|May 07 2012 | written by: admin|
|Hospitality at Church|
By Stephen Baxter
Friendliness, Fellowship and Hospitality . . . Churches like to be known as friendly, welcoming and inviting. And that is not a bad thing, but is it all we should be?
We can define ‘fellowship’ as: “a body of individuals joined together through similar interests, beliefs, and brotherhood.” In general, churches do join in fellowship through worship, events and community outreach activities. Yet often friendliness has more to do with finding people who have a similar educational background, lifestyle and values. We find these people friendly because they are comfortable to be with and a “good fit”.
But God expects more of us than that. At the heart of our faith is that God welcomes all of us home into his family. Although we are strangers to God, and quite incompatible, he nevertheless invites us into relationship. While the Bible is clear that both fellowship and hospitality are important parts of church life, it is clear that we are not to have one without the other.
Fellowship between Christians is a foundational part of our life together. So is hospitality. But hospitality is more than being in relationship with other Christians. It is about being open, vulnerable, and relational with strangers and those who don’t fit in.
One example is a story in the Bible* where it tells how a tax collector called Matthew became one of Jesus’ disciples. He approached Matthew and called him to follow along with him. The next thing you know, there’s a party at Matthew’s place and his tax collector friends show up. The Pharisees are offended, but Jesus explains these are exactly the people he came for. Just as it would be silly for a doctor to avoid sick people, it would be ridiculous for Jesus to avoid sinners.
Here Jesus demonstrates that hospitality is more than mere fellowship between friends – it is showing hospitality to the stranger. He shifts the focus from our own comfort to that of the heart and mission of God, to reaching out to those who need befriending, healing and family.
What it really means to ‘offer hospitality’
* This story is found in the gospel of Matthew in the Bible. You can read it here: Matthew 9:9-13