Several weeks ago, our daughter April was given a very simple task. We asked her to go to Home Depot and have a couple of keys made for us. Home Depot is located just a few miles from our home, and the cost of the keys was minimal. But what was intended to be a simple task of relative ease turned into quite a fiasco, a fiasco that was created by the help she encountered.
The first attendant that she encountered said that he had no earthly idea how to make a key. So he pointed her in the direction of the key machine and said (and I quote), “knock yourself your out.” So April put the blank in the eye machine and proceeded to cut her own key.
No sooner had she begun, than she was surrounded by three other home depot employees. She could feel their ominous stares and so she nervously said, “Hi guys, what’s happening?” One employee in this semi-circle of advisors began to chastise my daughter for making her own key. “You’re not allowed to operate this equipment”, he disdainfully asserted.
The second fellow in the semi-circle began to chuckle. He felt that it was absolutely comical that someone would be attempting to make his or her own key.
The third fellow then proceeded to put his arm around my daughter and say, “Come on, sweetheart, I’ll help you get your keys made.”
And thus, there were four responses: 1) the abstinence of responsibility – “knock yourself out”; 2) the critique of activity – “you’re not allowed to work this machine”; 3) the laugh of disdain – “what a hoot that you think you can do it”; and 4) the assistance of friendship – “come on, sweetheart, I’ll help you.”
As my daughter relayed her afternoon at Home Depot to me, I thought of how often churches are like that Home Depot. We have been given the keys to the kingdom. As the true apostolic succession, we hold, through the Gospel, the keys to death and hell.
But some of us abdicate responsibility. When people enter our churches with apparent needs, we turn them away. They are on their own. We hope that they can figure it out by themselves.
Some of us, however, are carping critics. Don’t they know they are not allowed to be involved in this activity? Who gave them permission to act like this? Don’t they know they are outside the bounds of acceptable protocol? It needs to be pointed out that they have violated the manual.
Still others find the whole thing comical. The body piercings, the colored hair, the tattoos – it is all a big joke to us. Dysfunction is something to be laughed at rather than helped.
But then there are others (praise God for them) who actually but an arm around the “customer” and say, “Come on, sweetheart, I’ll help you.” I trust that I am this kind of employee in God’s work force.
My daughter walked out of Home Depot that afternoon with her keys in hand not because she was alienated, accosted, or affronted, but because she was assisted. If we get what should have happened at Home Depot, how come we don’t get it when it comes to church? Help someone get a hold of the right keys today!