"Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity."
-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Interesting that, in this passage at least, Lewis is urging a "full" Christianity in a book about "mere" Christianity. What is a great paradox, I guess, is that by distilling the Christian religion to the essence of the Gospel, you end up filling it with as many disciples as possible. Everybody who's been doing the church thing long enough knows more "laws" equals fewer followers.
I recall at a BCC Vision Night a few years ago, either right before we moved onto the new campus or right after, Dr. Foster presented an awesome forecast of what the church could do and be on that sparkling sylvan landscape. While I don't think a church is where it's located, I love where we are -- it's basically literally a community set on a hill. And the vision given that night was of a church that shone like a beacon to the community at large, a place that was open nearly every day and offered service in practical ways to lots and lots of people.
At that time, I was thinking of course of what Willow Creek had become, with its vast array of resources and opportunities. They have a place set aside on campus so that by appointment, single moms and other underprivileged folks could bring their cars to be repaired for free. What a great and innovative way for today's church to do true religion!
I have to admit that the dream given that night sparked my own imagination. I love that we host A.A. and other recovery groups on our campus, being the only place nearby to offer such services to many folks. But I'd love to someday see community service classes or a cut-rate but quality education grade school. Maybe an actual park where families can come to picnic and play. Maybe we could host seminary extension classes. Maybe we could house a Goodwill-type store. Do we have a food pantry?
One of the things BCC gets so very right is community service. From counseling to the homeless mission to Habitat for Humanity to Toys for Tots to Angel Tree to our excellent Caregivers Ministry Team, we have lots and lots of folks who love and are gifted to serve. Wouldn't a full, campus-driven expansion of that ministry be awesome? Wouldn't it be incredible if our campus balanced programming with practical ministry so well that the place exploded with undeniable appeal to the down and downtrodden of our community?
By narrowing our purpose to "Gospel + nothing" we open up Hope Park to the very people who need hope the most. Not necessarily those who hope the service is good this week, but certainly to those hoping there's reason to live the other six days of the week.
There's so much that can divide us about how church can and should be done; let's seek unity in "Jesus Christ, hope for sinners."