Open wide?

The following was from my sermon on July 14. The Gospel reading was the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.

Every once in a while, I hear someone ask whether a program will bring new people to our church. Almost as often, I hear someone ask whether making the church’s facilities available to outsiders will result in our church growing.

There’s something backwards about this thinking. Or maybe it’s just that something is missing. You see, churches don’t grow because their buldings are open. They grow when their hearts are open. If you want the church to grow, don’t look first at your buildings. Rather, look first at your hearts.

But when our buildings are closed, unavailable to the community, I have to ask whether that reflects an inward reality. I have to wonder

if closed buildings mean closed hearts,
if unavailable facilities mean that we are unavailable,
if limited outreach means limited concern,
if inactivity on the outside means inactivity on the inside.

I have to question whether our understanding of “neighbor” is woefully limited, un-expanded by encounter with the merciful Good Samaritan, the ultimate Stranger who became Neighbor, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Author: Dan Griswold

A good life is motivated by love. My loves: the Triune God, family, music, friends, parishioners, theology.

One thought on “Open wide?”

  1. Hi, Dan,

    Your thoughtful words have led me to reflect on the life and ministry of my own congregation. I think you’ve identified important questions that help to inform the kind of constructive criticism so many of us need to practice.

    Something I wonder about is how congregations can sometimes exhibit a counterfeit form of open-heartedness (often unbeknownst to themselves) that leads to wanting more people to simply be like them rather than grow and change together as the body of Christ. What does it mean and look like for a congregation’s members to be genuinely open and caring toward those who visit them?

    Derek DeJager

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