While growing up on a farm I learned many practical lessons. One of those lessons was the importance closing a gate. If I neglected my responsibility to close a gate it allowed animals to leave their fenced in area and it also allowed predators to enter in. Every fence has a gate which serves as a means to enter and exit. The fence provides a means of protection but it is no longer effective when the gate is left open. The words of my father still echo in my mind, “close the gate.”
Our churches provide a fence of protection for our members. The preaching, the music, and the edification of the members all provide protection. However, leaving a gate open can allow false doctrine or division to enter in. In addition, a lack of providing sound Bible teaching can leave a gate open for people to look for greener pastures where they may receive more effective teaching.
Reaching lost souls is not easy but it is easier to keep people than to reach them. Retaining people is necessary to build a healthy church. If we leave a gate open for people to leave, it will hinder our ministry. A balanced and spiritual ministry is more likely to keep people. If people are continually leaving it is an indication that you, as the pastor, must look within to see if you need to change something. There are some people you will never please but it is sad when people leave because of your failure as a pastor.
Closing the gate means keeping out the predators. A new church tends to attract troublemakers and church hoppers. Sometimes it is difficult to identify people that are potential problems. It is a danger to allow people to gain influence that are not supportive of your ministry. The Scripture teaches us to warn those that are unruly. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. — 1 Thessalonians 5:14
I have observed new churches that were united only in their dissatisfaction. They were not in agreement with each other except in their negative attitude toward other area churches. This is not a good base to build a church. The pastor must be on guard against these kinds of people.
The primary role of the pastor is to be a shepherd. The job of the shepherd is to feed the flock and protect the flock. Feeding the sheep keeps them contented and happy. Protecting them from outside predators keeps them safe.
Closing the gate is not always on the mind of a young preacher. As a young man I learned from the warnings of my father to close the gate. He understood the consequences of not closing it. Once the livestock escaped from the fence it was difficult to get them back in. Also, once they get out it was easier for them to escape again.
Let’s close the gate and keep people happy within the fence of God’s blessings and close the gate to keep out predators that can injure the flock.