The 7 Bridges To Recovery Ministry is a good example of how important fitness is in Christian outreach. Fitness is not limited to physical wellbeing, it includes at least two other elements.
7 Bridges is a hands-on, front-line rescue mission. The leadership, members and volunteers descend on the streets of Atlanta daily, going under the bridges that flank some of Atlantas major highways, Interstates 20 & 75, as well as going into some of the roughest and most downtrodden communities.
In order to navigate the sloping walls of the bridges one has to be flexible and agile. The sides of the bridges that we must walk on to get to the people who call it their homes sometimes slope at more than a 45 degree angle. We must possess good strength in our legs to be able to walk on this wall, as well as be able to bend at an angle that will allow us to get under the bridge beams as we make our way from one bridge to another.
Physical stamina is just one part of the overall fitness that is required for this mission to the streets of Atlanta. Consider the spiritual and mental fitness that one has to demonstrate. The people that are the targets of this ministry are the ones society typically overlooks. 7 Bridges To Recovery lovingly refers to them as The Last, The Lost and The Least because of the societal priority afforded them. For the most part, they have been forgotten by society and considered outcasts, derelicts. To minister to them requires spiritual maturity and a deep understanding of Gods purpose for our lives. Luke 14:23 says, Then the master told his servant, Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. We are called to compel them by any means necessary, and the love of Jesus is the most effective means.
7 Bridges To Recovery requires all of its volunteers and missionaries to be prepared to share the love of Jesus with the people they encounter under the bridges and on the streets. This means that we will give them a meal in a bag which usually contains a sandwich and a bottle of water, and the volunteers and missionaries will hug and pray for them, as well as offer them the opportunity to give their lives to Christ and to get off the streets into a program set up through the ministry. If we are not spiritually and mentally fit to show love to someone who (1) may reject it, (2) may not have changed their clothes or taken a bath in a long time, (3) may not be in their right minds due to prolonged use of drugs or alcohol, or (4) may have gone to the bathroom several times in their clothing, we could create a separation which hinders the purpose of the ministry and souls may miss the opportunity to be re-created through Jesus Christ.
One should also consider the benefits of being financially fit to meet the needs of the ministry. The 7 Bridges To Recovery ministry operates solely on the generosity of the Christian community not only to feed the men and women on streets but also to operate a ministry house for men on Browns Mill Road, Atlanta and a shelter for women and children at the church on Plant Atkinson Road, Smyrna. This is one small ministry doing whatever it can to stomp out homelessness that is due to drug and substance abuse in Atlanta.
A research conducted in 1997 by Research Atlanta Inc. estimated that the homeless population in the Atlanta area ranges between 11,000 and 20,000 people. Thats thousands who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and are waiting on fit Christians to tell them that theyre not too far gone and that Jesus loves them regardless of what they may have done.
Serving in ministry is more than just showing up or being available. One has to count the cost, consider the commitment the ministry requires (Luke 14:28) and prepare physically, spiritually, emotionally and financially to carry out its mission.