Opening up the firewalls

Archie Poulos

Internet security is a top priority. Theft and compromising of information must be avoided. In the world of online data, we have to ensure we have tight ‘firewalls’ to prevent malicious compromise of our data.

Of course, having high and strong firewalls comes at a cost. They make it difficult  to access new sites. Before I can visit an unknown site or use an online program, I am asked whether I want to make an exception to rules to allow this site to access my computer – asked whether I am willing to allow this site a hole in my firewall.

While firewalls are great for security, we inadvertently do the same sort of thing with our churches, and in doing so, we may do it at great dishonour to the name of Jesus. That is, we establish big walls around our gatherings and church community, and we are often unaware that we are doing this.

Why the walls?

We create the walls for good reasons. In fact I have spent years doing it.

We seek to promote deep, committed relationships amongst our members, and in doing so we focus our relational energy internally.

We want our meetings to be as slick, ‘user friendly’, and as engaging as they can be and that focus on our gathering takes effort that we cannot expend elsewhere.

We get rightly concerned about the advocating of muddled headed thinking emanating from a world that isn’t privileged to have the wisdom from knowing Jesus, and so we create an us-them mentality, speaking of us and ‘them out there’.

We know that a little yeast infects the whole lump and worry about practices and thinking that can lead people (especially our young people) away from pure life and doctrine.

For these and many other good reasons we create unseen firewalls around our church gatherings…while at the same time desperately hoping and praying for new people to join us and the Lord in His kingdom. These two ideas are clearly in conflict with each other. But because we seek to preserve good things we are often unaware that we have actually erected these firewalls. The reason that the walls persist is that we don’t explore whether they should be there in the first place.

Should we have the firewalls?

A chief responsibility of the shepherd is to protect the sheep, and we must never give up this responsibility. But we should also examine how we protect the sheep our lives together. To just build walls is a blunt instrument that works against our prayer of being a light to the nations.

The walls give us reasons to operate in our Christian setting. How often have you thought ‘I am too busy to be actively involved with non Christian friends’. The walls also stop those outside the barriers from ever coming in. I met a Muslim women whose biggest concern about coming to a Christian gathering was what people would think of her clothed in full face covering.

I am calling for us to look with fresh eyes about the walls that actually exist. Ask the questions

  • What are we trying to protect against?
  • What is the cost of any walls we establish?
  • Is there another, better way to protect what we are striving to protect?
  • What resources would be required and what costs would be involved in lowering the walls, and are we willing to pay them?



Feature photo: lincolnblues