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How Your Church Can Break the Fortress Mentality

A windy Sunday recently introduced a new challenge – keeping the doors of the church closed.

Wind gusts of up to 50 mph in San Antonio, Texas, this past January made entering and exiting church on a Sunday morning more adventurous than usual. Gusty winds blew open church doors throughout the morning.

While we worshiped in our fellowship hall during early worship, the winds of the spirit continually blew open the door to the outside.

Each time the doors blew open, we all looked to see who was entering. Each time no one was there. Turns out the question was not who was entering, but who was calling us out.

The moment was reminiscent of those fateful words from Thomas Becket in the poem by T.S. Eliot. “Throw open the doors! / I will not have the house of prayer, the church of Christ, / The sanctuary, turned into a fortress.”

Missional engagement is a way for churches like ours to avoid the “fortress mentality” that strangles mission and chokes the life out of church.

Woodland Baptist Church looks like a frontier fort from the major road on which we sit. The stone facade expresses stability and strength, which is great for a windy day.

None of us was worried about the church folding over in the blustery winds. Yet, this stone-front church lacks the warm and hospitable spirit of the people inside its walls.

Woodland, like any church, has had to be intentional about breaking this fortress mentality. Our leadership has sought to offer opportunities for missional engagement for people at every stage of life.

If you cannot serve meals at the rescue mission, you might be able to pack welcome kits for refugees or pack kits for teenage girls in Africa through Days for Girls.

When babies are dedicated in worship, a birthing kit is given in the child’s honor to help another child come into this world safely. It’s prevenient missions – the child is engaged in missions before they have a chance to respond.

Beginning in 2014, Woodland started directly supporting three Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel families and one missionary family through SIM-USA in addition to giving to CBF in our budget and annually collecting for the Offering for Global Missions.

We believe both cooperative giving and direct support are important.

We decided to do this in order to make our missions giving more personal. We have a specific person on the congregation’s Missions and Ministries Committee who keeps up with each of the field personnel by regular correspondence.

We share with Woodland (mostly through our website and missions newsletter) about what is going on in their ministries and lives.

They sometimes get to visit us here in San Antonio and share with us, and we look forward to serving alongside them in the field.

We feel these families are part of our church. They are one of us, not just a part of some missionary system we give support. We know their stories.

Because they are a part of our community, our prayers are more specific, our imaginations filled with their victories and struggles. We are living out our mission to be a people of hope through them.

We even get a glimpse of things we can do locally as well. In Macedonia, we worked with refugees, people living in extreme poverty, vulnerable children and cognitively challenged adults. We can do all of that right here in San Antonio. We can touch the world in our own neighborhood.

With connection to ministries around the world, we have a renewed excitement about all the good work being done.

We can look past all of the negative news and see God at work through our relationships with field personnel. We grieve when they grieve and rejoice when they rejoice because they are one of us.

This breaks the fortress mentality that leads us to lock our doors away from the big, bad world.

John 20:19-21 says, “On the first day of the week the doors being shut where the disciples were, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you. … As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.'”

The missionaries we support encourage us and open us to the mission of Jesus Christ each of us are called to and to which we as a church are called together. They are Christ standing among us calling us to throw open the doors and let the gusts of the Spirit guide us.

Garrett Vickrey is senior pastor at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas.

Lance Mayes is associate pastor of community engagement at Woodland Baptist Church.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on missions and local churches / denominational organizations.

Previous articles in the series are:

Sharing the Gospel, Saving Lives in West African Nation

CBF of Georgia Connects Youth to Mission Projects