Closing the Church Doors

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

The Church should have their doors shut today.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day, and all federal buildings and some corporate buildings are celebrating the legacy that King left by honoring him with a day off of work. But one place that seems to be “open for business” is the church. In my unofficial twitter poll this morning I was shocked to find that almost 95% of churches do not honor today as something to celebrate and are having a normal work day.

You might be wondering “what is the big issue” or  uttering “this stupid kid has no clue what he is talking about” that is fine, but I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Let me get a couple of things out of the way

I think these are some of the issues that might be going through the minds of many as we approach the subject of Martin Luther King day an the church

  • Churches do not give federal holiday off. This is true, Presidents Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day are days that the church is open and not closed. So I can understand that they do not give federal holiday off, but in my mind MLK day is different, or at least it stands for something different. Though each of those days stand for great things, I do not know if the church should be aligning themselves with each of those.
  • Wouldn’t MLK want the church doors to be open? Honestly, I have no clue. Could not speak for the man himself. But I think the issue goes way beyond him wanting to have the churches open and more in respect for what he stood for.
  • Does it really matter if the churches are opened or closed? You could say it is the thought that counts. But I do think it is a statement to the community at large that we are joining in the celebration a great mans life. Check out this great comment from Mason Stanley on this issue here
  • The door should stay open for people who are hurting and looking for life change. This is another response that I have seen people giving in regards to why the church should not be closed on MLK day. It strikes me as very odd to resort to this approach. Maybe I am being a bit cynical here, but throughout the week (and this is more in regards to the churches that I am familiar with) there is not a ton of people showing up daily for life change. In fact, most churches run like a business 5 out of the 7 days of the week. People come to the office to get their work done in preparation for one day a week. Though people could seriously be seeking out someone to talk to on Monday, January 17th 2011 I think using that as a reason to not close the doors of the church is a bit extreme and pathetic.

These are just a couple of the responses that I have heard or read. They have some validity but I think the issue is much bigger then these reasons. What is the issue you ask?
The issue with having the church doors open on MLK day is simply the message that the church is broadcasting. Lets be honest, racial prejudice and tension is felt in the church still today. This is the 25th anniversary of MLK day, and though we have made huge strides in racial restoration, there seems to still be a huge gap that separates the church and individual races. Some of the most divided places of race can be seen in a church on Sunday morning. Call it style, preference, or the area the church is located, but the divide that is felt in church on Sunday morning is a terrible thing. I know churches have made efforts to be aware of this, but why not go a step further and honor a day that stands for peace, hope, and equality. Why not go out of the way to talk about something that Jesus stood for, the love of your neighbor.

Though the message of love is not represented with a physical building that we call the church, it is a symbol for many in the community. I think (myself included) we have missed an opportunity today to say something by closing the church doors.

Scott Williams said this in regards to this subject:

It’s not merely about MLK the man, but rather the federal holiday in honor of what the man, his ministry and life stood for

Scott Williams wrote an excellent post on this subject and you definitely need to read it (find it here)

Am I way off base here? What do you think?


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Michael Buckingham

    I think yes, MLK would want the doors open. Celebrating his legacy by closing doors to a place that should be a safe harbor to all and sleeping in seems an odd way of celebrating a man of action and faith.

    Sunday is just one time that a church is helping people. Pastor’s offices are full of people needing help, encouragement, etc.

    I say keep the doors open and make today count. Maybe have a prayer service where we pray for unity, do an outreach in communities that are hurting, etc.

    • Crystal Renaud


    • Kyle Reed

      now that i could get behind, a service that celebrates/honors him would be great and a very creative way to handle the situation.
      I do not disagree with you that it is a not a day to sleep or slack off, and that is not the greatest way to honor his legacy, but I do like the idea of seizing the day and making it special.
      Great points Michael.

  • Scott Williams

    I appreciate your candor and I totally agree. We have to move past platitudes and excuses… It’s the right thing to do if you want to communicate a heart for embracing diversity, social justice and an everyone welcome mentality.

    • Kyle Reed

      well thank you for writing your original post, that is what got me thinking.

    • Jason

      I’m sorry Scott but it’s a bit of a reach to equate not working on MLK Day with “a heart for embracing diversity, social justice and an everyone welcome mentality.” There are many people building a very solid case that working on MLK Day to live out his ideals shows those same things.

  • Jason Vana

    I don’t think you are off base at all. MLK embodied the message of the gospel in his life – choosing to walk in love, striving for equality and justice and doing it all through peace. He stood up for the helpless, took the side of the oppressed and showed the world what it really looks like to follow Jesus and impact culture.

    As far as the comment you received about keeping the doors open for people who are hurting…that mindset bothers me. Hurting people shouldn’t have to run to a church building to find help. We, the people who bear the image of Christ, should be bringing that help and healing to them wherever they are, not expecting them to come to our buildings to find God. God is not in a building anymore. He doesn’t reside in churches, He resides in us. I have found that when people make comments like that, it’s an excuse for them not to get into the muck and mire of other people’s problems and bring help. It’s easier to just direct them to the professional, to the minister or the pastor or the church to find help.

