him, and he says, “Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12). The question we must all ask ourselves is: how am I using my light? Jesus has made us a light in this world, but unless we are being proactive in that reality we are no better than a candle that has been hidden under a bowl. As a minister, I am seeking to be a bridge builder, connecting the gaps between where people are currently and where they can be when they come in contact with the transforming message of Jesus. Everything that I do as a minister is focused on my ability to effectively use my light. Many stand in bewilderment at how the church could stand the test of time, but with a foundation in Jesus there is no room for failure.