The answer: we didn’t.
I told her what I’ve said again and again since coming to First Baptist, that there must be a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth and that our responsibility is to look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven and then roll up our sleeves and get to work. I’m convinced that if we look at the world through our own eyes, we will see the things that break our own hearts and call us to action.
That’s so much easier than trying to come up with one, big mission project that everyone can embrace, and so much better than giving someone an assignment and saying, “Here, go do this.”
It also leads to some interesting results.
For example: I heard from one of our members recently who said she was bringing heaven to earth by feeding the feral cats in her neighborhood. And she said she’s using the premium cat food, not the cheap stuff.
That’s pretty much all she said, but I can fill in the blanks. She’s telling me that when she sees those skinny, half-starved cats it breaks her heart, she feels moved to do something about it. And she is moved because she believes those cats are part of God’s creation, and that God has it in his heart to redeem not only his human creatures, but everything he has made and called good, including cats (Rom. 8:18-21). And so she has taken on this ministry to the homeless, and she dishes out the premium cat food because she thinks of cats as something God made and loves, and not as a nuisance.
Chances are good that if she had submitted this idea to the church it would have never been approved. Someone would have said, “We don’t want to encourage this kind of thing,” and someone else would have said, “Are we supposed to pay for the cat food?” But she heard me say, “There must be a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth,” and she looked around for anything that didn’t look like heaven and saw this—skinny, half-starved cats—and it broke her heart, and she rolled up her sleeves and went to work.
That sounds like a parable to me. I can almost hear Jesus say, “What is the Kingdom of Heaven like, and to what shall I compare it? The Kingdom is like a woman whose heart was broken by what she saw in her own neighborhood, and who had the gumption to get up off the couch and do something about it.”