At a recent leaders night at church I spoke on radical hospitality using Schnase's book as the base for our discussions.
During our opening time of worship we were reminded that hospitality is inviting people into a relationship with God. "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Romans 15:7 ESV)
Hospitality is more than a handshake at the door and a coffee handed to you after the service.
Schnase says Fruitful Congregations
- Naturally turn outward
- Know that their work focuses on those not yet here
- Are missional, open and inviting
- Know it's not about them but about the strangers yet to be invited and welcomed
In churches that practice radical hospitality there is a desire to invite, welcome, receive and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ.
Jesus said "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35 ESV)
We watched a clip about a church faced with closing it's door but exploring what hospitality means to the church.
We were reminded that hospitality isn't the work of one person or a committee but a lifestyle. As the body of Christ, God calls us to welcome everyone, seven days a week, wherever we are.
In table groups we recalled our own experiences of walking into a church for the first time. We thought about what made us feel welcomed, where we found it easy or hard to connect. We also discussed the role of hospitality in our experience of church.
(At this point we decided to have a quick break and try out the supper hospitality)
Schnase says, in churches practicing radical hospitality, newcomers intuitively sense that:
- These people really care about me here
- They really want the best for me
- I'm not just a number, a customer, or an outsider here
- I'm being invited with them into the body
"To become a vibrant, fruitful, growing congregation requires a change of attitudes, practices, and values. Good intentions aren't good enough. Too many churches want young people as long as they act like old people, more newcomers as long as they act like old timers, more children as long as they are quiet as adults, more ethnic families as long as they act like the majority of the congregation" (pg27)
More questions we looked at in table groups were
- Why do people need Christ
- Why do they need the church (although there's another question there if you take the 'why' out of the question)
- What does your church provide for people seeking a relationship with Jesus?
- When can welcoming become a manipulation of a church guest?
We also looked at hospitality as part of a discipleship process, as we each grow in our relationship with Christ.
Questions on this were
- What are the greatest gifts you've received through the church from your relationship with God?
- What do you feel has been your greatest contribution to building the body of Christ?
- What contribution to the body do you want to seek/make
- What contribution have you made in inviting/welcoming someone to the body?
In each of the table discussions group members were encouraged to only answer those questions they felt comfortable in sharing with the group. We also had opportunity for the table groups to share what they were comfortable with in the larger group.
We then looked at the ways someone new to the church can connect with the church. We talked about the pathways and ministries the church has in place to help people grow as disciples and opportunities for the church to show hospitality in those different areas.
Everyone is responsible to pray, plan and give their best in ministry to help people feel invited and welcomed.
We finished with one last table discussion, asking two questions.
- If you are part of a ministry team, how do you see your team enhancing radical hospitality
- What's your next step? How are you growing in discipleship and showing hospitality to someone in your congregation?
We had some really good discussions around hospitality. There was good reflection on how our church sees hospitality and some exploring of what hospitality could look like in the future.