Christian Hospitality is What?


Christian Hospitality is What?

Hospitality is the relationship between the guest and the host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. This includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.

“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear simple fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances.” — Henri Nouwen

Jesus shaped Christian hospitality when he described a scene in which the sheep and the goats are separated on the basis of whether or not they had welcomed, fed and clothed the son of man. “I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me,” explained Jesus. “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Hospitality-NewJesus’ teaching in Luke 14:12-14 provides for another distinctive understanding of hospitality. At a dinner party, he tells his hosts, “When you give a luncheon or dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The practice of hospitality is important not only to strangers and other vulnerable people; it is also crucial for the life of the congregation itself. Hospitality is a means of grace for hosts as well as guests. People, often practicing hospitality, comment that they “got so much more than they gave.” In welcoming a refugee family or caring for a sick neighbor. Hospitality is evangelism and is relationships. People don’t connect with a church; they connect with other people. Before they come to Jesus, they’ll come to you. Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me” (Matthew 10:40) and “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you, rejects me” (Luke 10:16).

In his book, Now Go Forward, J. David Eshleman said the front door to the church used to be worship but today it is relationships. Modern relationships are being built over social media platforms, Internet dating and various apps on cell phones. The church has a responsibility to create ways to engage people. In the past, the traditional way to join a church was for people to believe, then they behave, then they belong. With this approach, people usually need two conversions one to Christ and another to the church. Today, an unbeliever can belong not as a baptized member but in the sense he is accepted and loved by other believers. In belonging, they are able to say, “I feel at home with these believers; they are my family. They understand and love me.” Over time, they believe and then behave.

St. Benedict upheld that “hospitality maintains a prominence in the living (Christian) tradition…the guest represents Christ and has a claim on the welcome and care of the community.” In other words, if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected within us and is showered on those with whom we come in contact. If you are thinking about what might just be the best possible gift for that special person in your life, then you are going to want to consider holyart religious cross jewelry. Of course, you want to make sure that the person you have in mind is someone who actually has religious ties at or the very least, religious interests that would make this a suitable gift. While you are looking at religious cross jewelry as a gift for someone else, you might want to consider whether or not you are in need of any new jewelry. Generally, a woman can never have enough jewelry as there is always an occasion to wear something new and something that is important.

The Book of 1 John makes it plain that when we love others, we are showing our love for God. He loves us completely and unconditionally. Equally, when we love and serve others in the community through hospitality, we are also serving God.

christian-hospitalityFPC shows hospitality in so many ways, through all of its programs, worship and strong missional focus. Examples are our Sunday morning coffee/doughnut time at 9:30 and greeters who spread through the church offering a sense of excellence in hospitality and gratitude. We have 24 adult small groups meeting regularly throughout the week for Bible study and fellowship. At a recent Good Friday noon service, a young couple approached Todd Jones and thanked him for the hospitality and friendliness they had been shown on their first visit to FPC.

The following is a list of ways congregations and, more specifically, you as a member of a congregation can love any and all who walk through your doors. This list is adapted from the book Now Go Forward by J. David Eshleman, who says, “Loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked key to growing a church… The command to love is the most repeated command in the New Testament, appearing at least 55 times.”

1. Every member is a host and not a guest. Making visitors feel welcome is primarily the responsibility of members, not the nebulous “church.”
2. The most important person for a visitor to talk to in order to feel at home in a new church is you. It is not the pastor, or the greeter, but a regular attender. J. David Eshleman says, “One of the most impressive gestures we can extend to first-time visitors is for people with no official position to take the initiative and welcome them.”
3. Treat first-time visitors as guests of God, not strangers.
4. Smile at everyone and offer your hand.
5. Look people in the eye.
6. Take the initiative; don’t wait for visitors to initiate conversation.
7. Learn people’s names and remember them.
8. Use [only] appropriate and allowed touch, such as a handshake or a gentle pat on the back.
9. Ask questions and learn about your guests. It is better to express interest in them than it is to try to “sell” your church.
10. Listening is a very effective way to show love.
11. Greet children at their level.
12. Let children be children.
13. Invite visitors to join you at something, anything!
14. Never let new people sit alone. Eshleman says, “New people should never have to sit alone. Take initiative and go to them without delay.”
15. Help visitors find seating that suits their family’s needs.
16. Help first-time visitors by being their tour guide and helping them find worship resources. Visiting a new church like C3 in New York is like a cross-cultural experience, even for those of us who have visited dozens of other churches.
17. Invite people to fill out your church’s visitor registration card or information.
18. Tell people you’re glad they are here.
19. Pray for them throughout your week.
20. Be Yourself! You are loving! You have a good thing going! You have the capacity to love more people, and to love more deeply. Eschelman says, “Practice making people feel special, and what you give to others will be returned to you.”

While the art of hospitality may come easily for some, it may be quite difficult for others. After all, it’s not always easy to give of yourself, much less your hard-earned gains. And like most things in life, hospitality isn’t done perfectly the first time. But don’t stop trying. When we do it over and over, it truly becomes a comfortable part of our nature. It’s all in perspective.

Hospitality is not a given among Christians; it’s a calling that requires a specific skill set.

By Bill Kirby
Co-Chair Long-Range Planning Committee

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