Bridging the Gap

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The other day I attended a memorial service for a former member of a congregation I served. She held a special place in my heart. She came to Christ one cold January Sunday morning sitting my office at church right before the service started. She was in her late 50’s when this happened, already a great grandmother. I had done the funeral service for her daughter who had overdosed just a few months prior. For her, it wasn’t the years, it was the millage. She had lived hard and fast and showed it. After coming to Christ, She integrated into the church family, becoming loved and endeared to the hearts of many. Her passing was hard on her family and church family alike.

At the memorial service, I noticed something. Her friends and family wasn't the usual type you’d find coming through the doors of a church for a funeral. They were tattooed, wearing metal band t-shirts, long unkept beards, leather vests, as if they came out of a movie about a biker gang. The family was verbally not Christian and were perplexed about how their mom could become so religious at the end of her life. This is their life. This is who they are. They are from a different world than that of those in the church. And that was fine. The family sat in the front row. The pastor did a marvelous job trying to bridge the gap between their world and the world the church knew. It was a tough job to do, and he did it well.

After the service, I noticed something. Some of the friends and family, mostly the older generation, stayed inside the church, talking, laughing, being around those of the church family. The younger set on the other hand were all outside, talking, smoking, crying. There was a gap between worlds—inside the church and outside the church. On my way out, I stopped and spoke for a bit with her sons and daughter-in-law. I had done their sister’s funeral so had a small connection with them. I could talk metal rock, drinking beer, and social issues with them. But I had to leave to preach that evening. As I drove away, I saw the gap between worlds at the entry of the church. It became to me a metaphor for the church today.

How do we bridge this gap between worlds? Different worlds where we don’t speak the language; different worlds where we don’t wear the same outfits; where the puzzle pieces of the lives lived don’t seem to gel with puzzle being built inside the church. How?

The pastor at the memorial service quoted The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkle, which was later covered by the band Disturbed, a favorite band of the family. That is where the bridge between worlds was starting to be built. He met them where they were at. He met them in their pain. He met them in their sorrow. He met them in their world with their language. And in that bridging the gap between worlds, he offered them hope. A hope that went beyond what they might know.

But more was needed. The beginnings to that bridge were being built, but it can turn into a bridge to nowhere when the people in the church don’t heed the words as well and begin to exit the building and learn of the world of those outside the church. Not just that though, but then we need to learn how to translate the language of this different world into words of the hope of the Gospel. In other words, do what missionaries have done for generations, just this time the people of the different world are (and in this case literally) right outside the doors of the church.

Bridge the gap between worlds. Enter bravely into these worlds, learn the language, show the love of Christ. Be Christ in the middle of the world that you may not know much about. And learn to translate the Gospel message of Hope to those in that world. And in doing so, the worlds can come together, forming something more akin to what the Kingdom of God will be one day.

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Thanks, Joshua, for your thoughts concerning the different worlds of the churched and unchurched and how the churched (Christians) can bridge the gap between.  Of course there is a fundamental difference between those two worlds (Christ or not), and some would say that difference is reflected in a difference of world and life views as well as life styles.  Beneath your words, your bridge seems more of a bridge for the unchurched to see the value of the Christian world, and not so much for Christians to see the value of their world.  Christians (you) want to bring them fully into the Christian world without fully becoming part of their world, an unfair exchange.  For the most part, non Christians are perfectly happy living in their own world according to their values and world view.  In fact, most would see the Christian world (the church) as a bogus world that depends on a make believe reality that is artificial.  So although the funeral pastor thought he may be bridging a gap, by appealing to their music, I doubt that the hope he offered (his ulterior motive) really made a connection.  Non Christians aren’t that gullible or naive, at least in our culture.