If you have never been to Grandfather Mountain and transversed the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, I encourage you to do so. The pictures you see here are from the promotional pictures on the website of Grandfather Mountain. The first picture is a picture of a gorge with the road winding through. The picture to the right is one taken of the Swinging Bridge. The third picture is one taken of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Of course you do realize these pictures were taken at the peak of the fall colors. North Carolina has some of the most lively colors in the fall that you will ever find. Any conference you can register for at Ridgecrest or The Cove is worth the price. However, many do not attend the conferences because they are out riding the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The purpose of this article is to draw your attention to the bridges in these pictures. Do you notice something? Each bridge has a
guardrail fence at its boarder. Why would there need to be a fence on the bridge or even leading up to the bridge? It is placed there in order to keep the cars from plummeting over the edge to a certain demise.
Fences are used as both negative and positive. When used in the negative it results in a war between two factions. These two factions believe their rights have been violated and determine never to allow the other faction the opportunity to violate their rights again. Thus you see fences put in place and people never speak again to each other.
When used in the positive fences are good things for protection. My back yard is surrounded by a 4 foot chain link fence. I do this because I have a shop with a motor home sitting beside it and I also have a small dog that I allow to run free inside the fenced area. Can you imagine a thief complaining against my ability to place a fence around my yard? I can hear it now; “Tim should not be able to place a fence around his back yard because I have a right to be free and that fence impedes my freedom.”
Bridges or Fences
I submit to you that we need both. I agree that we need bridges in order to unite areas that are not united. However when they build a bridge they always place a fence along the boundaries of the bridge and also in the areas leading up to the bridge. Why? Can you imagine having a bridge with no boundaries? There has to be fences in order to keep out the things that can harm, but also to keep safe those who use the bridge.
I believe we need bridges. These bridges could unite the Emergent Church with the Traditional Church, younger pastors with older pastors, the pew with the pulpit, denominational workers with laity, Evangelicals with Southern Baptist. However this bridge needs to have a fence in order to clearly establish the boundaries in which we have marked. I wonder if some of the bridges that are being built sometimes are bridges, not to unite, but to further a particular personal agenda? I am not accusing anyone of having a personal agenda, I am merely asking a question.
I believe we need to build bridges to accentuate our missions efforts. These bridges would serve us well as we strive to feed and clothe the poor. While Jesus did say the poor you would always have with you, this does not negate our need to reach out to them. Others are doing a great job reaching and doing ministry to the poor and we certainly need to build a bridge into this area of ministry. As I understand, there is an Emerging Church and there is an Emergent Church. I do not know enough about either to discuss their differences, but I do know that each is doing something that we in the traditional church is not doing. I believe there needs to be a bridge built into that area in order to learn and possibly partner in the areas that we can partner. Younger Pastors complain their voices are not being heard and Elder Pastors are questioning the wisdom in listening to these young voices. I believe there are bridges that can be built here in order for the younger voices to be expressed in order to glean the freshness of new ideas. I also believe these voices would find that our elder voices make plenty of sense about issues because there is nothing new under the sun.
There are bridges that need to be built and while I am not an engineer that would design the bridge, I certainly have the ability and desire to build such a bridge. I am not able to design the structure, but I can help in building the structure.
While bridges are important, fences are just as important. Why build something that as people begin navigating the structure they stumble over the side into the theological abyss and drown in the ocean of ecumenicalism? While it is the bridge that brings about the uniting of two groups, it is the fences that keep these groups in unison.
Let’s say I am called on to join this illustrious group to sing the song Amazing Grace. Let us take for granted that Brother Wes is an Operatic Tenor. While Brother Les sings in the style of a Boy Band. Then we have Brother Robin singing in the Arkansas Southern Gospel style. That leaves Brother Dwight and myself and we both sing in a spiritual style. Can you imagine what we would sound like? There is music on a page in order to keep everyone singing in unison. Fences do the same thing.
Fences keep us heading toward the bridge that is built and they keep us safe as we traverse the expanse. Have you ever thought of why bridges are bridges in the first place? Bridges are built in order to enable a usually none traveled space, to be traversed.
I would like to close this article by asking some questions. As we build bridges, we must ask ourselves are these areas that we need to traverse? In other words, why do we desire to build a bridge into certain areas? Also, if we design a bridge that will reach the area are we not doing an injustice to those that are footing the price of the bridge to not establish fences? These fences would protect those traveling the bridge, and also keep out those that do not like the fences and are only operating within them in order to use the bridge. Therefore as they cross the bridge they are constantly complaining about the fence making the bridge appear more and more narrow. When the fence gets worn and in need of repair, these same ones complain that if the fence is fixed it will only cause others to not desire to use the bridge.
As with all illustrations this one breaks down. I do not advocate fences over bridges, or bridges over fences. I do advocate reaching and teaching and I also advocate protecting and serving. You see, we need the bridge because it will have a uniting effect. But, as with the need for the music, the fence is needed in order for those traveling across the bridge to walk arm-in-arm–this is called unison.