Forever Friends
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Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Years before ever becoming, or even thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker.  I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. Not too bright. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.”

His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and laid down until my sight came back. I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a potential “notch on his belt,” So he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game. I never heard from him again.

At this point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. My church never had one. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who have already been or will never be baptized too. So, years later when I became a Bible Worker, I told myself that, as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend, as well as someone who  taught theology.

I was studying with a man, in the first district I had been assigned as a Bible Worker, when he showed up to church with his 14-year-old  step-daughter. She had never been to any church before. I went up to the parents of teenage girls in the church, and told them, a young girl is here who has never been to church before. Please have your daughters greet her and befriend her. One parent, who had two teen girls, shrugged her shoulders and said, “My daughters already have friends.” I could not believe what I heard. The girls did not befriend her. Her step-father eventually went to another nearby Adventist church where he got baptized. I do not know the fate of his step-daughter.

Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day. Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride. One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?

After studying a few months with a young married couple, they became baptized and joined my church of mostly older people. One of the older elders never reached out to this young couple, until finally he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct, so he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to “reach out” and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church whose elder only called you to tell you that you were wrong?

In Texas I studied with a teenage boy, that for sake of anonymity, I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going-away party for him, and I wrote in a card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. Eight years later I moved to Tampa Florida. I had talked with him a few times after his move. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I called the number, to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student, huh? We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever. I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized eight years ago, my work with him was not through. Scott needed a forever friend. I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.

As a Bible Worker my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism, and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized.

Some people think they can’t do Bible work and give Bible studies. Believe me, if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a young teenage girl needed in a small church long ago, was not a Bible Worker but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church, to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect.

Bible workers or pastors may get people baptized, but in order to see them all the way into the Kingdom, it takes more than a Bible Worker. It takes a forever friend. Will you be that forever friend?

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Comments

Forever Friends — 22 Comments

  1. I love this article. An awesome reminder to me and many others. Thank you!
    Also, in the third-last paragraph I'm pretty sure you mean friend and not fiend... :)

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  2. Perhaps that is why the parable of the sheep and goats does not say "I needed a Bible Study and you gave me one." Bible studies are assumed for Christians but it is the relational needs that really make the difference between sheep and goats.

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  3. Thank you for this. I was having the same conversation with my brother - who is a bible worker as well. He said that evangelism isn't what people think - but reaching out and connecting with people first - like Jesus did before he got into the word. We go to an older church and I find the same thing - people are too old or couldn't be bothered to befriend new people. I get frustrated but I know that I am not there for them - but to hear the word of God. God Bless

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    • Melanie, I am so glad you stayed in church even though people were not that friendly. There are friendly churches. While you are right, we are there for God and not for people, if you read Lilliane Lopez's last post, you will see relationships are important too.

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  4. Hello brother William Earnhardt, praise God for your words to be simple and so powerful. I met myself twice in this article. I am a portuguese speaker, I moved recently in London Uk, where I was baptized. I am thinking about being a bible worker, I will take a evangelism course soon in which it was arranged by my pastor. But I also like to get in touch with you so I can learn from your experiences and become forever friends with you. Thank you and God bless

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  5. This is a great article to reflect your life on. I'm a teenager and if I wasn't Christian and I was visiting a church, I'd want somebody to befriend me... it would be really nice. Now I'll have to remember to always greet or befriend visitors at my church.
    *and THAT will give them a reason to come back*

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  6. Hello! I had a Boyfriend for almost 6 years...and due to our different priorities, we are separated. Yet we are still best friend that cares for each other because we believed that friendship never last here on earth...and will continue in heaven-:)
    Everybody can relate to this topic "Forever Friend" because everybody has a friend.

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  7. Wow. This article is so real, I often wonder how much difference it makes when I reach out to someone in church who is visiting. I know that when I go visiting it makes the difference. Before I really gave my heart to God in my office I would make people feel welcome when they came for interviews even if I saw them in the corridor because it was always an uncomfortable situation for them to be in, and I have carried that with me that now I have really accepted God and His way, I do the same everywhere I go. Thanks for this lovely article.

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  8. The wish of Paul to the Thessalonians to be blameless and holy, as x-tians we should imitate and have Christ like character and walk the holy way of Christ and focus his second coming. We know that sufferings of x-tians is test of faith.

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  9. The article is quite inspiring and very practical to what happens in our church. I could not stop reading one line after another. Indeed, it takes a "forever friend".

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  10. Last Sabbath, we had a great Sabbath Lesson Review...

    In Thessalonians, Paul mentioned that he blamed Satan for hindering him to visit the Tessalonica. If we have plans and we fail to achieve it, are we gonna blame Satan or ourselves?

    For me, the main battlefield of good and evil is our mind - so, the final decision comes from us...There are things that we can control and we cannot control. For the things that we can control, we need to pursue the plan as much as we can with guidance from Heaven. For the things we can't control, we need miracle from Heaven!
    We can blame ourselves or maybe Satan-:) but we can't blame God!

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  11. Everyday we look at ourselves in the mirror before we start our day to make sure we look alright and everything is in place. Your article is that mirror that I needed. You presented in a wonderful way the importance of loving fellowship that we need to have with each other. The impact we can have of being a forever friend makes a world of difference. Thank you for the 'mirror check'.

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  12. That Sabbath lesson also highlighted how eager Paul was to hear if his "friends" in Thessalonica kept their focus on Christ. He had geniune concerns well after they had made their professions of faith. A forever friend..

    Thanks EN for forwarding a nice story!

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  13. For Paul to long for earthly friends and to remind them at the coming of our Lord and forever friends in Heaven we must hold on until He comes again.

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  14. A friend told me about the biblegateway.com website and I have been following your writings since then. I enjoy reading them and the replys that follow. It is sure helping my Christian experience. Thank you

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