I don’t know if there’s anything more frustrating than, when you need something, for the store to be closed! In fact, in the day and age of Amazon and Prime Shipping, I think the concept of a store being closed is even worse. We are used to getting what we want in two days and, if we are willing to pay a couple bucks, tomorrow. And that’s when we are having something shipped to us! So when you actually make the effort to go to a store and you see the “We’re Closed” sign, it makes you even more determined to do all of your shopping online. This is fresh on my mind since, when my parents were up a couple weeks ago, we decided to take them to one of those quaint little towns around here. Well, we thought, surely in the middle of tourist season these stores would be open in the evening, but we were wrong. More than half of them were closed by 6pm! When do they do business? People were everywhere in the town but half of the shopping was unavailable. If they’d been open, they probably would have made some “sales”. But since they weren’t, we saved some money.
When it comes to the way church has been practiced, I feel like the church has done a really good job of putting up these “We’re Closed” signs. The church loves it’s regulations, rules, requirements, covenants, and expectations. In fact, I think the church has regulated, ruled, required, covenanted, and expected its way out of its mission. The church is called to make disciples, but according to the “church”, you have a long way to go before you are qualified to do that. I really believe that incredibly frustrates Jesus. I love the story of Jesus and the “Demoniac”. What a nickname! You’ll find the story in Mark 5. Jesus heals this guy who is possessed by a legion of demons. Jesus sets him free. Jesus sends the demons into a bunch of pigs, who once they are possessed by these demons, run off a cliff into the sea! It’s an amazing story of Jesus’ supernatural power in the life of this demoniac. But the part that has always struck me is the end of the story after Jesus has been asked to leave since someone complained about losing all those pigs. Read it for yourselves:
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Do you see it? Do you see all the qualifications the demoniac was required to fulfill before he could make disciples? Do you see all of the regulations he had to meet? Do you see all of the rules he had to prove he had obeyed? Nope! You don’t see any of that because they’re not there. Jesus sent out a guy to share the good news of Jesus to this community without any training or “understanding”, and the results were “all the people were amazed.”
Jesus swung the door wide open for people to do what He commanded each and every one of us to do. So why do we require more than Jesus did? This leads us to our next Guiding Principles:
We Value Open Doors: We do what we do so those who aren’t here yet can do what we do.
We must do “church” in such a way that we open the doors so people can not only “attend”, but so they can do what we do. Why? Because they are we. We were once they, but now we are the we. I know that’s confusing, but let me explain. Once, we were on the outside looking in. It’s an awkward position, but someone in your life probably opened the door and helped you walk in. We must make sure we do exactly that for those who aren’t here yet. When they get here, we must welcome them in, not just to watch, but engage, participate, share, change things, and bring their gifts to the body of Christ.
Church was never supposed to be about us. Church was always supposed to be about God’s mission of bringing His way, His truth and His life to everyone. If we are going to fulfill His mission for us to be A Place For Everyone, we must make sure we open up our doors!