Monday, October 15, 2007

Offering Hospitality

I want to suggest that the church needs to recover the practice of offering hospitality to the world around us. How might a "hospitality approach" tweak or adjust the ways in which we think about mission? Have you ever experienced something that might be called "the hospitality of heaven"? Any Scriptures light up in a particular way when we frame the question in this way?


josenmiami said...

Good topic Brian…and an important one. I think this is a real key to outreach in our current “postmodern” context. People, especially young people, need to be invited into functioning homes/families where they can see the light of healthy committed relationships.

I remember several years ago when Paul P. brought a message saying that rather than inviting people to our churches, we should invite them “into our relationships.” When unbelievers are brought into a set of committed, believing relationships, into community, they “see” the mutual love and the functioning grace that happens when there are two or more gathered. “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

My most effective witness with secular young people has been when we invite them to our home, and they see the kind of relationship Debbie and I have, and we have with our children. It almost always makes a significant impact…and usually they either have to put up their walls and quickly distance themselves from us, or they “drop their shields” and find themselves locked into our tractor beam and gradually being drawn closer to Christ.

This was the way of the Celtic Church to disciple barbarian tribes (George Hunter). They formed communities of faith, and then invited the tribal chiefs in for hospitality to “see” the community of heaven.

Robert said...

Great theme...exploring the role of hosptiality in the early Church...and ours. I will be back on this one. I am in the top of the ninth with the Rockies hanging on to 6/4 lead and trying to win this thing to go to the series. Pardon my momentary priorities.

It's over...the Rockies just did it and hopefully will play Boston in the finale...because I can't wait to have a lot of fun with Brian.

This doesn't matter in the light of what we are talking about...I am just enjoying the moment. Thanks for your indulgence...

Brian Emmet said...

I like the ways in which 'hospitality' can offer us a different angle into mission, witness, etc. I'm not saying it is THE way to think about these issues, but it prresents another perspective that frees us from the conflict/warfare/struggle metaphors that we often use.

Our hospitable God hosts us generously, even in the presence of our enemies. Creation itself, and God's daily sustaining of it, is an act of incredible and unfathomable generosity on his part. After all, God has no need of galaxies, space and time--we do! Joseph's practice of Paul's counsel to invite people into our relationships is spot on--thanks!

Jeremiah said...

I think it is pretty hard to create a community of faith without having relatively open homes where people are sharing meals etc. I know my mom and dad basically have a "no knock" policy, which is pretty open, but it does get the idea across and make people feel very very welcome.

Brian Emmet said...

Do not repay evil for evil... Do not take revenge, but leave room for God's wrath... On the contrary:

'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink... you will heap burning coals upon his head (citing Proverbs 25:21).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:12 ff.)

Sounds like one application of hospitality, namely to those we find to be our enemies.

steve H said...

I would love to say a lot about this one. It was on a tape by Dick Scroggins that I first remember "seeing" that hospitality is what we should look for as a sign that someone is ready for (or worthy of) the gospel as in Matthew 10. If that is so important before one receives the gospel, how much more for those of us who have received. My research into the church of the first few centuries A.D. indicates that hospitality was one of the primary characteristics of believers and of Christian communities.

josenmiami said...

if hospitality is that important (and I believe it is)... how do we evaluate the impact of moving out of the home and into specialized buildings?

steve H said...

Although I'm no fan of specialized buildings, I think where the people of God "assemble" to offer prayers and celebrate eucharist and study the Scriptures is probably a secondary issue. In fact, the case could be made that these sorts of
"assemblies" might well be open only to members. But, in the bigger picture we who follow of Jesus are called to be the community of the King, a people who the whole of our lives in terms of our King and His Kingdom. And hospitality is, I believe, a foundational aspect of Kingdom living.

Jeremiah said...

I suppose also it depends on how you use those secondary buildings. VBS in the summertime has historically been a huge "hospitality" point in the US that having a specialized building contributes to. there are many churches in this area that operate day cares or schools, homeschool co-ops, voting booths etc. out of their buildings as well. Once you have the property and building, the opportunities for practicing hospitality to the community are limited only by your imagination. It has been the failure of imagination and a complete abdication of the message of the Kingdom that has made the "specialized buildings" into underutilized real estate sitting vacant 5 or 6 days out of the week and only being used on weekends. Once you embrace the message of the Kingdom you then have a tool that can be used any number of ways all the time to practice hospitality or what not in the practice of bringing Heaven to Earth.

Sam and Cindy said...

Hey guys,

This is a great topic. Sam and Cindy from Atlanta checking in!

We read through the responses that were here last night, and now that we've thought about the discussion and different points you have each made, and the work day is over, we're taking the time to throw in our two cents worth. Cindy is typing.

Hospitality is more of a spirit, or a spiritual attribute, if you will, than an "action." Paul said to "Practice hospitality" in the same paragraph that he said that “love must be sincere." People, churches, organizations, hotels, etc., can offer 'hospitality' but that doesn't make them necessarily 'hospitable', but they could even be 'hostile'!

Hospitality seems to be something more than offering a place to lodge, sit, relax, and be refreshed. It is, like someone said above, something that invites "into our relationships". I see now that it was Joseph quoting Paul P.

If we're not mistaken, offering hospitality in the middle east is (or was back in the day) essentially making a pact or covenant not to do one another harm. (Someone more educated can probably flesh that out, if necessary, but it's an interesting and profound take on hospitality.) If we took relationships so seriously that to break bread together in your home was to essentially swear to protect your guest, even at your own harm, we would either be much more cautious about who we ate with, or would have a lot more devoted friendships!

We're in the (long) process of doing some necessary renovations to the house we moved into in April. Part of the reason we're doing the work of the improvements is to make the house more livable. Part of it is to make it a pleasant and welcoming place to have people over. (Even in the midst of our work, we've continued to have people over, with unpacked boxes, torn up floors, and all.) We also are hoping to begin to build good relationships with our neighbors. There are a lot of families around us who need the light and hope of the gospel. We also believe in the theory of inviting people into your home, your relationships, your home/small group, so that they can get drawn in by the tractor beam Joseph talked about. Because we believe that God has coordinated our living here, we have to believe that he will fulfill his purposes here.

The discussion of "specialized buildings" is an interesting one. I don't know that God has a particular bias one way or another about them, but I would doubt that He's against them, considering that He gave very, very specialized instructions for a specialized tent in the wilderness, and gave His stamp of approval on the building constructed by human hands in Jerusalem. However, church buildings are not constructed for the sole purpose of showing hospitality. The church structure is set up more for the practice of meeting together and offering worship, as opposed to offering hospitality. Could it be that the hospitality that's intended to be expressed in church is toward God? He is gracious enough to reciprocate, but I think that hospitality is the responsibility of the congregation primarily out of their hearts, whether inside or outside of the specialized buildings.

Brian Emmet said...

S&C--great comments! I especially liked the idea of us 'offering hospitality' to God! "I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me something to drink..."

I'd say that hospitality is both a heart attitude and a 'practice,' in the sense of a disciplined, intentional set of interrelated actions. How could we keep more in our minds that every single one of us is a 'guest' in God's creation each and every day? That's an incomplete picture, of course--we are also daughters and sons of God, members of Christ's Body, etc., which go beyond being 'mere' guests.

Brian Emmet said...

Please note the new post about our ACM get-together. After you've checked in over there, please come back over here.

Robert said...


This is a huge topic which has received much attention, especially referencing the writings of early Church fathers. I will try to pull together a few selections. With two days left before traveling to ACM, I will not likely be able to get to it before we are togther in Columbus.

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.