“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
At a recent conference on Church Growth, president and founder of Global Church Advancement, Rev. Dr. Steven Childers, said, “You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st century will be, don’t you?” And there was a huge pause while people waited with great anticipation to hear the key solution about what would bring people into our churches…and then he simply said, “Hospitality!”
He went on to ask those present, “Where will you likely interact most with unbelievers about things that matter most?” Again there was a pause…. And then he provided the answer: “Around your dinner table.” Many at the conference were a bit surprised at this. It was not the answer many expected. Not at church. Not at a service event. No, instead around our own dining room tables.
Recently, we have been reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and the Ephesians. And much of what we have been hearing is about how important it is to show love to our neighbors. In fact, the New Testament word for “hospitality” in Greek comes from a compound of “love” and “stranger”. It means literally, “in love for outsiders.” It is a love that goes out of its way to make someone feel welcome and at home.
In addition, as more and more of the people in our communities in the United States are identifying themselves as “nones” – those who state that their faith affiliation is “none”, we as Christians should be asking ourselves, how can we be more intentional about sharing the Love of Christ with those who do not know Christ or have not grown up in the faith?
Part of what Pastor Childers is saying is that true Christian hospitality is about inviting the outsider and welcoming unbelievers into our ‘own space’ in hopes of bringing Jesus into ‘their space’. It is about breaking bread and sharing meals together, getting to know one another, and taking the time to understand what is important in one another’s lives.
This month we will be welcoming not only a new Intern Pastor and his family (Intern Pastor Kevin Hackney and his wife Kendra and three year old daughter Zoe) but we will also welcome many visitors through our doors. I challenge all of us to consider what it will take to truly make these new ‘strangers’ feel welcome among us.
I will also bet that many of these ‘visitors/strangers’ will already be Christian believers, because non-believers or the “nones” will most likely not come through our door without a personal invitation. And so even more importantly, as we consider the challenge Christ set before us, to go and “make disciples of all nations and people”, the question I want to leave us with this month is, “What will it take for us to be truly hospitable to those who have yet to meet Christ?”
-Enjoy your pondering, Pastor Dan