Have you ever walked into a room and then closed the door behind you only to realize that you were locked in?
Charlotte and I had been invited, along with our small group, to dinner at a family’s new home. They had only lived in this house a few weeks. They were still making adjustments and taking note of what needed attention. I walked into a restroom just off the living room area. I closed the door behind me, locking it. Then, I saw a screwdriver beside the sink.
Sure enough, the door was not only locked but it would not open — at all! Now I realized why a screwdriver was in the room. This had happened before.
Have you ever been locked inside a church? You entered freely. You were excited to become a part of that fellowship of believers. Yet, now that you are inside, you keep finding locked doors.
1. You may find a locked door when you question the traditions and customs of the congregation or the denomination. I am not talking here about attacking the traditions or customs or condemning them. In some circles, one dare not even ask a question that might elicit a response that goes beyond the standard accepted answer.
2. You may find a locked door when you read the Bible and wrestle with its implications for our lives today. Not long ago, a young minister told me that he had finally heard the unbelievable. He said that, in a moment of frustration, a gentleman in his church exclaimed, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I don’t like it and don’t want to do it!”
3. You may find a locked door when you share with some in the church a dream for ministry in your community and beyond. You then realize that not everyone shares your excitement. At first you can’t figure out why. Then you begin to realize that this dream is apparently upsetting some who are committed to the status quo. Those who put a premium on the status quo often see the church as a spiritual recliner. Let’s just sit back, enjoy being saved, and be content to watch life go by.
4. You may find a locked door when you realize the objective of the congregation seems to be keeping people happy and content instead of reaching others who are living without a relationship with God. Consequently, a young minister may hear something like this in his church: “Let’s just do what we have always done, but let’s do it better. There is no reason to change anything.” After awhile the young minister grows discouraged and slips away. Or, he just gives up and stops dreaming.
I am convinced these doors can be unlocked and God working through his Spirit can breathe new life into churches both small and large. These doors don’t have to be locked. A fear-based faith will always try to control by discouraging anything that appears to be outside our comfort zone or familiar system. Consequently, the doors gets locked. On the other hand, a grace-based faith will change the hearts of men and women and cause them to live in perpetual thanksgiving.
I am not interested in doing anything that is unbiblical or moves us away from the core of the Gospel. Yet, I am interested in getting back to the very heart of what Jesus was about.
As long as we talk among ourselves and the conversation never gets outside ourselves, we will continue to play intramural theological games. However, when we begin to look and listen to the people on the street, we might hear questions that are not being asked behind these locked doors.
People have street-level questions and desire a street-level hope. After all, Jesus was the street-level savior who brought hope to the world.
This is something I have been thinking about lately. Will you give this some thought as well?
Do you see other doors that are often locked inside a church?
What important questions do you hear from people outside churches?