One of our elders has a daughter who lives with her family in Las Vegas. Since grandkids are involved, you know where this elder and his wife will be whenever possible. This past week, he sent several of us an email about his use of time in Las Vegas … and it wasn’t at the casinos! He spent time reading one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis.
I know I’ve shared recently about The Great Divorce also by C. S. Lewis, and I try not to get stuck on any one author or topic for too long, but Lewis is worth more than one measly blog post. The quote forwarded to me by this particular elder needs a little marinating in the mind. Lewis wrote:
May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Harper Collins: 1952, 2001, p. 199).
What is the “whole of Christianity”? The apostle Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23a). Later in the same letter, he stated, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2). Going further into Paul’s letter, we read, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (3:11). The whole of Christianity is Jesus Christ: who He is (the Son of God, John 20:31), what He has done (was crucified, buried, and rose again, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4), and why He has done this (to reconcile us to God, Colossians 1:19-20).
So then, what is the “whole of the church”? As Lewis points out, “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.” East 91st Street Christian Church, and all churches for that matter, exist to lead people to Jesus Christ, plain and simple. Everything else in the church hinges on that one central claim. Discipleship ministry exists, because we are helping people become “little Christs.” Small group ministry exists, because we are forming into smaller discipleship communities of “little Christs.” Worship ministry exists, because we are gathering together as “little Christs” to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ. Children’s ministry exists, because we are developing little, “little Christs.” And on and on I could go. As Lewis points out, it is very easy for us to get muddled about this and make the church about different objects—“education, building, missions, holding services.”
I encourage you to reflect on your role as a “little Christ.” What are you doing for the advancement of the “whole of Christianity”? What are you doing for the advancement of the “whole of the church,” wherever you call church home? May we all be about the Lord’s work, which is a “work of faith and labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a rewarding work done “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1:5) and which ultimately leads to joy (1:6).
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).
And what a partnership it’s turning out to be!