Easy & Accessible

Recently, I was walking in downtown Nashville, and I saw a fire escape.
I have seen fire escapes like this one before in NYC, but it reminded me of the church, and here's why. For people who have never been to church, don't know the stories, don't know how to read the Bible or where to begin. The church feels a lot like a fire escape ladder that doesn't go all the way to the ground. 

Unchurched people stand on the street looking up, wishing they could relate to God and relate to other Christians, but the rungs have been removed. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes unintentionally. 

Jesus was the master at making a relationship with God easy and accessible to everyone. We should as well.  The Gospel should be easy and accessible to everyone.
Let that sink in. Acts 15:19 hangs in my office, and it says...
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
Acts 15:19 (NIV)

There’s an observation! “I got an idea—let’s don’t make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God! Hey guys, let’s not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God! 
Let’s just tell them that they don’t have to keep that whole law (that we actually didn’t keep that well anyway!), and let’s make it easy and accessible so that everyone who is turning to God don’t have to have surgery!” That is what the early church wanted to require--circumcision. Don't believe me?
The Pharisees who had turned to God said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” 
Acts 15:5 (NIV)

 Surgery? Really? That is a pretty high standard for salvation?  The new members class were all women! And when you filled out the card to join the church, “Name. address. Date of Birth. Date of Circumcision? I will just have to pray about this some more.” These Jewish guys said, “If you are going to be a Christian, you have to have an operation!” It’s in the Bible!
We laugh at that and think in our Western mindset, “How silly! To tell somebody, ‘You have to have a physical operation to become a Christian.’” They were just as serious as they could be. They tell Paul, “You need to go back and tell those Gentiles that think they’re going to heaven when they die, ‘They have to have surgery before they die or they’re not going to heaven’. It is part of Jewish tradition.” 
That is why I love Acts 15:19 so much...
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
Acts 15:19 (NIV)
What could be more obvious than that? The essence of the Gospel—“I have come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
That’s Jesus’ way of saying this: “I am making it so easy and accessible to everyone that everybody­ can get on board. I want the rungs so low on the ladder that a guy like Zaccheus—who has no clue—could get on board. For a woman who not only had a reputation, but was caught in the act of adultery could get on board. That children could get on board. That the worst possible sinner like Matthew the tax collector—could not only get on board with this, but, “I am going to let him write a book in the Bible. We’re going to call it… Matthew!”
So the decide “Let’s skip the law and the circumcision thing and confirm the fact that God has accepted them just like He has accepted us.”
         James said, “Okay guys, we have to keep this easy and accessible.” You don’t have to become Jewish to become a Christian. It has to be easy and accessible. We don’t have to follow the law or offer sacrifices. Easy and accessible. We just have to put our faith in a risen Jesus! Easy and accessible. Because if we don’t make the Gospel easy and accessible, we’re testing God. If we don’t make the Gospel easy and accessible, we are working against God. If we don’t keep the Gospel easy and accessible, we’re actually working against the God that we worship and say that we love. Easy and accessible.
And then a strange thing happened. 100 years later, back to where they began. 100 years later, they made it complicated again. 300 years later, it was really, REALLY complicated—you couldn’t get on board with the local church if your life depended on it. And then in the year 1095, when the Pope says, “Hey, let’s don’t reach people—let’s just kill them! Let’s put together an army, we’re going to go back into Israel and retake Jerusalem, and let’s slaughter everybody we can along the way—including Jews!”  the church leaders decided, “Hey, let’s don’t win people—let’s just kill them!” Time out! Where was that part! It isn’t in there! This isn’t about reaching people, but about conquering people and keeping people out! We continually build walls instead of bridges. We continually put up security lights instead of search lights. 
And in the 1490’s, the Spanish Inquisition happened. They threw all of the Jews out of Spain in the name of Jesus. They said, “Let’s purify the church. Let’s don’t reach people, let’s just kill all of the people who don’t go along with the way we think you ought to do it. If you didn’t cook your food a certain way or didn’t show up to church on holidays, we’ll torture you until you tell us you had some secret cult thing going on.” And tens of thousands of people were killed—by the church in the name of Jesus! What was that? 
The church and its leaders refused to have God’s Word translated into everyday language. You know why? That would be too easy. That would be too accessible. So when people started translating the Latin Bible into an everyday language that everyone could read, do you know how the church responded? They killed the people responsible! That’s right! They strangled and burned a guy at the stake by the name of Tyndale, because he took it from the Latin and translated it into English—Tyndale made reading the Bible accessible. And he made it easy.
Martin Luther came along. He said, “Let’s make it really simple. Let’s make it really accessible. It is by faith alone!” There was almost a war over the idea of faith alone. People flocked to that message, because there were people on the outside looking into the Catholic tradition and high-church tradition who couldn’t read Latin and who couldn’t sing Gregorian Chant. Millions of people gathered around Luther’s message—by faith alone. The Protestant church was born. But 100 years later, it was complicated again. All of the Protestants split up.
Now, all of these denominations fight over who’s right and who baptizes the right way and who understands Revelation—all the while people outside of our churches scratch their head and say, “I want to know God. I want to learn about Him. But every time I show up at your church, you guys already have it figured out. But I wasn’t raised that way. I don’t understand.” For some reason, the natural tendency is for the church to complicate it and to make it difficult for people who are turning to God.
The church wants to say, “It can’t be quite that easy, because you’ve got to do, and you gotta go, and you gotta jump higher, and you can’t be involved in that.” And before long, without really meaning to—nobody does this on purpose—we’re taking out the bottom rungs again! And we make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God! And we’re the church!
A few years ago when we started all of this, we had one thing in mind—we’re going to make it easy and accessible. Here at oneChurch, we’re committed to keeping it easy and accessible for everyone. Because you know what we believe? We believe that Jesus came not for religious people—we believe Jesus came for everybody! We don’t think the church is for churched people—we think the church is for everybody! Do you know why we think the church is for everybody? Because we think everybody needs to be forgiven! I do! Everybody is going to face a crisis in life and want to know, “Does God really care about me?” Most people would love to be able to pick up a Bible and for it to make sense to them.
So we made a commitment—we’re going to keep it Easy and Accessible. No matter how much it costs—easy and accessible. We’re committed to that. So when a guy or a girl who knows nothing about the Bible and Jesus shows up, they can say, “Okay… I can’t find Genesis, but boy, did I find a place where I can connect. Chris, I didn’t understand all of that stuff you said, but my children sure do like it here! I didn’t have any friends, but I got into a small group, and we started talking about marriage."
Because the church is for everybody, because everybody matters to God!