I'm currently in Nashville, TN with several of my co-workers at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. It's an annual event where broadcasters from around the world gather to talk about their ministries and the future of religious broadcasting. This morning, like any good Christian function, there was a worship service. As we were walking in, I couldn't help but notice the fact that we were all being checked to make sure we were wearing our convention badges. No pass, no spiritual feeding. I was disturbed and really quite angry about the message that sends.
Everyone here is doing media ministry, either though discipleship or evangelical programing. We are willing to use radio, TV, the Internet and beyond to minister, but when it comes to meeting those we're trying to reach face to face, only the selected people are allowed into worship. After all, we are staying at the Opryland Hotel, which seems to have, by me latest count, about a bazillion rooms. Surely there are people who would want to come to church this morning. So I started asked myself, "Is there ever a time when a church worship service should be closed to the public?
My immediate answer is a resounding no.
As the preaching started, this question popped into my mind again. John MacAuthur was preaching about how most Bible translations leave out the word slave. We are slaves to Jesus. Jesus was a slave to his Father. This is never an easy topic especially in the U.S. context of racial slavery, which is not the biblical context. As you can imagine, this was not a seeker service. There was no bringing it home to someone who may be questioning their faith. The message was, we are slaves to Jesus, live with it.
So then I started to think maybe it's a good thing this service was closed to the public. What would a seeker think hearing this? We know that committing to Christ in some ways is not the easiest road to take. But hearing you become a slave? I could easily see a fence rider saying, "No thanks."
In the end, I think worship should always be open. We have the best news in the world to share. What do you think? Should worship services ever be closed to the public and only open to a selected group?
(As a side note, I want to say there are a lot of good things going on at NRB. There are a lot of people here who are working for great, innovative ministries. But there are sometimes, like this morning, when I feel like the organization is sending the wrong message.)