Many Atlantans are familiar with Fred Craddock through his association with the Candler School of Theology. Early in his ministry he served a church in the hills of eastern Tennessee. Like a number of small churches, the congregation mostly consisted of individuals and families who had lived and worked in the area for a long time. As a young pastor, Craddock tried to open the hearts and minds of his members to reach out to new people moving into the community. The nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory was expanding and new jobs were attracting new neighbors.
Craddock’s efforts to launch an outreach program were rebuffed. One man told him, “They wouldn’t fit in here.” Another made a motion in a church conference that in order for someone to become a member he or she had to own property in the county. The pastor spoke in opposition to the motion but it passed.
Years later, the Craddocks were on vacation in the area and decided to drive by the church to see how things were going. When they pulled into the parking lot of the old building, they were amazed at the number of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. A sign over the door announced that the church was now a BBQ restaurant. Obviously, people from all over the area had discovered it. When the Craddocks went inside and looked around, he couldn’t help it. He said to his wife: “It’s a good thing it’s not a church anymore or these people couldn’t be in here.”
“Be Thou My Vision” – what would you say God’s vision for Wieuca might be? The answer could be found with another question – who is the church really for? The already-convinced or the not-interested, not-sure, not-connected, not-saved crowd?
You could say both, but chances are pretty good that too often it is one or the other. When it is the former, the danger is that one day you’ll look around and wish you could see a new face now and again. We’ve got to be the church of the open door, not the closed circle.