Locked Out. One night I came to the church sanctuary to rehearse a song, but the door was locked. There was no bell, so I knocked and yelled. I peered through the heavy glass doors. Inside I could see folks rehearsing, but they couldn’t see or hear me. It was hard to believe I could be locked out of what we call God’s house, so I walked around the complex looking for an open door. They were all locked as well. Seeing people inside, I knocked and waved, but no one had a clue I was out there.
Even Peter Got Locked Out I went home that night with a cold prickly feeling. It’s no fun to be locked out. I remember reading how something similar happened to the chief apostle once. Peter knocked on the door… but the servant didn’t open the gate… instead she ran to tell [the church] Peter was there… but they didn’t believe her…and Peter kept knocking. (Acts 12: 13-15). Could you blame Peter if he was a bit put out? And how did Mary and Joseph feel when they were left out in the cold one night in Bethlehem? My thoughts shifted to our churches. Do folks who visit us ever leave us feeling like I did that night? Are there maybe regular attenders who don’t feel included? Might they feel kind of locked out?
A Friendly Open Door Weeks later when I tried to get into the church for a meeting, can you believe the door was locked. Deja vu. I was ready to leave when a member came by with a key and opened the door for me. I was so relieved as the apostle must have felt when, ”They finally opened the door to Peter.”
Keys to the Kingdom. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you unlock on earth will be unlocked in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) Does this help us grasp what those keys to the Kingdom are Jesus gave his church? Is it possible that our negative attitudes and actions can actually prevent others from entering God’s kingdom? On the other hand, do our loving and gracious attitudes and actions serve to open doors so others can find their way into the kingdom?
The Successful Church The first church clearly didn’t have this problem with outsiders. We know this because Luke reports early believers “had the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:47). Outsiders were well disposed towards them. When they did visit, we can be pretty sure those doors were wide open. We know they felt welcome and included because Luke adds, “God increased their numbers daily.” The church grew by leaps and bounds. Clearly visitors returned for more of that loving, inclusive spirit.
Questions for discussion. Have you ever visited a church and went home feeling kind of left out or excluded? Do you ever feel that way in your own church? What attitudes exist in your local church that might make people feel excluded? What can we do to help change those attitudes?