I get it. Reading the Gospels it is impossible to miss. It is so evident. The fact that people miss it has spurred on many movements within the church. The “it” is this: Nobody should be excluded from your church!
Your front doors MUST BE (according to the way I understand scripture) wide open. We must allow anyone to be part of our community. The implications are the challenge, right? The church community will (hopefully) shift with each person coming in. Not that we shift who we follow in Jesus, or give up His commands. But if Jesus’ incarnation is actually lived out in each person in our community, that incarnation will have a slightly (or sometimes radically) different feel with each new person added to the community.
And frankly, I get that—theoretically. Practically, it’s not easy. But there is one implication to an open front door we are working out in our community in London—if we are to have an open front door, we must also have an open back door.
Christine was new to our drop-in. She was easy to talk to but very nervous. I noticed a bright bruise around her right eye. Whenever my questions approached her black eye, she quickly changed the topic. For some reason, she stayed into the evening. She didn’t really want to learn cartooning (the topic I was teaching for our art class that night). So she worked away at her scrap book. She pulled out papers, letters, and mementos from different moments in her life – all to make a wonderful design. She spoke up a little as she worked, feeling more comfortable as the evening wore on. Near the end of the night she went out for a smoke. I followed her just to chat some more.
“I never get to do any of that stuff with my friends. They think its all garbage and tell me to put it away,” said Christine.
“You are an artist. You have a real gift,” I told her.
“An artist, hah! Nah, I’m just foolin’ around,” Christine deflected.
“No, trust me, I used to teach high school art. You have a real gift.”
“An artist.Wow. Nobody ever called me an artist. You think so?”
It was an amazing night. We had made a connection. Other people in our community had welcomed Christine as well. It was wonderful to see someone in obvious pain receive intentional love. I have not seen Christine since.
Many people have come and gone during five years of doing this type of ministry. Our experience with Christine highlights what we’ve learned. Not everyone will stay. Why don’t they stay? It might hurt too much to be reminded of intimacy. It might be too hard to open up. Maybe we were too warm. Maybe we were too cold. Maybe, she just doesn’t like me.
I’ll never learn which “maybe” it is. But I have learned to give that person back to Christ. I need to trust that we are not the only community Jesus has going. We are not everything to everyone. But if we have an open front door, we need to allow that back door to be open too. Some people may not fit. And I need to trust that it’s okay for them to leave knowing that God is still working in their lives.