    No, the church building should be closed today to honor the legacy of what MLK did, and for those who are hurting…we all should be bringing them help and healing where they are on a daily basis, not just during church office hours.

    • Kyle Reed

      Interesting point about people who are hurting. Yes I agree, people should help people. I think some of that has changed because the church has created a physical building for people to come and rally. Not a terrible thing, not a great thing. But the message does not stop at the walls or doors.

      • Jason Vana

        I agree – definitely not necessarily a bad thing that there is a rally point in a church building. I just have seen more of the downside of it through my last church. I was helping lead it during a time of pastoral transition and a good majority of the congregation went from being outward focused, taking the message beyond our four walls, to inward focused – asking what us leaders were going to do for them and wanting the building left open so people could come to us instead of us going to them.

        • Kyle Reed

          interesting, well I guess you got to see some of the character of the church

    • Michael Buckingham

      You assume people wear their hurt for people to see. For many they just don’t and need to find a safe place to unleash and expose the hurt, and for many that’s the church.

      You also assume that there’s no need for people that are fully equipped to help. Some cuts may not require it, but others must have it and would be dangerous not to seek those gifted and trained to administer the right help.

      You also assume that because I celebrate the church as a safe haven that I don’t love and help those around me and that’s simply a foolish assumption.

  • Jon Smith

    I’ll leave a similar comment to the one I left on Scott’s blog.

    I think the question comes down to how do we best celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and the cause he fought for?

    Personally, I think you do this by working harder on MLK Day, not taking a day off. If you were encouraging churches to close their doors and then do something to honor MLK, that would mean something.

    Maybe it sends the wrong message. But shouldn’t we be sending that message every week in our sermons and with the way we live in our communities every day?

    Also, more and more schools that are opting to stay open on MLK Day to use it as an example of how much emphasis Dr. King put on education. One example is from Chicago where a school’s founder, Paul Adams, knew Dr. King.

    Mr. Adams says, “Dr. King was an educator. I find it the most ridiculous thing in the world that schools are closed to commemorate his birthday. To me, it’s disrespectful, especially in the black community, when our children are behind.” (Source:

    Dr. King’s messages were not filled with a lot of “take the day off” kind of language. There’s a lot of hard work and struggle in there, and I think we respect his legacy by getting up and doing something on MLK Day.

    • Kyle Reed

      Appreciate your thoughts and well said.
      I think the thing that maybe should be said is not closing the doors but just doing something in honor. I just do not hear many churches doing that. Instead it sounds like they are continuing with what they normally do…business as usual. So something radical to me is closing the doors to specifically honor the day, or have a service, or do something.

      But you bring up soem great thoughts and thanks for that quote. I think it once again comes down to doing something in his remembrance.

      • Jon Smith

        Yep, I’m 125% with you on that one. Let’s be people of action. If closing the doors sends the message, then so be it. But there has to be better ways, and the worst thing is the business as usual like you mentioned.

        Thanks to you and Scott for making us think about it today.

        • Kyle Reed

          its been a great discussion. I think it is definitely something that needs to be discussed.

  • Tyler

    This is an unexpected insight. My brain didn’t need this, Kyle. :)

    I don’t know if we really dishonor MLK or the concept of diversity by working today. Maybe we’re just drawing unneeded attention to ourselves.

    Remember when Jesus was picking wheat from the field on the Sabbath and the lawyers were like “dude, why are you working on the sabbath?!” and he was like…”because I’m hungry?” The day was made for us, not us for the day was his point, I believe.

    In any case, I feel like I should seek a new way to honor this day because of you, jerk. ;)

    • Kyle Reed

      hahaha, trust me I feel the same way.
      I have not done my part in the past on mlk day and probably will not do enough today to honor him.
      But its interesting you bring up the sabbath and Jesus. It takes me back to the original intent of the sabbath, to take a rest and step back. I thin the same could be said about MLK day (not saying the two days are the same) a day to step back, be refreshed in the mission of love, and to remember.

  • Jason

    “But I think the issue goes way beyond him wanting to have the churches open and more in respect for what he stood for.”

    This is where I see a disconnect, Kyle.

    If we look at the life of Dr. King, we can get a pretty good idea of what the man believed and for what he stood. It would not be a stretch for anyone to say that Dr. King would be in favor of someone taking the day working to advance Christ’s kingdom versus taking the day off to hang out at home. Dr. King would think someone living out his ideals would be the tribute he would rather have than a day off.

    Even if that work day is as you say “business as usual.” Being Christ to the world today is just as important as any other day. A church should be living King’s ideals in all they do and not just one day a year. I would think that living what he stood for every day speaks much louder than a day off to “reflect.”

    • Kyle Reed

      well I am not saying you take a day off living the life of a disciple of christ. Just take time to honor what MLK stood for.

