Building Bridges

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This lesson looks at how we can reach out to those around us, and is a good followup to the The World Around Us lesson.

Be There

“No matter where you go, there you are.”The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Many of us know people that don’t know the Lord. It’s difficult to get to know someone if you never spend time with them. The first step in building a bridge is to be where they are, now and then.

How can they believe if they have not heard? How can they hear without someone to preach? (Romans 10:14)

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

In this way, I have aspired to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. (Romans 15:20)

Paul didn’t just wait for the people to come to him — he went where the people were, and specifically sought out the people who no one else was talking to.

Thing Explainer

Relate

Finding something in common with people isn’t always easy. Paul adapted himself to his audience, but without crossing the line to join them in sin.

Even though I am free, I become a slave to all. When I am with Jews, I live like a Jew. When I am with gentiles, I too live apart from the law. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with the weak, I share their weakness. I have become all things to all people so that by any means some may be saved. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

Move beyond small talk about traffic and weather, by looking for topics around food, kids, travel, music, movies, and hobbies.

One of my favorite examples of how to get idea across to people is the book Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe, of xkcd webcomic fame. Here are some sample pages thanks to the fan site explainxkcd. (You can write your own ten hundred words people use most set of words, thanks to this word checker.)

Integrate

After finding some common ground, and beginning to build that relationship, find ways to keep it going. Help them out with something. Text or message them an article or video related to what you talked about. Don’t do it with a sneaky motive, but out of a genuine desire to help them and to know them better.

The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Love one another with genuine affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

Be a part of the community around you.

Do

Talking is nice. Praying is nice. But faith and love “with hands and feet” will usually have more impact.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness will be as bright as noon. (Isaiah 58:10)

Get out and do something for someone. If you’re the first one home on garbage day, drag the garbage cans for all your neighbors back to their houses. Rake their leaves, shovel their driveways, offer to walk their dogs, “accidentally” bake too many cookies.

Don’t just be good. Do good

GiveGenerous

Generosity is an outgrowth of gratitude. All that we have come from God. The blessings he grants us can be shared with others.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in all its forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Besides money, which is the most common application of generosity, we can also give: time, empathy, support, and others.

Evangelize

If all we do is get into the world around us, but never share the gospel, what have we ever accomplished?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19)

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. (Matthew 9:37)

I pray that sharing your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 1:6)

If the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, God will hold the watchman accountable for their blood. (Ezekiel 33:6)

There are two outcomes for the afterlife – heaven or hell. By grace, we’ve been saved through faith, and we are commanded to share that same good news with all people.

Stay

The “drive-by save” is okay, if that’s all we can do, but if we have any ability to do so, we need to stay to become an ongoing part of life.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine. (John 15:4)

A faithful man will abound with blessings. (Proverbs 28:20)

If we don’t spend any time with our people, we can’t disciple them. “Go therefore… and teach them to obey.”

Building Bridges

Bridge, by Don E Yeoman, (c) 2016

Thanks to my buddy Don E Yeoman for this photo

  • B – Be There
  • R – Relate
  • I – Integrate
  • D – Do
  • G – Give
  • E – Evangelize
  • S – Stay

The acronym BRIDGES can serve as a roadmap on ways to reach others.

Examples

So, let’s look at how this BRIDGES approach can work…

With my variety of interests and contacts, I have friends in technology, business, the arts, and …less respectable parts of society.

Here are some of the recent sermons I’ve given to some very different audiences.

  • at a series of technology (database) conference:

I frequently present at technology conferences, especially those related to data
In 2016, I focused on text analytics — the science of collecting, matching, and learning from massive amounts of words
On the standard technology side of things, text analytics can do a lot of cool things
The Bible is unique in that it has dozens of translations in English, and that each block of words is identified through a system of books, chapters, and verses
When I present, I always give several non-Biblical examples first, but then ask my audience if there are any objections to me diving deeper into Bible text, and there have not yet been any
Here are some really cool findings from other text experts that have looked at the Bible:

  • at a horror film festival:
    • I spoke about “Bible Gore” — the scary, gross, and bloody parts
    • It was fun for me to preach about parts of scripture that rarely get preached on, at least that I’ve seen
    • It was a good way to use the symbols and trappings of the genre to find relatable common ground

So here I was able to use the Bible to reach out to people who use computer databases for a living, and for people who like blood and thrills, and might be a part of the filmmaking process themselves. I’ve preached or taught at a punk/goth concert/festival, some prisons, a creative writing conference, a board game convention, a disability camp, and plenty of sci-fi/comic/fantasy/costume/etc. events. It’s fun to find ways to bring the topic at hand to the Bible, and vice versa. Stretching my brain to make those connections also helps me to learn more about God’s word, and helps me to see all of God’s people as real people.

You can check out my repertoire of sermons and lessons on my downloads page.

GroupsGroups

I’m involved in a lot of local groups, clubs, organizations, associations, events, and such. Part of the reason is that I like to learn things and meet people. But I’m also a bit of a homebody, and enjoy sitting around the house doing nothing, so the real reason I’m out there so much of the time is that I’m there to help people. Helping with small temporary things is fine, but the long-term goal is always to help them eternally.

Here are some of the major groups of things that I’m a part of.

  • Church: worship, study, serving
  • Software: security, data, code
  • Hardware: drones, robots, VR, makerspace
  • Business: startup, networking, openings
  • Government: chamber, hackathons, comprehensive plan
  • Arts: theater, comedy, books, visual
  • Games: board, card, party, apps
  • Health: food, medical, life science

I can’t be at all of those events all the time, of course. Many of them happen at the same time as other events. But I do try to pick a handful that I attend almost all the time, and then I “keep my hand in” with the others by joining one or two events a year with them. And I’m not saying that any of you should be a part of dozens of groups at once. That’s me.

My public calendar (which doesn’t have any of my private “none o’ ya business” appointments) is always available here. I keep it public so that other local people with similar interests can check where I’ll be (or at least where I might be), and find events that they may also enjoy.

Here’s a typical week (with the day-job and other private details not publicly shown). Green is for tech events (“The Matrix” colored), pink is for the arts (“heart” colored), gold is for church (“halo” colored), brown is for business (“briefcase” colored), and light blue is for webinars (“IE” colored). Not pictured on this selection below are: red for medical (blood), black for personal (just because that’s the default), dark blue for job events (that’s one of the company’s logo colors), and purple for holidays (since that’s Outlook’s out-of-office color). The colors I’ve chosen aren’t any kind of exact science, or anything, but I’ve gotten used to them, and I know instantly what my day looks like based on the colors present.

Calendar Sample

Having a public calendar is also a great excuse to hand out a business card. You never know what’ll come up in conversation, so when I mention something cool that I’ve done or I’m about to do, it’s a natural segue to give a card with a mention of “We’re meeting again in two weeks. The calendar on my blog will have the details.”

Discuss

  • How can you touch lives to save souls?
  • What skills and hobbies can help you help others?

Download

You can get a copy of the PowerPoint slides here.

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