come on in?

recently, tina and i had an opportunity to visit a very interesting church. it is one of those "mega-churches." now, i am not going to share the name of the church because the name does not matter. my desire is not to embarrass the church, nor is it to make this about them - it is about us, it is about something very interesting. take a look at the picture on the right and tell me what is missing? take a good look and think about what is not shown. go on, take a good look.

give up?

the answer is, there are no handles on the doors.

that's right, the church has no handles on the doors leading into any part of the church. the only way into the church is to have a key, or be let in by someone who is in the building. no one is able to just "walk in," and you can never just "visit" without being allowed in. [in fact, to "visit" the church requires that you stop by the security office, sign in and get a visitors pass] when we pointed this out to some of the people who attend the church they had some very interesting responses -

one women said, "well we do have a great deal of homeless people in the area and they are always coming by for help. so we had the doors replaced so they could not just walk in." well, God forbid a homeless person should ever approach a church for help; i mean what are they thinking? do they actually think we care? do they actually think we are to welcome "those" people into our clean, well kept, over priced church? after all, they did not have anything to do with the building of the church.

one women said, "oh, how funny, i never noticed that before." then just walked away laughing with here friends at how funny it was that the church had no door handles. yea, it is so funny that a place that calls itself "God's House" should put locks on the doors so people could not get in. i wonder, what would happen if she got to the gates of heaven and found that the handles had been removed? do you think she would be laughing at that point?
as we started to ask more about the reasoning, what we found was very interesting. there were two sides,and both seemed very close. many of those inside the church, members, never gave the doors a second thought. to them, it was the norm; that is the way the church was and they liked it. they saw it as a way of protecting themselves, and keeping the church as they liked it.
the most surprising thing came from people outside the church. you see, they felt the exact same way. they saw the doors as a norm for what that church was all about. they felt the church was more of an exclusive club more then it was a church. they did not feel offended by the church not having handles. as one person put it, "why would we want to go into a place that wants nothing to do with us."
to me, a church without door handles is a church that reflects the church of our day. there was a time when the church was a place people could go and walk in anytime - today, one needs an appointment to speak with a pastor and a invite to get in the door. the part that concerns me the most is that the american church just does not see how closed it can be - even when you see a church door with no handles.


Greg said...

once your in; it would be best if we have a specific time to welcome each other. i don't like being expected to be warm and friendly the entire time i'm at the club.

Jeffrey said...

[*refraining from a string of expletives in this comment*]

what can I say. pretty typical...as you've already noted. I've resolved to amending the term "church" to more accurately reflect what it actually is over the past few months.

I now refer to a "church" by the phrase "church building", for that is all that is and all it ever has been. Another building. Nothing special. Not "God's house", et all. I mean hey, let's call a spade a spade here.

Craig said...

Well said! I like the metaphore of the closed doors. My grandpa said that at one time they would leave a church unlocked and seasonal workers who were traveling to the area and looking for a job on a tobacco field would sleep in the church until they found a job. They had to stop that because of insurance issues.
Where I live right now, some churches are getting in to housing development to increase their revinue. I blogged it the other day: Craig's Blog: Where is the church with a death wish?

Rodney Olsen said...

I'm sure that the attitudes of those within the church would have kept a lot of people on the outside long before the handles were removed.

We all need to look at what we do and how we structure our meetings to make sure that we're not causing anyone to walk away from Jesus.

The Huismans said...

i still can't believe this...thanks for blogging this, john. it's a great conversation, and needs to be brought up in more and more congregations these days...not just the literal behind it (a lot more churches keep their office doors locked around here, even during office hours), but also the figurative...

was good to dive into the conversation a little bit last month with you around...keep in touch, and our best to all at 247

Anderu said...

This is surprisingly to be expected. A lot of people are like this. The Forty Days of Purpose, which expands the Church through business practices would seem to condone this. How many fear mongering people want something unknown in their Church. At least they were honest about it.

blameworthy said...

"the most surprising thing came from people outside the church. you see, they felt the exact same way. they saw the doors as a norm for what that church was all about. they felt the church was more of an exclusive club more then it was a church."

Great post! This view from people outside the church surprised me when I first read this post. After I thought about it a while, I realized that sometimes I am clueless to the way people outside of our church body think about us. Who are we really trying to fool. I can walk into our "church building" on any Sunday and only see a handful of people who are different from me. By different, I mean not middle class, not white, not well dressed, not raised in the church, not married, etc. It breaks my heart that my church is an exclusive club.

St. Upid said...

they can keep whatever it is they have locked up in there. nobody outside needs it.