Every weekend your congregation gathers, you have the opportunity to show people the love of Jesus. This should excite you. This should be a joy for you as a pastor or church leader. We get to show biblical hospitality that we pray is drenched in gospel grace and intentionality.
Each week, some people get up in the morning and choose to give church one more chance … and they decide to come to your church. What do they experience? I pray they experience the preaching of God’s Word and worship that exalts the greatness of our God and King. But what do they experience relationally?
I talked with a guy just this morning who shared with me how he visited a congregation last week of 20 people and not one of them greeted him or even said “hi” to him all morning. Sadly, this is far too often the experience for many who come check out our churches. This should not be.
Loving people, making people feel at home, must be an intentional focus for our churches every time we gather. Specifically, in this post, I am thinking of our weekly worship gatherings. Let’s consider seven cultural characteristics of Gospel-Drenched Hospitality that must mark your weekend worship gatherings.
Gospel-Drenched Hospitality is initiating. In other words, it doesn’t wait for people to come to it. It goes to them. On Sunday mornings, you don’t wait for people to pursue you. You pursue them.
Gospel-Drenched Hospitality is embracing. In other words, it reflects the heart of Christ in that no matter who walks through the doors of your church, you run hard after them with the radical love and grace of Jesus. This means your church should be marked by hugs and high fives! Seriously. Hugs and high fives should be happening all over the place as an outflow of the grace and love of Jesus. This is the gospel in action. Jesus loves prodigals—and so must your church. Embrace prodigals like Jesus. Be a prodigal-hugging church!
True hospitality is experienced on a personal level. Therefore, in your church, you want to extend personal hospitality to each individual who shows up. Jesus didn’t die for a mass of people; He died for individuals. In the same way, our hospitality must move beyond a focus on the mass to a pursuit of individuals on a personal and more intimate level. Growing up, I can remember hearing my father and pastor, Paul, say to me, “Mark, ministry is about being present with people. It is a ministry of presence that pastors are called to. It’s truly ‘being there’ with and for people.” The older I get, the more my dad’s words ring true. Gospel-Drenched Hospitality is shown through intentional, personal loving presence with people.
Genuine hospitality is authentic hospitality. Joyfully authentic. There will be people who choose to give God one more chance by coming to your church. They don’t need to be entertained. They don’t need smoke machines or a rock concert. What they need is genuine, authentic, joyful love from men and women who love Jesus and love them.
It is hard to be hospitable to outsiders and new people in your church if you aren’t familiar with the church you are welcoming them into. Gospel-Drenched Hospitality is knowledgeable. It is important to equip your people to know basic information about your church. For example, can they accurately point people to the bathrooms or the parking lot? Can they answer basic questions about the church’s history and doctrine? How about basic questions regarding the children’s ministry, youth ministry or small group ministry? Are they aware of the easiest ways to connect new people into service opportunities in the church? Think through questions like these and then equip your people to be able to answer them clearly and effortlessly. Visitors will take notice.
One of the differences between hospitality shown in the church and hospitality shown in a restaurant, hotel or doctor’s office should be prayer. Gospel-Drenched Hospitality is prayerful. It shouldn’t be strange if on Sunday mornings you look around and see members and leaders of your church praying with and for people. Many people from the community who will be checking out your congregation are hurting and broken. They are looking for hope. They are looking for Jesus, whether they realize it or not. In prayer, we have the privilege of taking these folks to the throne of Jesus. Nothing brings more comfort to a hurting person showing up at your church than a hug and some prayer. So be a church that prays for one another. It’s not weird to pray with and for others. It’s right. It’s good. It’s biblical and it changes lives. Show hospitality through prayer.
Don’t give up. Be persistent in showing Gospel-Drenched Hospitality week in and week out. Of course, you cannot do this on your own strength. You need the Holy Spirit to guide you and empower you to show this kind of hospitality. So humble yourself and beg Him to make you a hospitable church. Every week, pray for this. Don’t give up. Don’t get distracted. Stay focused on showing true hospitality to the souls God brings. You were made for this.
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, Preach Lead Love.
Published September 1, 2021