Church Experience #9 – Feb. 27, 2011
Bridge Christian Church, Chattanooga, TN
Networking for Church
One of the things I enjoy most in life is meeting new people. In business, I’m an avid networker. I seek out and get involved in various meetings, groups, organizations, social circles, etc. on a regular basis. My opinion is that the more people I know or know of, the better. I feel that in some way, maybe I’m increasing the odds of meeting someone who could make a substantial impact on my life (or I on theirs), that I would otherwise miss if I didn’t get out there and network. [For all you psychologists out there, maybe that’s why I felt the need to begin the ChurchSurfer project…it’s my spiritual networking.] This thought of increasing the odds of making a meaningful connection definitely proved to be true in the instance of discovering Bridge Christian Church…had I (and they) not been involved in networking, it may never have happened. The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce morning networking events I attend always include “self introduction” time where they pass the microphone around the room so everyone can announce their name and business. At one event, I heard an introduction from someone followed by a church name…Bridge Christian Church. I was instantly intrigued. I had never seen a church come to a business networking event and I knew I needed to meet this person immediately. It turns out the person was Scottie Blackburn, Community Pastor at Bridge, which is a four month old church. Cool! A new angle for a ChurchSurfer article…exploring the beginnings of a baby church.
A Jeans Church
Laura and I pulled up to Westview Elementary School, the meeting place for Bridge, and as we walked toward the building I supposed that a school building was probably the perfect place for a new church to start. The essence of a new church is sort of like a school full of young children who are growing and learning together. At the door, we were warmly greeted by a bubbly young lady who recognized that we were visitors and directed us to the welcome table just inside the door. We filled out name tags and then moved along through the lobby, impressed by the refreshment table which was stocked with coffee and bagels. We engaged in a few short introductions and conversations (which seemed to happen very naturally), and entered the school auditorium (or sanctuary on this morning). I spoke to Christine, who was passing out the bulletins, briefly about how she came to Bridge, and she explained that she was a friend of the pastors and was excited to be part of a brand new church. Everyone I spoke to exuded enthusiasm and energy, which probably had something to do with David Sternberg, the head Pastor, who stood before me in jeans and an untucked button down shirt, smiling contagiously, and appearing to be all of about 30 years old (which I never asked/confirmed). Scottie, the Community Pastor, looked to be about the same age, dressed in the same manner, and smiled almost as much. Now I understood why their Google ad says “Try us out this Sunday 10am, you can wear your jeans”.
As the worship music kicked in, we ended our conversation and Laura and I found some seats. There appeared to be around 50 people in attendance, mostly young couples and families, and quite a diversity of ethnicities. The worship music was led by a young singer/guitarist who was backed by bass guitar and drums. They played the newer style of contemporary worship music that reminded me a lot of The Net Church that I had visited earlier in the year. We sang a few songs and ended with prayer, and then pastor Scottie took the stage to give the sermon for the week. Normally pastor David handles the sermon, and I caught wind that this was Scottie’s first full sermon at Bridge. He began by touching on the ongoing topic that Bridge had been studying, titled “Retro”, which was intended to review the beginnings of the Christian Church in the book of Acts and throughout the New Testament. I definitely think this topic is a great place for Bridge to spend time laying the foundations for their church body, growing with each other, defining their identity, and shaping their goals and missions.
The Messy Bits
Scottie spoke about the early church in Jerusalem, which was both successful, growing to 15,000 +/- members out of 80,000 people in Jerusalem, while at the same time furiously persecuted, as evidenced with the stoning to death of Stephen and all the other martyrs for Christ. But if there is one thing that is obvious about Christianity…one glaringly blatant theme…it would be that through adversity comes perseverance and then glory. Example #1…Jesus. Persecuted, crucified, persevered, glorified. None of us should expect any different than what our Savior experienced. The world hates us. Those who are lost mock us. Those who are intellectual dismiss us. Those who are influenced by the evil one lash out at us. Those who are wealthy despise us. We are persecuted in the midst of a world that we don’t belong to. Those that live for this world will never treat us with respect. But all the forces that amass against us only draw us closer to the One who saves us. His strength conquers all. The hardships we suffer in His name give us character, endurance, and end up helping to advance the Cause that they seek to snuff out. I watched the movie “Letters to Juliet” recently and a line from that movie really stuck with me. As an older lady sought out a lover from her youth, who was a simple farmer, one of the possible candidates to be that man lived in an enormous mansion. On their way in the mansion to see if it was indeed the same man, her grandson commented that it would be a great life to marry him now as a rich man and skip all “the messy bits” that surely happened along the way. The lady replied “it’s those messy bits that are life”. Our hardships are what this earthly life is all about. We don’t live in a utopia…that’s what is to come next. We will suffer. We will die physically. We will persevere. We will be raised again to His glory. The messy bits may cause pain, but as pastor Scottie stated, there are two reactions to pain. You either shut down and your life becomes your loss, or you open up to God and your life is about what you are becoming.
After attending Bridge Christian Church and getting to experience their youth, energy, passion, and excitement about what is to come for their fledgling group, I can’t help but share in their excitement. Something is always fun about new beginnings. Think about the early days of your relationship with your spouse and what that new love was like. Think about your first moments as a born again Christian and your zeal for God. That same love and zeal hasn’t subsided, it should actually grow stronger with age, but I guarantee you probably smiled thinking back to those moments. The freshness and newness is just mesmerizing and something that brings joy to your heart whenever you think back to it. If you are at a point in your Christian walk where you feel that you could lend a hand to a young church I urge you contact them and see if it is the right place for you. Although there is excitement, the journey for Bridge won’t be easy. They are tasked with establishing church leadership, building their internal ministries, developing outreach ministries, attracting new people to join them, making tough decisions about a building, and managing their staff and integrity throughout the process. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Remember the messy bits. My guess is that Bridge will be highly successful as the blessing of the Lord will be upon them to go about His work. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…if you would like to have a block party in your neighborhood, Bridge will provide one for free, complete with an inflatable bounce house and double-lane slide. Did I mention they are young and a little quirky? I wouldn’t expect anything less from a church that networks at Chamber of Commerce events. Gotta love it!