Arkansans report on February Building Bridges effort

By Mac Overton

CONWAY, Ark.--"Eighty-one enthusiastic brethren gathered Feb. 27 at the Howard Johnson's Inn here to be a part of the first of many Building Bridges Revivals," said Charles Green, one of the organizers.

The Building Bridge Revival is one of several recently begun regularly scheduled Sabbath services that are meant to serve several Church of God congregations without competing with those congregations.

Building Bridges here and in Arizona, for example, attempts to schedule services to conflict as little as possible with area Church of God services so brethren can meet on a fairly regular basis with their brethren from other congregations. (See "Newest 'Building Bridges' Lets Scattered Brethren Meet," The Journal, Jan. 31.)

"None went away disappointed," said Mr. Green. "Many arrived early in order to visit with friends they had not seen in years, some as long as 30 years. Needless to say, there was much hugging among the joyful reunions of brethren parted by man-built walls that most did not know how to tear down or climb over."

A brief song service led by Rick Marrs was followed by Mr. Green's opening prayer, in which he reminded the group that the common bond between them all was the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jim Ussery of the Central Arkansas Church of God greeted the group and gave "a very warm, emotional, encouraging sermon," said Mr. Green.

"He digressed a bit into how he and his wife, Dot, became a part of the Church of God, the spiritual entity enrolled in heaven," Mr. Green said. "He took us through the joys of this new way of life he had been shown and also reminded us of the emotional pain and suffering of being forced to stop associating with friends because of man-made rules. He shared with us the scriptures he and his wife had found comfort in to help them through those difficult days of pain laced with their tears.

"He also reminded us many times during the sermon not to be discouraged, that God is and will remain in charge. He is running the show."

Mr. Ussery recalled the spreading of the gospel in New Testament times and told what the brethren can and should be doing to help, leaving the audience with the thought, "Take courage that God is in charge, so let us all do things His way."

Gary Pettit of Atkins, Ark., gave announcements and thanked God for the people present at the meeting, Mr. Green said.

Mr. Pettit asked and answered several questions: "Why are you here?," "Why are we doing this?" and "Why is this called Building Bridges?"

His answer, in part: "We are brethren, and walls have gone up."

Mr. Green said Mr. Pettit encouraged the brethren to "tear down the walls."

Special music was performed by Julius Reed of Vilonia, Ark.

"He sang a song which was quite moving as well as appropriate to the occasion, 'In the Midst of It All,' prefaced by a brief reminder of the experience of Job," Mr. Green said.

The second sermon was given by Ray Wooten, pastor of the United Church of God Birmingham (Ala.) and president of United Christian Ministries, Birmingham.

"Mr. Wooten in his sermon spent much time encouraging us to share what we have been given," Mr. Green said, "to glorify and obey our Redeemer, the common bond between us. He explained about his departure from the Worldwide Church of God and of how he began doing a work of spreading the gospel with Christ as our Head, the only Head of the church, of how the church is not a two-headed monster with a physical head and a spiritual head.

"He reminded us of how our salvation is not earned. It is purchased by the sacrifice of our Savior, and of how we are baptized into Him and made alive in Him. His law is His standard. If we say He is in us, our actions will prove if we are in Him or not. We will be doing His standards.

"The law cannot bring life. It shows us the standard we are to live by. Because of our love for Him, we struggle to live by that standard. If He is in us, we will be motivated to holy and pure things and will get upset with ourselves when we fail."

Mr. Green said Mr. Wooten's sermon was "uplifting" and encouraged the brethren "to break loose from any shackles that may be holding us back and to go on doing the things Christ said for us to do."

Many left to attend services in their regular church area, as Building Bridges' organizers had encouraged them to do.

Anyone interested in attending future meetings of Building Bridges Revival may call Mr. Pettit at (501) 669-2659.

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