1. The Truss System Of A Credible Lifestyle
The truss system is your lifestyle, your ethical integrity, your kindness, thoughtfulness, and selflessness, your personal potency, your credibility.
At work, if you are known for “fudging the numbers,” stealing store supplies, cheating on your hours, or telling dirty jokes, don’t even try to throw relational planks on your truss. People don’t want to hear what you have to say. People judge the credibility of the message by the credibility of the messenger. They have judged Jesus as “unfit” in light of your life. They don’t want what you have.
Followers of Jesus Christ must be highly contagious people. We have to live a life worth imitating, have a joy worth coveting, have a purpose worth seeking, and have a relationship with God that sparks amazement and curiosity. Without saying a word, unbelievers can be drawn to Christ by our way of living.
As a Christian, the core values, work ethic and worldview that I hold in my personal life should overflow into my life in my neighborhood and in the marketplace. This distinctive difference should arouse curiosity in others about my personal life. What makes me tick? Why am I refreshingly different from others?
But will this curiosity be a sufficient relational bridge to share the gospel? Normally not. Our way of life will not save unbelievers; it will merely create thirst in them for whatever makes us different. Lifestyle is not evangelism.
2. The Planks Of Relationship
Once an unbeliever knows about your credibility, you can begin to add relational planks to the bridge. Often you are laying the planks at the same time you are building the truss system. Every word or act of kindness or service lays a new plank on the bridge. Every word or act of selfishness, even our mistakes, tears up or damages those planks.
3. Cross the Bridge
Warning! Our relationships with unbelievers won’t save them; they will merely create a thirst for whatever makes us different. Charitable deeds in helping the poor, the oppressed, and the needy are not the gospel. They are relational planks that can pave the bridge for the messenger. Compare Jesus’ ministry with the “social gospel” of churches and Christian organizations in the 19th and 20th centuries. Jesus’ healing, feeding and helping unbelievers were accompanied by His teaching about the gospel of the kingdom. The social gospel alleviated disease, famine and human suffering but had no gospel truth connected with it. Unbelievers were made healthier and happier with no remedy for a Christliness eternity.
There is a danger in taking too long to build your bridge, and many Christians are very passive bridge-builders. How long might this bridge-building take? It depends upon your times, your culture and your contacts (as mentioned above).
If your times, your culture or your contacts’ lives are in upheaval, the cliffs move closer together, and you could possibly build a bridge in one conversation. These are what missionaries call “reaping fields.” Jesus mentioned Samaria as a field “white unto harvest” in John 4:35. A few years later, in Acts 8:5-8, Philip saw multitudes come to saving faith in Christ in Samaria.
If the times are stable, the culture is materialistic and cynical, and your contact’s life is smooth, the cliffs are often far apart. In such circumstances, it may take you many years to build such a long bridge. These are what missionaries call “sowing fields.”
You may be thinking of your neighbor right now and grumbling, “That’s going to be one long bridge!” Don’t despair. It will take you some time to figure out how far away they are, and your initial estimate might be too far; or God can bring a need into their life that you can meet (or vice versa) and that event will bring you closer together.
Excerpt from evangelism workshop by Biblical Ministries Worldwide: “Fostering the Harvest” available on Amazon