Churches may be signaling ‘do not enter’

I winced. A few weeks ago, workmen installed directional signs in the parking lot around our new church building under construction in Lakewood Ranch, on Lorraine Road near the new Lakewood Ranch Post Office.

Since a small drive encircles an area near the building’s main entrance, and since it will be dangerous for cars to go both clockwise and counterclockwise around that circle, a sign went up directing future traffic.

The sign says, “Do Not Enter.”

Naturally, the sign is big, and bright red. It catches the eye.

What made me wince is that when one drives north on the main road nearest our church property, Lorraine Road, the most prominent sign in our parking lot is a big red one facing west.

The sign barks, “Do Not Enter.”

It almost looks, at first glance, as if we don’t want anyone to enter our church’s parking lot, or our church building.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Then again, it’s easy for any Christian church to signal “Do Not Enter” to those passing by.

“Do Not Enter,” churches may seem to indicate . . .

n to those who have made a mess of God’s gift of marriage.

n to any who have a criminal record.

n to people who have been away from God for a long time.

“Do Not Enter,” churches may unwittingly imply . . .

n to folks who don’t have much money to give an offering.

n to people who can’t read well, or whose English is poor.

n to any with hearing difficulties.

n to people who don’t follow the unstated, un-prescribed dress code. (Had any bikers dressed in leather come into your church building lately?)

The irony is that Jesus made the self-righteous religious leaders of his era wince by how welcoming he was.

Lowly fishermen were his friends. Jesus had women following him in a way that would have struck many as undignified.

When traitors, cheaters and notorious sinners gathered around Jesus one day, religious hot shots muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

Heaven has no “Do Not Enter” sign for anyone. Jesus died for all.

Enter through him.

Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.