Vol 4:8 Mission and Leading Christ’s Community – Part 4: Showing Hospitality

Jesus in Matthew 28 expressed, “As you go about living your lives, be about making disciples . . . .” As we go about living our lives, as we do what we do during our weeks, we are to be living in such a way that we exemplify the way of Christ Jesus, demonstrate the presence of God’s reign, and participate with people in such a way that we walk alongside of them interpreting and guiding them in becoming followers and disciples of Jesus.

How, then, does that relate to those who may come to us; those who may enter our church buildings, those who make the initiative to engage with us – how are you to be about making disciples of them? Over the years we have had many different kinds of people find their way into our community – how have we learned to respond?

Of course we have been welcoming, but I believe we are to be more than welcoming, our response is to be one of showing hospitality. Showing hospitality is a way of engaging the person whom we welcome. In being hospitable, we become like Jesus in the way he extended hospitality and embraced persons – particularly those who were considered to be outcast. Jesus was constantly showing hospitality to the powerless, the stranger, the destitute, the outcast – inviting persons to dine with him, for them to be at table with him. Jesus also accepted invitations to dine with others, and on occasion, he would invite others to join him, even when they were not invited by the host. Jesus extending of hospitality was more than welcoming persons, it was all about drawing persons into his life, into relationship with him.

When we welcome people into our churches, we often make them feel at home saying “we are glad you are here.” But then, they go on their way. How might it be different if we showed hospitality, rather than merely welcomed people?

Hospitality is a way of extending God’s grace to those whom God loves, whom God brings into our lives. To move beyond welcoming others to extending hospitality is to see others differently than we perhaps normally do. We are led to wonder why God has brought them into our midst. We see their coming as God being active in gift-giving – for us to be a gift to them and they a gift to us. They are not only consumers of what we have to offer, but we receive them as ones whom the Spirit has brought into our midst, because their presence somehow is something God wants to develop in our community. This creates a very different kind of welcoming and engaging environment.

In our church community, we openly express that all whom God brings into our midst are here because God has brought them into our midst. For sure we welcome them, but then we also invite them to consider that they are necessary for us, just as we might be for them. Their stories, their questions, their passions help us develop as a missional community, help us discern how God wants us to be missional, to participate with God in God’s mission. They are changed, the personality of the congregation changes as they become part of us; and they are transformed as well as we become part of their lives.

It is through hospitality that such incarnational connection can take place. We recognize that our lives are shaped by one another, as we walk alongside one another, with one another, as together we seek to walk with Jesus as his disciples. In showing hospitality we invite everyone whom God brings into our lives, and as they respond to this hospitality that is shown, we are invited into their lives – and together we see how God is shaping us to be a living community that demonstrates God’s shalom purposes in the world. In being a pastor to such a community, it is important to lead in such a way that not only models such hospitality, but also transforms the DNA of a community to be hospitable in the way of Jesus. Even when God brings people into our midst with whom we are uncomfortable – such as homeless persons, or person with addiction problems, or persons living different kinds of lifestyles, in committing ourselves to be hospitable, we engage them in such a way that they (and we) might experience the loving, gracious, hospitable embrace of God.

Being missional in this way leads us to realize that God is always the one who initiates and carries out God’s mission. In being embraced by God’s mission, we are called to show hospitality and embrace all whom God is sending our way to embrace. In this way we will discover ourselves becoming more like Jesus!

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl