The ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God. – John Piper
My friend, Ashley, embodies Christ-like hospitality. She has been a small group co-leader for high school girls for years. In their senior year, Ashley’s beloved co-leader moved away, devastating the group. After she left, one of the girls stopped coming. Ashley reached out to her, and prayed for months she would come back. One night, she returned! Ashley ran towards her, gave her a big hug and said she was so glad she was back.
A few weeks later, this young lady was baptized. In her testimony, she said it was the way Ashley lovingly and freely received her back that helped her see Jesus clearly.
Simply powerful. Luke 15 kind of powerful.
Ashley isn’t on the hospitality committee at church–it’s who she is. She has allowed God to cultivate in her a church culture that is obsessed with biblical hospitality.
My pastor often says, “You don’t reproduce what you hope; you reproduce what you are.”
Pastors must prioritize biblical hospitality or others won’t. You can try to implement the ministry, but it won’t be authentic. Coercion leads to burn out.
So, why is it crucial that pastors, and the rest of the leadership, invest in being discipled and making disciples that are passionate about extending what Christ first extended?
I’m so glad you asked!
Did you know most first-time guests decide within seven minutes if they’re going to come back or not (Searcy, Fusion)? Or that there is a 16 percent chance a first-time guest will return, but an 85 percent chance they will return after a second visit (McIntosh, Beyond the First Visit)?
Biblical hospitality does three things:
Biblical Hospitality … Gospels
In Genesis, God created the most hospitable place for His people. A place of freedom, void of shame, guilt or anxiety. A place created for Adam and Eve to dwell with God, to be loved, cared for, accepted and communed with.
The Bible tells of many places God created to commune with His people, even when being denied.
In Exodus, God gave instructions to create new hospitable places, the tabernacle and His temple. God’s heart was that His presence would restore His people to Himself. But, His free-willed people, would, again, deny God.
After years of silence, John 1:14 tells us God sent Himself as His
only begotten Son–Jesus!
God became a physical man with arms that hug, hands that wash and heal, a heart that seeks to extend hospitality to His people.
Though God’s people denied Him, God continues to pursue by sending His Spirit in Acts! If we choose Him, He makes us the Garden, the temple and like Christ.
God has chosen to dwell inside His delight, making us the honorable hosts of His hospitality!
Still, He promises His best is yet to come. One day, He’ll receive us in His heavenly hospitable kingdom.
When we realize the truth of the gospel, we should be compelled to help restore what’s been broken in those we come in contact with, especially church guests.
Reception, restoration, redemption.
Biblical Hospitality … Glorifies
… Jesus, not culture.
Some churches have, unfortunately, gotten off track. These days, there is much competing for the attention of people and for the attentions of the Church.
Christ followers have to be anchored in 1) loving God and 2) loving people.
My friend says, “You can only take two things with you to heaven: The Word and people.”
Despite what culture says about how best to love people, extending biblical hospitality is key.
We’re called to be culture shapers, not allow culture to shape us.
Every night, I pray over my little boy that God would mold him into a kingdom builder, culture shaper and world changer! Truly, our hearts’ desire for our children should be the same for ourselves and others! The Church must lead this for the sake of the next generation!
In a Christianity Today article about “The Leavers” of Church, Barna Group was cited as estimating that by age 29, 80 percent of the church population will become “disengaged” with church culture.
The Church has to remain anchored so we don’t lose people in the chaos. Someone will always out-entertain the Church, so stay focused.
A powerful tool of the enemy in Western culture is distraction. But, biblical hospitality is counter cultural:
It’s community vs. cliques while encouraging others with the freedom to be themselves.
It’s a grace culture vs. a shame culture.
Its depth vs. entertainment.
Biblical hospitality glorifies Jesus, not culture.
Biblical Hospitality … Graces
Biblical hospitality meets people where they are so that life change can happen. Just like what God did for us.
The Greek word for hospitality used in the Bible means to love “strangers.”
In Luke 10, at the end of the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked, “Which one proved to be a neighbor to the man attacked by bandits?” The man replied, “The one that showed mercy.” Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
That’s the heart of hospitality to our neighbors who, if we’re honest, are mostly strangers.
Christ-followers know Jesus is real because we’ve experienced Him. He has continued to graciously reveal Himself to us through many ways, mostly through people.
We have the opportunity to be “Jesus” to someone every day, not just on Sunday mornings.
My friend, Jason Young says, “how you feel about a guest walking in will be directly reflected in how they feel about you when they walk out.” It also has an impact on how they feel about God and the Church.
Ultimately, Hospitality is more than a potluck (although, that can be a very spiritual experience), it’s Gospel-ing people.
Ephesians 2:19-22 speaks to how God desires to use us to extend His hospitable heart–one of the main purposes of the Church: “You’re no longer wandering
exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer
strangers … You belong here … He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles…for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
If we know the purpose of the Church, do our pursuits align?
Jesus is the cornerstone–the ultimate example of hospitality.
Hospitality shouldn’t be something we tag on. It should be the cornerstone in our mission to evangelize and make disciples.
Seeking to develop a purposed hospitality ministry will only facilitate accomplishing those eternally significant goals.
What a hope! What a joy! What a responsibility!
Published May 30, 2018