  • Patrick Mitchell

    I think the question is a faulty one, and it’s not your fault Kyle. The doors to the church are always open. By that I mean, WE are the church. Does closing the “business” office of the church mean the church is closed? No. It’s wonderful that the Federal government would take note of a Christian who gave his life for the cause of equality in Christ and cross. I don’t know that I get Columbus Day off, but the guy discovered us on accident for goodness sake.MLK was intentional in subverting the status quo via truth and peace. That’s what we should honor.

    As for the topic in question, I think we’d do more justice to the memory and cause of MLK by preaching messages on the Sunday–or the entire month–about issues like those he gave his life to preach: equality in Christ, inherent dignity for those created imago Dei, reconciliation. When was the last time you heard a message on racial reconciliation and equality in an Evangelical church?

    • Kyle Reed

      agreed, you are right its not about a physical building. But I do think that the church has made the bed and we have to lay in it. What I mean by that is the church has set itself up to represent a physical building, with doors, security alarms, and stages. So in reality most look at the church as a physical building and not a body. Therefore, people watch what the church does and that is why I think it is important to make that statement of being closed…but not only that doing what you are talking about…honoring what MLK stood for and talking about image, about reconciliation. I love that idea and subject, and I have not heard it talked about in the church in well never.

      That is what I think this post rises out of, to make an intentional effort to do something out of the ordinary. That could very well be closing the doors, having a service, preaching a message or living in a way that MLK was about…love and peace.

  • Danny

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I just posted at Scott’s blog and there is a lot of great discussion going on over there! I’ll preface my statement with saying that the church I pastor uses Monday as a day of rest for staff and are generally not open anyway.

    (I’m trying not to replicate exactly what I said on Scott’s blog)

    I’m not sure I understand the idea that if the church isn’t closed on this particular holiday that we are somehow conveying a negative message to the community and are somehow continuing the segregation of races.

    For example, if we decide to not close on Veterans Day are we then conveying to the community that we don’t support our military or the people who died for our country? If we are open on July 4th, (which our church is if it isn’t on a Monday) are we then telling the community we don’t value our Independence? The same could be said for every other holiday that we use to commemorate people or movements. I certainly don’t follow your logic of how the church shouldn’t hold certain holidays in the same regard. Yeah, I wouldn’t equate Columbus Day with Memorial Day. But I certainly wouldn’t disconnect what today means from what Veterans Day stands for.

    Again, just my two cents!

    • Kyle Reed

      thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the push back.

      The reason I think this day stands above those other holidays is what they represent. Mainly in message.
      To be honest with you and we will probably greatly disagree on this point, which is fine, I think the difference is those days (memorial day, veterans day, columbus day) celebrate a country and MLK day celebrates equality for all.

      Where i see the separation of these days is the alignment of the church with a state or country. Not saying we should not remember the men and women who died and sacrificed their life for our freedom, but I think it is different then what MLK stood for. Like I said, I think we will disagree on this point, but I see the days as largely different, in regards to one stood for a country and the other stood for something way bigger then a country…love and peace

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  • Grant Jenkins

    At the core of what MLK stood and tirelessly advocated for is the justice demanded and displayed by the Gospel. As such, how a church does justice and demonstrates the heart of the Gospel in its community every day throughout the year speaks louder to me than whether or not they close their doors to specifically commemorate MLK Day.

    • Kyle Reed

      and that is a great way to pay tribute to MLK

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  • Jenny

    I will preface my comment with the fact that I am not apart of a church with doors. I am purposely not a member of a church with doors…

    Church in America is changing. People no longer feel able to come to the front of the door of a church asking for food, or help. A church now as you have mentioned, is functioning as a business (for the most part) 5days of the week. People still look at what the church does though. Considering that 85% of those who commented on this post are white men, and I have a feeling that a good % of those who answered your survey were white men with churches of a pretty similar makeup- i would argue that because the culture in which we are called to reach are so diverse (think arizona tragedy- Jewish white woman, treated by korean doctor, tended to at first by hispanic male, with a Black president giving a memorial speech) we need to no only celebrate diversity, taking the day off in a very public matter for MLK day would be a start, but also to identify with it. My heart can not wait to see the day where i walk into churches across america and see as diverse of a congregation as the country that it exists in. I want to see multi-generational, multi-ethnic churches reaching people of all economic levels. To do this, I believe that celebrating MLK would be a start. Just taking the day off to sleep in won’t work, I have to admit i did enjoy doing that, but to actually celebrate as a body of believers in worship of a God who has created us all to be different and to celebrate and thank God for a man who was a willing vessel to see change be brought about so that we could worship together. I would love to see the “just black” or the “just white” or the “just korean” or the “just hispanic” churches become obsolete, I would love to see those churches join as neighbors and worship together, despite differences in theology or worship style. CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW KICK ASS THAT WOULD BE?!!

    So yes, that was a long way of saying YES! churches need to take the day off and celebrate MLK day.

    • Kyle Reed

      glad that you chimed in. your thoughts are not alone and I think a younger generation continues to rise up and say things like this. Now it is time to make it happen.

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