Several weeks ago Dale and I were at FLAME. Dale led the worship along with several other talented worship leaders. During the worship times my job was to run EasyWorship (which takes care of putting the lyrics on the screen and the various videos and logos and PowerPoint presentations that were used during the week.) Normally the persons running sound and video are in and connected to the worship space. During our last visit, it was set up differently. We were in the large tabernacle at Frankfort Camp Ministries. When full the tabernacle can seat close to 900 people. We only had about 150 people at FLAME, so you can imagine how a 150 worshipers would have felt in a building set up for 900 worshipers. In order to create a more intimate feel, we set up a row of stacked chairs to create a barrier and to make the tabernacle “feel” smaller. Unfortunately the tech booth (sound, lights and video) is in the back of the room. During Wednesday’s worship, I leaned over to the Kevin, who was running sound and said, “Do you get the feeling that they do not want us a part of the service?” It hit me. How many times do we put up barriers for those who want to be a part of the church?
The first barrier that I thought of is the barrier that says, “We are a friendly church.” What that usually means is that we are friendly to those who are already a part of our church. We expect people to act a certain way when they come to church. Or we expect people to dress a certain way, or wear their hair a certain way, or any number of other behaviors that are expected. One of the areas that many churches struggle with is the ability to minister effectively to multiple cultures. I think it is still probably true that the worship hour on Sunday is still the most segregated hour of the whole week. Think about it we work with those of other cultures (I know Dale works with several people of different cultures at Chick-fil-A.) We shop and do business with those of other cultures and yet when it comes to Sunday morning we are separate. I know one of our Wesleyan churches (Kentwood Community) in Grand Rapids, MI that has been very intentional about reaching out across cultural lines.
While I was writing this article, I thought I would take the thought one step farther. What are some of the barriers that we put in place to separate us from those who need Jesus? This really is related to the last point. We like to stay where we are comfortable – we like those who are just like us – we like to stay in our safe cocoons. It’s tough (at least in our minds at times) to touch the lives that really need Jesus. There were those who resisted the walls being rebuilt in Nehemiah’s day. Nehemiah and his people were trying to do a good work – with the blessing of the king. It is the same today – there are those who interfere with others who are trying to spread God’s message. There are some who say we shouldn’t minister to so and so or such and such a group. Really??? Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. He didn’t say to clean them up first or just go to those to whom you are most comfortable. e get so busy in our lives that other people’s lives are not important to us. Sometimes we expect people who are not Christians to be perfect (Or to do things that we think are important, but in the grand scheme of things are not important to God. that we think are important not what God think are important). W
Lately my favorite song has been “Jesus Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crown. There is a great line that says:
Jesus Friend of sinners
The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me
The chairs in the tabernacle were put up for a good purpose — to make worship better for the students at FLAME. I totally understood the reason and they were not there to keep us out – we were part of the worship team and we were helping the worshipers worship. And yet, because of the chairs and the distance to the worship team on the platform, there was a disconnect between us and the worship team on the platform. We were part of the worship team and our jobs were to help the worshippers worship.
I challenge you to check out the barriers that you are putting up – intentional or otherwise that are keeping you from reaching others for Jesus.