Recently I read the testimony of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield who was once vehemently opposed to Christianity. As a self-described happy and content leftist, liberal, post-modernist, she pronounced those who followed Jesus as worthy only of “pity” and “wrath.” She sought neither a personal understanding of faith in God nor any interaction with His followers. That was until she published a forthright article denouncing Christianity and in response, received a “kind and inquiring letter” from a pastor who politely caused her to re-evaluate her long-held presuppositions and ask herself some honest questions. The ensuing discourse that lasted over two years proved that this pastor neither feared her lifestyle nor hid his commitment to the truth. Her friendship with him and his family eventually smoothed the way for her to experience and know Jesus for herself. Instead of simply inviting her to church, she described his actions as “bringing the church to me, a heathen.” (Read her whole story here)
In today’s world where the church is repeatedly told by an increasingly hostile culture that we are no longer relevant, are out of step with forward-thinking realists, and that God’s opinion should be silenced, I wonder if believers might all learn a lesson from Rosaria’s story. Instead of inviting people to church, and expecting the leaders to explain the Gospel, what would happen if we diligently learned from the pastors and teachers, immersed ourselves in God’s Word, and then left the church building with the deliberate intent to build relationships in order to bring the truth to those who don’t know Christ?
Of course, it is much easier to sit next to someone on a pew or wave across a congregation than it is to intentionally build a bridge to people outside the church and to pray diligently for them as we wait for the truth to do its softening and transforming work. It’s also much easier to hold a sign at the side of the road, post a potentially caustic comment on social media, or to go to the other extreme and act as if sin doesn’t matter that much any more than it is to pour out abundant patience, lengthy commitment and steadfast belief in the power of Christ that can still transform anyone, anywhere, at any time.
As Christians wrestle with what it means to practically “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) to those who may wish to cover their ears and block out our message, we must resist the urge to retreat in fear (or worse, indifference), to lash out in anger, or pour out condemnation, realizing that these options will do little to bring restoration to hearts that need it the most. Instead, we, who are the church, must dedicate ourselves to “stand firm” (Eph 6:13-14) as Paul commanded and take Christ’s instruction seriously.
Let us engage the world and commit ourselves to forging friendships with the intention to “let (our) light shine before men that they will see (our) good deeds and glorify (our) Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
15 thoughts on “Bridges to the Kingdom”
Karen, I particularly like these thoughts of yours from your post: “As Christians wrestle with what it means to practically “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) to those who may wish to cover their ears and block out our message, we must resist the urge to retreat in fear (or worse, indifference), to lash out in anger, or pour out condemnation, realizing that these options will do little to bring restoration to hearts that need it the most. Instead, we, who are the church, must dedicate ourselves to “stand firm” (Eph 6:13-14) as Paul commanded and take Christ’s instruction seriously.
Let us engage the world and commit ourselves to forging friendships with the intention to “let (our) light shine before men that they will see (our) good deeds and glorify (our) Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)”
Great response to those who might lash out instead of reaching out. I may use some of this in a post soon that I’m praying about. God bless. I enjoy this interaction.
Thanks for your lesson. I was glad I have read it. Yes, let us try to engage the world and commit ourselves to forging friendships with the intention to reflect His light before men. It’s hard sometimes. But but God can multiply our bread and small fishes. He’s almighty!
Reading your words, Karen, remind me of a sister I have who thinks I am “too religious” and did not want our mother around me much. We needed to move Mama to an assisted living and my area was what she could afford. Years later, in Mama’s dementia-riddled mind, she accused me of stealing all her money and told my sisters. This particular sister believed Mama and caused terrible heartache to me and my husband. God gave me the peace to stand in Him and love my sister no matter what she said or did, to be kind and gentle with her. I was and three years later, we began talking and sharing with a surface relationship. She never apologized but we can at least be together in love now. She still does not want to know Jesus yet she wonders. Her heart is hard yet softening. Thanks for your encouraging words.
Our culture has a ‘microwave’ ‘overnight shipping’ mentality and sometimes it bleeds over into the church. We pray for 2 weeks about something and when it doesn’t happen, we’re onto the next thing. Thanks for sharing your story as a reminder that God takes the long view of things and he wants us to endure and endure and endure with circumstances and with people while He works His will. Blessings to you for hanging in there with your sister and being a reflection of Jesus to her. You are truly laying up treasures in heaven that will endure for eternity.
I enjoyed the way you shared your message about carrying God’s word outside of the walls of the church. Rosaria’s story and how the pastor carried God’s word to her is a powerful testimony. When I was reading this it brought me to Paul’s experience with Christ on the road to Damascus. It’s easy to receive the Good News but much harder to proclaim it with unbelievers. Thanks Karen for your wisdom.
What a lesson for us in how we ought to respond to those living outside of Christ. Sadly, it seems many Christians often jump to hasty, unthoughtful responses. But we are bidden to “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good,” to truly love our “enemy.” By His grace. 🙂
Powerful words! I am intrigued in Rosaria’s story. Thank you for giving us a brief summary and the link to pursue more. I agree with your feelings on how the church can start to build those bridges. I believe that is where the future of our church is going to be in order to reach more people. Thank you for stopping by my blog today. Glad to be able to read your words today.
I was moved by Rosaria story too. It reminded me that no one is beyond the reach of God and for us to join in to what He is already doing in the world!
An awesome post and timely for me. My 17 year old grandson is leading the discussion for youth group tonight, the topic being “how can we keep our faith active.” I will share your thoughts and Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s story. I think we all feel defeated at times… stories like these remind us why we must keep moving toward the “well done” end zone.
yes… and remember that it’s only up to us to be obedient and reach out. It’s God that will do the transforming… and HE is certainly able!!
Thank you for helping me revaluate what I can do to bring others to Christ. I have a friend who has been helping me with my own testimony over the phone when we are not in church. I thank HIM for creating that “bridge” in my circumstance! Love coming and reading your blog! Always inspiring!
1 Thessalonians 5:11
So true, Karen. Jesus was never confrontational – except with the religious leaders who had all the knowledge but refused the light. Jesus met people where they were, in their sin, and loved them to faith in Him. I’m more comfortable in my Christian world but He challenges me to love like He did.
definitely challenging to our comfort zone, but as you said, it’s Christ example for us to follow. thanks Sherry!
It is not Talk your Talk, but Walk your Talk which wins hearts for Christ.