I have three doors in which to enter my home, namely, the front, the back, and the garage. I have three doors in which to enter my church, one in front and two side ones. Coincidence? Yes.
But are three entrances enough for either? From a literal sense, of course. Could it be argued that figuratively my church needs more doorways? Yes.
Let me explain.
Whenever I have taken a taxi, traveled on a train, or attended a sporting event at a large stadium, I am offered multiple doors to pass through. Why? Because there is a consumer demand for
convenience and access.
If this notion of access matters for the secular world, should it matter for a religious one?
First, it almost goes without saying that churches are decreasing in size, scope, and impact, in terms of societal influence. While there are myriad of reasons for this, to be sure, one is a philosophical viewpoint that church should be exclusively related to formal religious practices.
But this is pretense, a mask.
Some church members bristle with the idea that community citizens at large might use their facilities. The arguments may include wear-and-tear, inconvenience, some level of chaos that any crowd brings, and, of course, proper custodial care.
And while these are reasonable concerns, they are management issues not theological ones.
Others say that churches are to be places of deep introspection and confession and therefore, the sacredness of the building trumps any other use. I am sympathetic to this understanding, too.
Either way, these limit the number of doors.
On the other hand, is the holy huddle never to be tested on the playing fields of society? Doesn’t the church gather to worship and become salt and light?
Christ said that religious people who lose their capacity to season and be light bearers into the world are nearly worthless.
When I use salt, I scatter it liberally over my food item. When I turn on a light, it illuminates the whole room. When I create a new doorway into church for people to enter, I make access to good things, holy things, easier.
Once upon a time, churches were the social and religious hub of the community. They were where people gathered. Sometimes it was for a presentation, sometimes a concert, sometimes a meal. But always new doors were being opened.
Yes, the fundamental mission of the church was and is to teach, to train, and to baptize, but how can it do so if few entrances i.e., opportunities for people to gather at church, are available?
It seems to me that a church, any church, needs to balance the needs of the faithful along with the needs of the community.
It is hard enough to enter what is often perceived as a closed door to church, much less a doorway that does not exist at all.
Kent Simmons is the pastor of Canyon Community Church in Kingman, AZ.