A open letter and invitation from the elders of Open Door Fellowship.
I wonder what they would think. Those who started this work of God named Open Door Fellowship. Those who for one reason or another are no longer here. Maybe they moved. Maybe they married someone who went to another church. Maybe they got hurt, disappointed or disillusioned and just left. If they were sitting here with us today, would they recognize it? Would it still resemble the essence of what they originally came for?
There was a sacredly intentional reason the Living God caused this local church to begin. It would have core values that would define us and shape our purpose. It was our justification for our very existence as a church. While a thousand things must change to meet the needs of a changing time, God never intended these values to be traded or ended. For He is unchangeable about what He values.
Isn’t is great to know? We began 45 years ago, from God’s very intention to display His glory in this city, and eventually beyond. So, we should ask, “Is it still here?” The reason Open Door Fellowship was started? Or do we stay simply because our friends are here, and because, well, we don’t leave things. Or, because it’s convenient. Or, has there been a reason stronger than a particular preacher, musician, outreach or Sunday School class? Must God start over and over and over again? Or did He want a continuity of theology and practice to carry the same meaningful healing and freeing way of life into our grandchildren’s generation? Could God continue to give us new vision, new eyes, new people to love, while still honoring and protecting the way of seeing what originally brought the first several dozen together?
It has fallen upon us to answer that question. For we are the ones who are here today. Not by chance. Look around you. We are the hand-picked ones who God chose to answer the question “Is it still here? The reason it was started.” Yes, we are the handpicked ones. Gathered intentionally for this exact season in history.
Let’s start with this: If we are willing to learn, sacrifice and commit to God and each other to further what He started in Open Door Fellowship-it might be safe to assume He would fill our commitment. He would sustain and nurture and protect our unity and the Spirit’s work amongst us.
We have something so wonderfully sacred to stand in. So, it comes down to this. “Do we want it?” It might be important for you to hear from your elders that “we are all in.” To protect these essentials, to protect us under His Word, to keep this bond of unity which He established long ago with elders like Thrall, and Armerding and Shultz and Mowen and Pruitt and Dinello and Folz and Thompson. We commit ourselves as elders to this family.
We were given something, not from man, but from the Holy Spirit, God Himself. A statement of faith that joins hands with the Church from the day of Pentecost. The fulfillment of prophecy of a Messiah, a virgin birth, death on a cross, the resurrection, a new creation. And a set of Essentials which join hands with the earliest church as well. Relationships of grace, conviction of the primacy of the Word of God, the significance of each one, for not against.
Not man-made religion of moralistic self-improvement but God fully living in and through a human being. Actual righteousness, a human-made holy and free. It is a freedom beginning with a new life, fused with Jesus. Galatians 2:20–“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
It is a righteousness in me that comes from something so much more than my achievements or adherence to Law. But only by faith in the sufficiency of Jesus. Philippians 3:9-10–“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,
but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
It is a life of knowing the endless love of Christ.
Ephesians 3:17-19-“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and ground in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth; and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
It is a life of hope, joy and power in the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:18-19 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
It is a life being freed from a blanket of shame and a false sense that there is something particularly and irrevocably wrong about me that God can never love or accept.
Romans 8:1-“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
It is a life of dreams, destiny and purpose for this Gospel of Jesus.
Acts 20:24-“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
We do not claim anything but to honor this Original Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the best we know how. It allows us, if we stay long enough, to heal, to be known, to forgive and be forgiven, to be valued not because we hold a role or an office. But only because we are all priests in this work of God.
As surely as each of us has been chosen for this place at this time, we have each been given gifts, talents, capacity and a new heart, so we can sacrifice for something much larger than simply ourselves, our upward mobility, our ease, our retirement.
It means we will have to find each other again. Not just our own three or four friends. But as was written at the start of this community: “We must understand that commitment (an expression of our love learned through His grace) is a vital, essential part of what has made Open Door what it is. When individuals lack commitment, separation is possible and convenient for a multitude of wrong reasons. When commitment is realized, verified, and honored, we will grow together dependent on each other. Our relationships – built upon principles of love (commitment) will always win over issues of practice, program, or personalities.”
We have had plenty of reasons for separation over these last years. In some ways these have been some of our finest years. But we have, at times struggled to find our way into this new season. Some of us have gotten lost in the weeds of agendas taking priority over love and unity. And so those words find us again “When commitment is realized, verified and honored, we will grow together dependent on each other.”
Our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our world, our heritage, those who came before us, need us to sacrifice our lives so that God can continue to keep this particular candlestick of Open Door Fellowship shining brightly.
So, look around us. “It is still here”. The reason He started this at the beginning. All we have to do is ask Him to fill our commitment to each other. He will do it. He will break the chains of any historic discord, any patterns of division. We do not have to copy our past. As wonderful as it might have been, we don’t even have to actually have been part of our past. For God is the God of the present. Right now. We, Open Door Fellowship, we are right on time.
And so here, September 2016, we have the privilege, this particular representation of Open Door Fellowship, to stand with not only the church from the day of Pentecost, but with this community founded nearly 45 years ago. And all the angels are watching. Are you sensing it also? Are you ALL IN or even longing to be ALL IN? That’s the heart of God in you. That is His heart for Fellowship and the expanse of His Kingdom. An unbroken chain that spans back to several dozen believers meeting in the Thrall’s home, trying to figure out what a New Testament Church might look like. We are part of that answer and today’s response of ownership. Let’s all stand and take hands.
LOVE, In Christ; The elders of Open Door Fellowship;
John DeForest, Jason Ellis, Sam Hill, John Lynch, Dennis Martin, Jim Rosania, Tom Rychener, Mike Quinn