Church of the Open Door


For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

There was a historic 4,000 seat auditorium for a church in downtown Los Angeles where the famous radio preacher J. Vernon McGee preached for 21 years from 1949-1970. It was known as the Church of the Open Door. It had a famous neon sign: “Jesus Saves” that could be seen from everywhere downtown, and the sign became such an icon that even though the auditorium was torn down due to earthquake damage, it has been preserved on top of a hotel for the homeless.

When you opened the door, by far the most remarkable thing about this auditorium was what was printed over the front platform and choir loft in large capital letters for all to see: “ALL HAVE SINNED.”

Imagine that. Imagine your first visit and you aren’t even a Christian, but you see the “Jesus Saves” sign outside, you hear that this is the Church of the Open Door and so you feel welcomed, and you walk in, and the first thing you see is, “ALL HAVE SINNED.” What would you think?

Some might be judgmental and think these are a bunch of losers, but I think most would say, “Well, what do you know? These are my kind of people!”

We need reminders everyday that help us see ourselves as the Lord sees us and makes us recognize we have more in common with everyone else on the planet, including those in the church, that there is no hierarchy in following Christ, and the best news of all: we are all in need of a Savior and we are all forgiven. Yes, Jesus Saves, and the good news is: it is for everybody.

Even though this auditorium with an open door has been torn down and the neon “Jesus Saves” sign has found its place on top of a hotel for the homeless, I am realizing our Millennial audience embodies all that these symbols stand for, in that they have told us the reason why they come to our dinosaur of a website is because the ministry’s doors are open 24/7 and its message is all about grace for those who know they are not measuring up to the expectations of others, let alone the failures they find within themselves.

Imagine Millennials from all over the world finding themselves opening the door of grace everyday at the Catch and, at the same time, turning to their internet connected friends to discover the same.

We all rejoice in this phenomena until we ask, “Should this be that unusual? Every day our hearts are open doors for people to come in and find a place to rest, be fed, and most important to be loved. Right?”

I tell you, this is not the case with me. I am entirely too busy running away from fear of all sorts like feeling old, done, ready for someone else to be available to a hurting heart. Sure, bring the person to me and I will tidy up their life and teach them everything I know, but to go out into the marketplace with eyes wide open to see what the Lord would have me see? To reach out by coming alongside someone and then acting on what I see? To be willing to care when I truly do not want to? To be more in someone’s life beyond a quick cup of coffee at Starbucks? To listen long enough to be able to say to the person that he or she matters and why? No, no, no — I am too busy chasing after my fear for all kinds of reasons.

This thing called grace — what does it really mean to me? I am saved with grace having wiped out all the reasons why I am afraid. Why then have I let those fears back in?

Was I the door that since has been torn down and no longer exists? Am I generous enough to be recognized as a messenger to those who are in great need of Jesus? Do I announce loudly that anyone who feels like they are a loser is a welcome companion of mine, and thus, I can love them as myself?

As a cyber church, the Millennials say we are all about grace with a door that is open 24/7. But am I, personally, an open door to anyone with a desire to give the greatest gift ever given to me? Or am I more like a revolving door, welcoming someone in and then batting them with the Bible on their way out?

Tough questions, to be sure and ones I am not examining — not in the comfort of my arm chair. I am asking the Lord to join me in the marketplace — to begin again, what it means to be saved by Jesus, and why, when someone opens my door, they meet a fellow sinner who loves them — just like the Lord loves, in spite of myself.

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4 Responses to Church of the Open Door

  1. Mark D Seguin says:

    Back when I was working as an Auto body collision repair technician I used to love listening to recording’s of J. Vernon McGee preached and getting on the Bible Bus….

    Pastor John let me please try to encourage you to seriously consider Goggling how to make an audio file of you reading the – how many time have you said it in the works, yet doesn’t happen… Plz Pastor John try to remember when you got out of the hospital & couldn’t write the Catch, so had people cover for you? Well trying to read a few sentences – let alone paragraph’s after being in a coma for 3 moths & 2 strokes trying to read the Catch sometimes jus isn’t fun…

  2. John, how long will continue with your self-flagellation?

    In answer to your question, “…am I, personally, an open door to anyone with a desire to give the greatest gift ever given to me? Or am I more like a revolving door, welcoming someone in and then batting them with the Bible on their way out?

    You’re neither: You’re an elevator door that opens on the floor of your choice; or on the floor of whomever pushes your buttons.
    You offer a ride – albeit short – to anyone who has either a specific or vague destination in mind and, then, open the doors to send them on their way in order to get them out of your personal space.

    How to transition from an elevator door or a revolving door to an open door is an Angel you’ll need to wrestle with.
    If it’s heartening to you in any way: you’re not alone in your dilemma.

    even though the following may not be exactly related, please be encouraged:

    Mrs. Jones was 92 years old as she was brought to the nursing home where she would live out her final years. After sitting patiently in the lobby, she was told that her room was ready. An attendant approached to bring her to her room.

    As she slowly stood up and edged her walker toward the elevator, he described the room to her. “I love it!” she exclaimed enthusiastically, startling the attendant. “But Mrs. Jones, you haven’t even seen it yet!” the man replied. “That has nothing to do with it,” she said.

    The elderly woman continued: “Joy is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day.”

    This attitude of seeing every day as a wonderful gift is not easy for many of us. Many people live their entire lives without ever knowing the kind of joy that such gratitude brings. But as Mrs. Jones teaches us, we can choose to think and feel this way — no matter how old or young we may be, no matter how rich or poor, no matter our circumstances.

    Psalm 118 states, “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” The Hebrew for “This is the day,” zeh hayom, is emphatic. Essentially, it reads: “This is THE day!”

    The Jewish sages teach that this verse applies to every single day of our lives. Every day when we wake up, we have to look at “this very day” as “The Day.”

    Every day is the day that “the LORD has made.” He has created everything in this day exactly as it should be. We must “rejoice and be glad in it” because it is a gift from God for us to live and enjoy. As has been said many times, today is His gift to us — that’s why we call it the present!

    Remember — it’s not about how the things in our lives are arranged; it’s about how we arrange the things in our minds. Let’s choose to fill every day with joy!

    excerpted from Holy Land Moments daily devotionals:
    Every Day is THE Day

    Shlaom, Peace…

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      Dear brother Bob once again thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments about an elevator – that’s brilliant!!!

      And as far as the Jewish sages let me plz also comment I think/believe they would also LOVE reading Shad Helmstter, Ph.D sest selling book: “What to say when you talk to yourself 365 Days of Positive Self-Talk”

      Which I highly recommend as a great daily read!

    • jwfisch says:

      Thank you, Bob. This is a wonderful perspective. I can imagine people in situations that would greatly challenge this perspective, but it’s not impossible, especially when you realize “this world is not my home.”

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