Maybe you remember this nursery rhyme from your young childhood. Or if you have young kids at home, maybe you say this with them. Do you remember the “here is the church” nursery rhyme? A lot of us might remember the first part, but we may not realize that there is a second part to the rhyme.
“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door, and see all the people.”
That’s the part that we remember. But that’s only the first half. Think about the second half of that rhyme.
“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door, and see all the people. Close the door, listen to them pray. Open the door, and they all walk away.”
That sounds innocent enough at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is what a lot of people believe about the church.
“Close the door, listen to them pray.” A lot of people believe that when a church gathers, the doors are closed to them. There is something happening inside. There are prayers and worship and all kinds of things that they really don’t understand that is happening on the inside. But they’re not welcome. They’re not allowed to be part of it. The doors are closed to them.
“Open the door, and they all walk away.” That’s exactly what a lot of people believe would happen if they came to church. All the church people would just walk away. They’re too broken, they’re too messed up, they’re too sinful to be accepted at church. Church is for good people. Church is for people who have their stuff all together. It’s not for broken, screwed up people.
That’s what a lot of people believe. Maybe that’s what you believe. You’re here, but you’re nervous. You really don’t think you belong here. You really don’t think you’d be accepted here.
We’re starting a new series today, and this series isn’t just going to challenge those preconceptions. It’s going to destroy them.
The series is called Door Holders. And I couldn’t be more excited about what God is going to do in our church and through our church over the next 5 weeks. This series is all about holding doors open for people to experience the love of Christ.
Let’s take a minute and pray as we kick off this incredibly important series.
To be a church of door holders, we have to first understand that the door has been closed to a whole lot of people. This can sound strange if you grew up in the church. If you’re a BUICK, a “Brought Up In Church Kid,” then this whole thing sounds incredibly foreign to you.
But for others of us, you know about these closed doors all too well because those doors have been closed on you. Somewhere along the line, you ran into a Christian or a church that slammed the door on you. You weren’t welcome because, for some reason, you just didn’t fit the rubric of what was acceptable to them. Or maybe you just couldn’t stand the blatant hypocrisy of what you saw all around you, and that slammed the door on your faith journey.
Doors get closed for all kinds of reasons, but the end result is the same. People get shut out of the freedom and the forgiveness and the life that Jesus has for them. And Jesus is not okay with that.
In Matthew 23, Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13, NIV)
Keep in mind who Jesus was talking to here. He was talking to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. In other words, the religious leaders of the day. Jesus always saved his harshest criticism for religious people.
And in this biting criticism, Jesus said that these religious people were shutting the door on people who wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven. But He also said something else that is key…He said that the religious people weren’t in the kingdom, either. “You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
Kingdom people are door holders, not door slammers. Someone who shuts the door of heaven in people’s faces is not part of the kingdom.
So what does that mean for us here at Connect? It means that our mission is clear. We are a church of door holders. And being a church of door holders means that we understand what we’re up against. What we’re up against is cultural Christianity that closes way more doors than it opens. People all around us have had the door of heaven slammed in their faces.
There is an incredible contrast in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles. When you think about books of the Bible that get ignored, the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles have to be near the top of that list. The books are long and detailed and, at times, flat out boring.
But I found a story about two kings in 2 Chronicles that nails what we’re talking about today. The kings were named Ahaz and Hezekiah.
In 2 Chronicles 28, it says, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD.
[Skip on down to verse 24] Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and cut them in pieces. He shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 28:1, 24, NIV)
Ahaz became king, and he used his power to shut the doors of the temple. In the Old Testament, the temple was where people connected with God. It is where sacrifices for sins were offered. It is where the people gathered to worship. It was where a relationship with the Lord became a reality.
And Ahaz closed the doors, essentially shutting the door of heaven in people’s faces.
But then another king succeeded him. This king’s name was Hezekiah.
In 2 Chronicles 29, it says, “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done.
In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them.” (2 Chronicles 29:1-3, NIV)
Did you catch that? In the first month of the first year of Hezekiah’s reign, he opened the doors of the temple. In other words, it was the first thing he did. A new king comes to power, and the first order of business is to reopen the doors of the temple.
It’s because Hezekiah knew that nothing else mattered if the doors of the temple remained closed. If people were still cut off from God…if the doors were not open for people to come and find forgiveness and restoration from the Lord…then nothing else mattered. This was Job #1. It was the highest priority. Everything else in his reign would have been insignificant details if those doors remained closed.
Everything in the church is nothing but insignificant details if doors remained closed. You can have all the services and events and classes and small groups and service projects that you want…but if the doors remained closed, none of it matters. A church of closed doors is not a church. It is nothing more than a social club with music.
That’s why here at Connect, we are sold-out to becoming a church of door holders. We recognize that doors have been shut in people’s faces. Ahaz is alive and well today. He has just taken the form of Christians and churches that keep slamming doors.
And we don’t have to look far to see the results of these closed doors. 6,000 churches close every year in America. 3,500 Americans are leaving the church every day.
