I call her Maria. I’ve never met her and I don’t know her real identity. She has left me more than 50 voice mail messages in the last year. She has usually called in the middle of the night when I’m not in my office. Each time she’s called, she has shared her difficulties with life—how no one cares about her, and how there is one particular neighbor whom she does not like. I would really love to speak with “Maria,” but her phone number comes up as anonymous. I have yet to be able to track her down, speak to her, and tell her I care.
Bridge Builders—a ministry of ACTS—is a caring fellowship of Tenth members and others who meet for lunch, teaching, and discussion in an effort to build relationships and community. Our theme this year is “Love one another,” and our theme verse is “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34).
Jesus modeled these words for us by becoming a servant, being vulnerable, showing mercy and compassion, and then dying in our place. So, too, we are called to care for and come alongside others. Caring is essential as we serve and are available to people.
Similarly, evangelism is essential to caring. When someone has no friends or support, he or she is likely going to feel abandoned and hopeless. That person will be alienated from themselves, others, and God. When we peel away these layers of alienation, we see that their greatest need is spiritual. Praise God, we possess the spiritual solution in Christ.
Decades ago, when Tenth left the PCUSA, it faced the decision of selling or not selling its property and moving to the suburbs (where there was lots of grass and parking). It could have followed the trail of so many other city churches, but Tenth’s congregation decided to remain—not to keep its beautiful building, but to be a Christian witness to its neighbors. Thus, today’s bulletin proclaims, “This church opens wide her doors and offers her welcome in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Tenth cares.
Tenth cares about discipling Christians in the church and also about serving those outside the church. God wants these built-up church members to share his concern for the broken and brokenhearted. Beginning September 18, Bridge Builders will present the following sessions to help build up Tenth even more:
- What must we do to develop the heart of a servant? Surrender. Become a disciple. “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). If we are to follow Jesus, we must forget that self exists.
- Coming alongside others. We don’t have to wait until we become “experts” before we come alongside people. We just need to show up, listen, and share. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
- Jesus had boundaries. Jesus lived a rhythm of life that kept him free from burnout. He was able to be compassionate in his response to people, their needs, interruptions, and crises.
- Everyone can offer hospitality. When we offer hospitality we invite people into our homes or churches or lives in such a way that they feel welcome.
- Who is my neighbor? As followers of Jesus we act as citizens of the Kingdom of God. We proclaim the gospel message in both word and deed.
- Listening is relational. Love listens. If we want to demonstrate our love for others, the first task is to listen. No loving relationship is possible without paying attention by listening.
- Jesus visited us. Visitation includes offering hope, giving life, and redeeming that which was lost.
- Lessons from a shepherd teach us about caring. We are told that Jesus is the good shepherd who tends and cares for his sheep. We are in need of that shepherd as we are called, “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).
Most of the material about caring is contained in my upcoming book Neighbor-ology. As this year’s presenter, I hope to see many of you at Bridge Builders. I will be joined by the ministry coordinator Joe Welch, a Christian counselor at the Philadelphia Access Center. We meet third Sundays, 1:00 pm, in Fellowship Hall East beginning on September 18. For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.