The Urban Grind

Abandoning the Door of God's House for the Tents of the Wicked

doorkeeper

I watched Jr. walk out the door after grabbing a cup of coffee and some donuts. It was pretty early and church hadn’t started yet and I figured he would be back for worship. I was wrong. One minute he was sitting on the cold concrete bench with locked backdrop and the next he was gone. Not exactly the start to a Sunday I was looking for. What exactly was I looking for anyway? What do I long for on a Sunday morning? What does any pastor desire for that matter?

People.

Its the thorn in the flesh of all pastors in America today. I don’t care what anyone tells you. I would be hard pressed to find an honest preacher who says they genuinely do not care about how many people show up on Sunday. For one reason, every one of us cares because our job is to care about the welfare of every body and soul that God has entrusted to us - or will entrust to us in the future. The real reason. The selfish reason. Is that we find our worth and value in how many people show up to hear us preach, attend our programs, and support our ministry through offering plate gifts. Its sad - it really is. Pastors, more than anyone else shouldn’t be imprisoned by this facade of faithfulness, but we are. Its hypocritical considering we typically teach people that stuff like that is outside of our control anyway - that worrying undermines the work of God, who deserves all the glory anyway.

Jr. left and I could feel it. Another light Sunday. Another Monday morning of planning to develop yet another battle plan to recruit the absent and capture more P.O.W. (Prisoners of Worship). Let me be real. It was. Very few of our youth showed up and many of our adults were away for a variety of reasons that would fall on my deaf ears as excuses to build up my self-confidence. Nothing like inviting people to worship with anxiety and embarrassment ringing in your ears like lost frequencies.

As I clicked the trackpad on my MacBook the first song came in with a crash and these words popped up on the screen during the introductory melodies:

Better is one day in your courts
     than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
     than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
     the Lord bestows favor and honor;
     no good thing does he withhold
     from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty,
     blessed is the one who trusts in you. (Psalm 84:10-12)

Where was my trust? Not in the Lord Almighty but lost in the almighty perception of success, victory, accomplishment. I spoke of the courts of God as his presence among us that morning yet I was detached and absent until one word caught demanded my attention. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God. Hmm, I love this passage but have always focused on the first part of that verse - Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I believe the lyrics of David’s song that one day in the presence of God in worship is actually better than a thousand elsewhere. So, why am I singing that I would rather be preaching to the population of Israel in all her glory than simply being a doorkeeper in God’s house? The question convicted me. My embarrassment turned from the number of people in the multi-purpose room to the posture of my heart before the Sun and Shield.

Pastors plant and/or build churches in order to gather record numbers of unbelievers through double-wide doors every weekend giving them the sense of faithfulness. Although it is rarely, if ever, admitted it’s true. It’s the sin of pride and faithlessness in the one who provides the growth. We plant. We water. But we do not grow. The Sun grows. The Shield protects from thorns, weeds, and birds. We simply keep the door. We open it and welcome any in who are tired and need rest. We welcome the wandering and embrace the hurting. We only close the door to suspend the suffocating fumes of suffering and silence the distracting noise of life’s rhythms.

A doorkeeper isn’t a glamorous position but it is a necessary role. Greeters are essential for any church whether it is a team of brightly colored uniformed shirts or the assigned elders for the week. Pastors train these volunteers on how to be warm, welcoming, inviting, etc. How many pastors see their role as greeters of God’s house though? How many of us keep the door with diligence, not consumed by how many we welcome, but faithful with those who stumble in searching for reprieve? Better to keep the door of God’s house than dwell in the tents of the wicked who adorn themselves with the accolades of others and define themselves by growing numbers of sheep in their fold.

I have abandoned my post at the door of God’s house more times that I should probably admit. I have dwelt in the tents of the wicked partying like it was 1999 hungover on Sunday mornings too often. My walk is far from blameless and I am the only one to blame. My trust falters too often.

I’m not trying to make excuses for our small gatherings, nor am I attempting to avoid judgment where I fall short as an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd. I am reminding myself of what it means to be faithful with what the Almighty has entrusted to me. I have shared this perspective on faithfulness with anyone who asks - Jesus will return and call his servants to show what they have done with the precious wealth entrusted to them. When I am called to present the people that the Father entrusted to me I do not want to be surprised. There are some who will stand tall, shoulders square, and eyes flashing before Christ with the perceived success of thousands of sheep standing behind them only to be shocked with they turn around and see a handful remaining. As I stand before Christ I want to look behind me and present all the sheep that were given into my care even though I too often compare the size of that flock to others.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

God, I need to be reminded of that more than I should.

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