85% of churches in the U.S. have either plateaued or are in decline. And of the 15% of churches that are growing, only 2% are growing through conversions, through winning people to Christ. The rest are growing because of people who move around from church to church.
And when you look at the statistics of younger generation, it gets even worse. But it’s all because of the closed doors that they’ve run into. Andy Stanley said, “You know why most 18-35 year olds have left the church? Because they’ve been to one.”
But here’s the good news…Ahaz may still be slamming doors, but Hezekiah is alive and well, too. And all over the world, he is opening those doors back up. He is holding those doors open for people to return to God. Today, Hezekiah takes the form of individual believers and entire churches who are all about holding those doors wide open for people to come in.
Connect is a Hezekiah church. We’re a church of door holders. It is built into the culture of our church. It’s part of our DNA.
One of our core values here at Connect is to focus on the outsider, not the insider. Connect is a church that is all about reaching the lost, not babysitting the saved.
Now, statements like that can get criticized. “Don’t you believe in discipleship?” Absolutely. We believe in discipleship as Jesus defined it.
At the end of his gospel, Matthew wrote, “Then Jesus came to [the disciples] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [In other words, “I have every right to tell you what I’m going to tell you, and you’d better listen.”]
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20a, NIV)
That’s discipleship according to Jesus. Disciples make more disciples. He never said anything about His followers creating their own little holy huddle. He never said anything about keeping believers comfortable and safe and happy.
Jesus said that disciples are door holders. They are all about opening doors for people to come back to God. And that’s our mission here at Connect. When I say that Connect is a church of door holders, that’s what I mean.
Jesus tells a great story in John 10 that really rocked me this week. “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:1-3, NIV)
This really nailed me this week. Look at all the players in the story. There is the shepherd, which represents Jesus. There are the sheep, which represents the people that Jesus wants to reach.
But then there’s another player in the story. The gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is the one who opens the gate so the shepherd can do His work. That’s us.
We open the door for Jesus to work. We open the door so He can call His people by name. We open the door so He can lead them out of their captivity. So He can lead them out to freedom.
If the gatekeeper never opens the door, the sheep stay in their pen, their prison. The shepherd isn’t able to lead them out to freedom. Everything comes down to the gatekeeper doing his job.
And when I read that story this week, it really hit me that this is why Connect exists. Because we are surrounded by people who are in prison. They are imprisoned by their broken past, or even their broken present. They are imprisoned by their addiction, or their failing marriage, or their responsibility of raising their kids as a single parent. They are imprisoned by guilt and fear and shame and regret. They are imprisoned by some legalistic Pharisee in their past who caused them to walk away from God entirely. They are imprisoned by this false idea that they will never be good enough for God to accept them.
People are imprisoned for millions of different reasons, but their freedom is found in one place: Jesus. And we are the gatekeepers to help them connect with Jesus. We are the door holders that help them find the freedom that comes through Jesus.
Skip on down a few verses in John 10. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11, NIV)
We hold the door open for people to meet the One who gave His life for theirs. Jesus laid down His life for us. When He died on the cross, He took the punishment for all our sin. He took it all. And in return, we receive grace. Forgiveness. Freedom. Life.
And we are all about opening the door for every person to find that life that Jesus offers. It is the culture, it is the DNA, it is the very heartbeat of our church. And every person at Connect is part of it. Every person at Connect is a door holder.
If you serve here at Connect in any way, you’re a door holder. If you’re on our setup team…you help set everything up here at the hotel…you’re a door holder. Nothing that we do can happen without you.
“Well, it’s just something I do. I pull the trailers here in the morning. I help push the cases in. I set up the lights. I put the toys out in the kids rooms. It’s cool, but it’s really not a big deal. It’s just this thing I do.”
Man, you couldn’t be more wrong. You are a door holder. Nothing that we do each week could happen without you. That means that people couldn’t hear the gospel without you.
Every week, people walk into our church thinking, “This is it. This is the last stop. If this doesn’t work, I’m done. If this doesn’t work, I’m going to the divorce attorney. I’m going to quit fighting and just give in to my addiction. I’m going to just throw up my hands and give up.”
In every service that we have, somebody is right on the line of life or death decisions. If God doesn’t get a hold of their heart today, their tomorrow is going to look really, really bad.
But we are here, holding out the hope of Christ for them. And if it wasn’t for the people who set all this stuff up, that couldn’t happen. You are a door holder.
If you serve in Connect Kids, you’re not just changing diapers in the nursery. You’re not just hanging out with some kids for an hour on Sunday. You’re a door holder. You are helping shape a kid’s view of the church. So many of us grew up where church was boring. We really didn’t want to be part of that.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that we are creating something different here at Connect. I have two boys who love their church. I mean, they LOVE it. It is their favorite part of the week. And I love the fact that they are learning to love the church. But you know what? That would never happen if it wasn’t for a bunch of door holders in Connect Kids.
If you are part of our Connect Team, you are a door holder. Our Connect Team is all those green shirt people that you see every week. They’re the ones that smile and make you feel immediately welcome. And for a first-time guest, this is beyond huge.
