Around the Corner
Building Bridges to My Community
By Brian Williams
It was my freshman year at Beckley Junior High School in Beckley, West Virginia. I was enrolled in a woodworking class, and the instructor, Mr. Anderson, gave us our final assignment. It was unlike any other project we had completed to that point. Working individually and in competition against our classmates, we were to build a balsa-wood bridge. The bridges would be judged based on design, craftsmanship, and the amount of weight the 14” Pratt truss bridge could withstand.
As I recall, my bridge finished in second place, which for me, was quite an accomplishment. Those days of bridge-building, from design to completion, will be etched in my memory forever. The lessons I learned from that project went far beyond physics, engineering, and appearance to the importance and safety of the bridges we cross each day.
Those lessons followed me to the Buffalo, New York, where we currently serve as church planters. When you move into a city where you don’t know anyone, you recognize the value of connecting with your community. Further, when you go into an area with no desire for a new church, especially a Free Will Baptist church, you learn how important it is to build bridges that endure. So, how does one go about building bridges into the community?
We build bridges through relationships. This was a lesson I never truly learned until becoming a church planter. In the early days of NorthPoint FWB Church, some key relationships opened tremendous doors of opportunity for us. These were open doors in terms of location, the ability to get information into the hands of prominent individuals, and connections to help us move step-by-step along the way.
We build bridges through generosity. In the area we serve, the Roman Catholic Church is predominant. One of the initial complaints I heard about them was they were “money hungry.” While I don’t know whether this is true or not, I do know it is a hard reputation to overcome. For that reason, early on, we decided anything we do, including Easter egg hunts, Family Fun Days, car washes, cups and apparel for our people, and lunches for the community would never have a price tag. We give everything away we possibly can. This has afforded unique opportunities to serve those in our neighborhood and beyond.
We build bridges through compassion. One of the key attributes surrounding the earthly ministry of Jesus was compassion. In Matthew 9:36, when Jesus saw the brokenness and the needs of the people surrounding Him, He had compassion on them. If we are to build bridges to our community, we must be known as a compassionate people. I want people to see compassion in me personally, but I also want them to see that trait on display in our church family. During these trying and difficult days, when people are hurting and searching for answers, they need to see and experience compassion from the church.
We build bridges by being team players. On Easter Sunday this year, while the country was shut down due to COVID-19, NorthPoint put together an Easter parade. While initially planned as a small endeavor, with a few people driving their personal cars, it grew into much more. When the event started, the town provided costumes, four fire trucks, two police cars, and the mayor himself as a participant. How does this happen? It happened, in part, because we have been team players. We get involved in community events, we volunteer our services to the town, we have adopted a local highway for garbage pick-up, and we show up to pray the invocation at town events. These are only a few of the ways we illustrate to our community that we are team players.
My days of building balsa-wood bridges ended long ago. I still remember vividly the sound and disappointment of the wood cracking when my bridge finally succumbed to the weight in that contest. That bridge may be long gone, but the bridges I am building today, with the Lord’s help, will last for eternity.
Let’s get out there and build some bridges!
About the Writer: Brian Williams is lead church planter at the NorthPoint FWB Church in Buffalo, New York. Learn more:
fwbnam.com/church-planting or NPDepew.com.