Everyone is welcome, now stay out!

I have recently noticed something that I think I understand, yet it still bothers me.  Before I speak to this issue let me make say that I pastor a church that has an open parking lot, and frequently we arrive in the morning with tractor trailers parked in it.  (You will understand why I said this in just a moment).
There seems to be a growing trend amongst churches in our area that involves barricading the parking lot, I have recently noticed three!    This morning I noticed a crew of “church-men” out their with welding torches, welding metal bars across their lot.  SERIOUS!
Although I believe Iunderstand the motivation here, I wonder if it does not send a bad signal to those we are trying to reach.  Here are several reasons I don’t think we should barricade our parking lots.
1.  It sends a message that our church is only active 1 day a week.  This place is locked up except during the posted hours on the sign with peeling paint!   Can’t you read?
2.  It sends a message that church cannot help me with life’s problem.   If we can’t make a u-turn in a church parking lot, where in the world can you make a u-turn? Isn’t repentance a main message of the church?
3.  It sends a message that we value property more than people.  Get your priceless soul off of the lot that we saved 25 years to pave! Sure glad God doesn’t view us like that!  Streets of Gold?  Whew, We would never get in!
4.  It sends the message that we are exclusive, not inclusive.  The church is off-limits, stay out, unless you have a key of course.  And you must be a member in good standing and you will have have to ask for one of those.
5.  It sends a contradicting message to our real message.  Our sign says, “everyone welcome”, Jesus said “come”, but that red cattle gate says “STAY OUT”  loud and clear.
I don’t believe any church intentionally says these things. (Well maybe one or two I’ve come across)  But I do believe we need to ensure our  message to the world is clear, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden”.
Just a thought, what do you think?

About Pastor Troy Keaton

Founding pastor at EastLake Community Church at Smith Mountain Lake Virginia. View all posts by Pastor Troy Keaton

3 responses to “Everyone is welcome, now stay out!

  • Don

    Hi Troy,

    Well said. I agree with your position. Maybe if they are still there at 9:00 we could offer them fresh made coffee.
    They would not forget this Church soon.


  • Karen Burks

    Awesome point! And I’m not saying that just because my husband parks his tractor trailer there from time to time. I used to attend a church that had a gate up. The congregation would often hear stories on a Sunday morning of the Pastor “running people out of the parking lot” on Saturday evening. I watched the numbers in that church dwindle and dwindle. When we made the difficult decision to find another church home there were only a handful of people left. There were no youth left at all. Most all the families with children had left. When you walk into Eastlake you can sense the feeling of love. It shouts “We want you here”!

    Karen Burks

  • Linda Matthew

    I used to go to a church that did that, citing insurance reasons. We also had playground equipment that only church members were allowed to use. Once again, safety and insurance reasons. The gate deterred not only nonmembers, but members as well. Not many are left there. It’s just another thing the enemy uses to make us more like the world. That red gate does not emphasize anything we are supposed to represent. Your view on this subject is another reminder of why I’m glad you’re our pastor. Thank you for actually showing the love of Jesus.

    Linda Matthew

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