Keep the Front Door Open: 3 Keys for Your Church


Let’s retire such words as "relevant" and "contemporary," shall we?

During a question/answer session at a recent conference, I was asked, “What are the three things most important to having an effective and open ‘front door’ to the church?”

I was a little surprised.

The question seemed to tip its hat to a very old book of mine—my first, actually—titled Opening the Front Door: Worship and Church Growth that came out way back in 1992. It detailed how weekend services had become the “front door” of the church for the unchurched, and we should open that door with great intentionality.

I know … duh … but it was news more than 20 years ago in relation to the emphasis put on things such as Sunday school.

It was actually a bit scandalous for its time.

The foreword was written by a largely unknown pastor named Rick Warren, with a blurb on the back by an upstart Chicagoan named Bill Hybels. Some Southern Baptist guy named Thom Rainer wrote for it, too.

What a rat pack we were.

I found out later the person asking the question had read the book, and was interested in how my thinking had changed about how best to “open” it 20-plus years later.

I was surprised at how quickly the answer formed in my mind. Now that I’ve had a while to reflect on that answer, I stand by it even more.

Here were the three:

1. An Atmosphere of Acceptance.

There are two words that are key here: atmosphere, and then acceptance.

First, atmosphere.

Churches have cultures. A DNA, if you will. You want one that is accepting. If you are going to reach the unchurched, they are going to come unchurched.

That means they will come as couples living together, gay couples, pregnant outside of marriage, addicted, skeptical … Is that going to raise an eyebrow? Or is it met in stride in a way that makes the person feel instantly at ease?

At Meck, it’s just another day of normal.

But then there is the acceptance itself.

James Emery White James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book is What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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