An open and shut issue
by Terry Camsey, Major –
The front cover of a Christian magazine stunned me recently. It referred to a new outreach initiative called “Back to church Sunday.” It wasn’t the focus that caught my attention so much as the illustration behind it. It showed closed (and probably barred from the inside) ancient, shabby, and substantial church doors surrounded by worn and crumbling masonry. A very uninviting and forbidding entrance that suggested “Keep Out!”
In the early days of the Army, doors of citadels and fortresses served, indeed, to protect Salvationists within, before they set out for an open-air meeting through hostile crowds. If you have never read it, try to get a copy of The Old Corps (used by John Gowans as a template for his musical Glory). The Salvationists of those days were lucky if they got out and back again without being injured, or having the flag or other trappings stolen.
No wonder that we had so many citadels and fortresses. They were as much a defensive structure—to which the early day Salvationists could retreat after bravely setting forth to share the gospel—as a point of entry to the un-churched masses.
The illustration got me thinking about doors—doors that can be open to let people in, or closed to keep people out.
There are so many kinds of doors. Revolving doors, for example where, if you are not careful, you can find yourself going around in circles—especially if pushed hard by other people trying to get in. In fact, if you are not careful, you might find yourself back out on the sidewalk again!
There are swinging doors that can be very dangerous if you don’t have your wits about you and the person entering before you lets it swing back in your face. Then, too, there are sliding doors that can trap your fingers if you are not careful…and screen doors to keep unwelcome bugs out.
There are front doors that can let you in, and back doors that can, just as easily let you out…and side doors where you can sneak in surreptitiously. Doors can be entrances; they can also be where people can be ejected. By words, action or attitude, ”shown the door!”
For new people coming to a church (or corps for that matter) there can be many doors—barriers or entrances—which gradually lead them into the family or not. There is a door into the building…a door into the congregation…a door into fellowship groups…a door into cliques within the congregation…a door into personal ministry…a door into leadership participation.
Each door can be an entrance or an exit, openable only by those inside.
Are those doors warm, open and welcoming in your corps? Or are they, like the picture on the magazine I mentioned, cold, shut and forbidding?
I was very impressed, some years ago, when visiting a large church in Fresno with a friend. Everything about it said, “Welcome.” The parking lot was in front of the church and greeters were stationed there. The front doors were attractive, well lighted (I went to an evening service) and wide open, with other greeters outside to receive and welcome visitors. Inside were yet other volunteers to show us to our seats in the sanctuary. Everything about it said, “We’re glad to see you.”
The most critical “doors” are those represented by the regular members of the congregation who can, by action or attitude, accept or reject visitors.
Christmas will be here soon, and we shall again relive the events immediately preceding the birth of Christ. We shall hear once again that there was no room at the inn for Mary and Joseph.
It’s my prayer that such rejection will not be felt by visitors who choose to come to the Army.
Do I hear an “Amen” to that?