Monday, September 1, 2003
In recent years, there's been a stretch of Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, that has seemed like "Tornado Alley." On the Weather Channel, many Spring and Summer days show that part of the country colored in the bright red that indicates severe weather. The most powerful tornado America ever had roared through the Oklahoma City area just a few years ago. As I drove through that area on a spring day between storm systems, I couldn't help but be impressed with what I saw as I drove by a church. Right in front of the church you could see an open door sticking up out of the ground. The church actually has a storm cellar right out on the street -- and the door was wide open!
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Open Door on the Storm Cellar."
Now that's how every church and Christian fellowship should be -- a storm cellar with the door wide open for all to enter! Sadly, too many churches turn out to be a place where you find more storms, but it's meant to be the safest place in town.
We have a lot to learn from the original template of how God's people are supposed to operate together. It's described for us in our word for today from the Word of God in Acts 2, beginning with verse 42. These were the original Christians and they showed us how to do it right. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer." There's the key to being Jesus' kind of church -- stay focused on the majors, don't get mired in the minors. The majors are studying the Word of God together, celebrating your common ground in Christ, remembering His cross, and waging war together on your knees. Not majoring on personalities, and buildings, and budgets, and music styles, or putting people in categories.
This powerful blueprint goes on to say that "all the believers were together ... they gave to anyone as he had need." They focused on needs, not programs. And "every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." Well, of course they won the favor of all the people! How could they miss when they provided a place where you could count on being loved, count on having people care about your needs, count on finding a safe place. That's the storm cellar so many are looking for in an increasingly stormy world.
So how do we let God's safe place deteriorate into just another storm? Egos. Personal agendas masquerading as God's agenda. Making small issues into big issues. Developing an unofficial caste system that effectively has one group of people who are the insiders and the rest who feel like the outsiders. Judging people by their outward appearance instead of their heart.
Treating people as categories instead of as individuals. Somehow, the church can become a place where we are known for something other than that one characteristic Jesus said would draw people to Him: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another."
We represent the welcoming Savior who said, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). The One who was called -- remember? -- "the friend of sinner" ... who sought out the lostest of the lost, and He sought out those the religious people rejected. A welcoming Savior! We must be His welcoming representatives, providing one place where anyone and everyone can feel safe in a storm-ravaged world. We are the open door through which people can find the sanctuary of the love of Jesus Christ.