I think a lot of us forget just how hard it is to come to a church for the first time. Where do I go? What do I do? What will it be like? Will I stick out? Will I be welcomed?
Our Connect Team is crucial, because they are the first ones to diffuse the apprehension that people have. They are the smiling face that is there to answer questions. To serve in any way they can. To go way above and beyond to make sure that the door is held wide open for people to make a connection with Christ. You’re a door holder.
If you serve on our worship or our tech teams, you make it possible for people to connect with God through worship that they actually understand. So many people have had church experiences where they didn’t know what was happening. The music was out-of-date. The methods felt antiquated. And they really had no idea what was happening.
When you play or sing on stage…when you run sound or lights or media from the back…you are opening the door for people to experience God in worship in a way that they may have never experienced before. They may not quite buy into the whole Jesus thing yet, but the door is open. If it wasn’t for you, that door stays closed. You’re a door holder.
If you serve on our security team, you’re a door holder. When you’re standing out in the hallway, all by yourself while you’re missing what is going on in the service, it can be easy to forget what you’re really doing. You’re allowing parents to worship without worrying about their child, because they know that you’re watching over everything. Here in the worship center, you are creating a safe, distraction free environment where people can hear the gospel. They can respond to God’s call on their lives because of the environment that you create. You’re a door holder.
If you serve in Connect Students, our Jr./Sr. High ministry, you are a door holder. “Well, I just go hang out with our students on Sunday nights. And it’s fun. But it’s no big deal.”
You are so wrong. You know when most people make decisions for Christ? Before they are 18. You are holding the door open for a generation that is walking away from God at a rate that is staggering. But you are there, holding that door open. I know that when you serve with kids or students, you go home a lot of days thinking that what you did really didn’t matter. The kids were just crazy. Your teaching didn’t land. Whatever. You leave thinking that you didn’t make a difference.
I’m here to tell you that you are making a HUGE difference, because you’re a door holder. And you have no idea just how much God is using you.
When you break your jar and bring your tithe like we talked about in the last series, you’re a door holder. Without the generosity of our people, Connect wouldn’t even be here. The door would be slammed shut. For some people, their last chance church wouldn’t even exist, which means their door will be shut for all eternity.
Connect is a church of door holders. Every person at Connect is a door holder.
The question that we all have to ourselves is, “Am I doing everything I can to hold my door open?”
For example, maybe you’ve been coming to Connect for a while now. You’ve moved beyond, “I’m checking out this church.” Now, you say, “This is my church.”
That’s awesome. But you also need to understand that this is a church of door holders. That is true for every person at Connect, including you.
We are not ashamed to call this out, because we want to reach as many people as possible. And the only way to do that is if every person at Connect holds their door open.
If this is your church, what are you doing to serve…to help Connect hold that door open?
I just talked about all our different teams that serve here at Connect…who help us hold that door open. If this is your church, you need to be serving on one of those teams.
If you love kids, you need to get plugged in with Connect Kids. If you are quick with a smile and have an engaging personality, we need you on the Connect Team.
If you like technology, we’ve got a media team that has a spot for you. If you want to be part of one of the most impressive teams you’ve ever seen, you need to be part of our setup team that makes our church come to life each week.
We have all different kinds of opportunities, but here’s the point. And I want to say this as lovingly, but as directly, as I possibly can. We are not interested in people who are just taking up grace and taking up space. We’re not interested in spectators. We’re interested in servants.
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul wrote, “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16, NIV)
The body that Paul referred to is the church. Look at what he said. He said that the church grows, the church is built up when each part does its work. If there is a part that isn’t doing its work, the church isn’t going to live up to its fullest potential. The doors that need to be opened won’t be opened as widely or effectively as they could be.
That’s why we make no apologies for challenging every person at Connect to move from spectator to servant.
Another one of our core values is saved people serve people. Saved people serve people by opening doors for them to connect to Jesus. That’s what it means to be part of Connect because that’s what it means to be a follower of Christ.
For some of you, it’s time. For some of you, it’s PAST time. It’s time to jump in. If you’ve been coming to Connect for a while, but you’ve never made it official…you’ve never officially placed your membership with our church…it’s time. We’d love to talk with you about that after the service today.
If this is the church where the door has been opened for you…it’s time for you to start holding the door for someone else. It’s time for you to stop sitting and start serving. We can get you started, no problem. Just talk with us after church.
The point of all this is that we are a church that is on mission. We realize that people have had doors slammed in their face. But we also realize that our job is to open those doors up again. To hold the door open so people can connect with Jesus.
The reason we are door holders is because we want people to find the same life and hope and peace and freedom that we have found in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The cross was the payment for all our sin. The resurrection gives us a brand new life. That’s the gospel. That’s what we’re all about, because that’s the only hope we have. And that’s why we hold the door open, because we want everyone to find the hope that we’ve found.
If you haven’t accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord yet…maybe you have some questions you’re wrestling with…we’d love to talk with you. We’re here to serve you, to hold the door open for you in whatever way that we can.