Once, during an early autumn, I was in North Carolina at a wedding rehearsal in little country church somewhat off the beaten path. When everyone arrived, they moved to the sanctuary to begin the walk-though and to finalize the last-minute details for the ceremony the next day.
While they settled into position and sound checks were in progress, I slipped out the door to retrieve some papers from the car. When I got to the church doors again, I found them locked and heard the pastor who was in charge of the service begin his pre-ceremony briefing. Not wanting to disturb matters by banging on the glass, and since there was no cell service to contact anyone, I moved to the reception hall entrance and discovered it was secure too. I tried two other doors as well and got the same result. I was locked out of church. I thought, “Sooner or later, someone will miss me…maybe.”
With nothing else to do, I stood outside under a swaying Carolina Pine as the night breeze cooled rapidly and the last crickets of summer lazily called and answered each other across the churchyard with long, slow chirps as the mercury dropped steadily. Noticing the stained glass windows of the old church, I began to walk around the building in the dark to examine them. Each window depicted a different event in the life of Christ, starting with his birth and ending with his return to earth. Stopping at the window showing the crucifixion, I stood in the shaft of colored light outside in the cold while everyone else celebrated inside.
I couldn’t help but think, “I wonder how many people stand outside of a life with Jesus, looking at the light and hearing the celebration, but no one invites them to take part.” They find themselves, for lack of a better way of saying it, “locked out.” When we become so polarized that we view anyone different as a threat to our worship instead of an opportunity to share, step away from revealing Christ to a misguided, sin-controlled culture out of fear or neglect, or simply develop an attitude of not caring about where those we encounter daily will spend eternity, one must wonder if we take Jesus’ words seriously. After all, he did say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19a).
Each of us must unlock the door, step outside our comfort zone, and show those who stand frozen in sin how to join the celebration, because every person is either still in the cold or has been brought out of the cold. The only hope for any of us is embodied in the truth shining from that old, stained glass window: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
We will make God’s name known among all people. – Isaiah 12:4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.”
We will make disciples of the nations as we call them to follow Christ alone. – Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
We will be faithful to proclaim the message of God throughout our lives. – Psalm 71:18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.