There is a famously told story about St. Francis of Assisi and his first ministry assignment. Author Ian Cron recently reminded me of the tale in his wonderful work, Chasing Francis.
EVERYONE THOUGHT HE WAS CRAZY
As the story goes, Francis was deep in contemplation in the dilapidated Chapel of San Damiano, when the voice of Christ came to him from a cross suspended by wires above the altar. “Francis, don’t you see my house is crumbling apart? Go, then, and restore it!”
Cron writes, “After hearing the voice of Jesus from the cross, Francis came up with a plan. He would go door-to-door asking people to donate one stone each to rebuild the walls. Everyone thought he was crazy . . . But it wasn’t long before Francis’s dream inspired everyone to pitch in. So much help came that Francis was able to renovate three churches . . . . Francis thought at the time that Jesus simply wanted him to rebuild a few chapels. He didn’t yet realize how much more there was to it than that . . . . As it turns out, Jesus was asking Francis to repair Christendom . . . . Going out and asking people to donate stones for San Damiano was brilliant. It’s a pretty incredible metaphor. I’ve been wondering what stones the church is going to need today to build a church that reaches postmodern people. It’s going to take everyone bringing their own unique stone to get it done right” (Chasing Francis, pp. 61, 62, 64).
I love the stark simplicity of sharing a stone for a great cause, the heart-warming humanity of a community uniting around a vision to build something significant for the work of God in the world. Speaking personally, this is why I have followed Christ as a believer, a pastor, a church planter, and now chief “community” officer of FaithVillage. At times, some have thought I, and perhaps you too, were a little crazy. But I have always simply wanted to make a contribution to something bigger and better than myself, to somehow, awkwardly for sure, reflect the glory of God.
A SPIRITUAL HOUSE
As the vision and plans for FaithVillage have emerged, we have audaciously accepted that God was entrusting us with a task no less than that to which He called Francis. Do not misunderstand, we’re not so grandiose as to think we’re working to save Christendom. Some would say that’s a misguided project anyway. But we do sense the enormity of good we could potentially do by uniting a crazy community of stone-sharers.
While an online Christian community lacks the earthy, tangible texture of brick and mortar, it is not unlike “a spiritual house” where every member is a living stone. Sound familiar? Let’s remember, flesh and stone are not all that’s real, and certainly not the most enduring realities. As spiritual people, surely we can imagine how a vast community of thousands of believers tuned to the voice of Christ is an awesomely real community that can shift the world for good.
If Francis were called today, might he seek digital stones to build online for a new generation? Wouldn’t collaboration still be the way to this community if it is truly an expression of Christ’s self-giving to the world? (Is that a Twitter bird on Francis’s shoulder that I see in my sanctified imagination?)
Like Francis, we invite you to share a stone for a great cause, or better yet, to share yourself as a foundational stone.
We dream that this site will take your stone and my stone and make them into an awesome village that will serve countless more. Unlike a corporation-owned, for-profit web site, FaithVillage is a non-profit community of Christ-followers, church leaders, content producers, and world-changers who share the same causes and convictions. By design, the content will come from a broad, cooperative community. The conversation will arise from a multitude of voices who will find a new space to tell their stories, share their art, offer their innovations, and advocate for their passions.
YOUR COMMUNITY, OUR COMMUNITY
Our sincere hope is that FaithVillage will grow to become a community you will take pride in and ownership of precisely because you helped build it. Your stone will become integral to the foundation as it is mortared in next to all the others who will follow. We pray that our community will provide each of us with a compelling place to show hospitality and welcome to seeking friends, a place to expand our knowledge and sharpen our skills, a place to express care, creativity and moral courage. And as “but stewards” of this shared community, we understand that FaithVillage is a mutual trust, one that we pledge to honor.
So what stone can you gladly place in the foundations and walls of this village?
Your charter membership?
Your church partnership?
Whatever stones you offer, we thank you. As this community grows, may you experience a profound fulfillment in being a vital, organic, structural part of it. And if they say we are crazy, let us say we were crazy for Christ. We will be in good company with Francis.
Originally posted October 27, 2011.