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Hospitality

Hospitality springs from an alignment of sharing the heart of God for people, and a generous mindset secure in the fact that we live in the care of God. John Mark Comer pointed out that in the gospels we see Jesus either at dinner, coming from dinner, or on His way to dinner. It is as if he spread the good news of the availability of the kingdom of heaven one meal at a time. And that may be the best way for us to spread the message of Jesus as well. Much evangelistic work falls into the purview of hospitality.

Hospitality is also about creating welcoming environments, so it doesn't even need to be at your home: a place for a child to explore God, a place where a neighbor is welcomed and enjoyed (even celebrated), or somewhere your adult kids know they can come for a feeling of "home".

Cultivating with: Hospitality

There are very few hard and fast rules with any of this. Each person is different so each relationship will look different. No two people's relationships with God and those He loves will look exactly the same. But there are a few suggestions that have worked for others. Here are some resources for the "how-to" of the practice. These, together with some of the articles and such linked below, will help to get you started:

Books:

The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community: by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. This is a great book that gets into the how-to of community, but encourages making space for people who aren't yet believers to be welcomed in your community.

Gunn on One: Jason Avant's Surreal Story - From Gang Member to Philadelphia Eagles WR ro Activist: (Hospitality) You notice something right away in this interview: God responds to the prayers of Jason's grandmother.

This interview has a little of it all. "What", "Why", and "How". What is the vision of what can be in someone's life, the "after" picture of the work of the Spirit in someone's soul. "Why" being the inspiration to get to that picture, and the work of God in Jason's life is certainly inspiring. But "How" is what I settled on. Notice the role his grandmother played by choosing to live in the situation she did, affecting not just Jason but the others that she wanted to shelter, even though they were living against her wishes for them.

As for the "with" practices, this also covers so many. The hospitality of Jason's grandmother from taking him in to praying over him regularly to speaking the higher calling of the Spirit into his life. The woman who put herself in a potentially dangerous situation for the benefit of her own son and for his friend, Jason. His "preacher's son" roommate who convinced him to go to church with him. (One note here, notice that when Jason had the negative influence on the preacher's son, how the preacher's son became humble and did not decide that his wrong actions ruined his potential for positive influence. He took the chance and invited Jason to his church. And Jason went. And met God in a deeper way because of it.) Prayer is seen in Jason describing what he needed while he played in the NFL; he went to church every morning at 6 AM to pray for an hour, then scripture as he spent 30 minutes in the Bible, before going to Eagles practice. Then community and generosity as Jason turned outward living his life for others together with God.

This is a powerful story. Also note: our stories of God's action in our lives are powerful. We don't place our hope and trust in Jesus so that we can go to heaven when we die, though that is our eternal destiny when we do. We place our hope and trust in Jesus because He is near, and we can have a relationship with Him, and that relationship can change our lives, and our life change can bring hope to others. We share our stories as an act of hope and of love.

Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent Van Gogh with Carol Berry: (Hospitality) This link is to episode 224 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. This is a beautiful episode. It brought me to tears. But I don't know that I can explain it. The sacrifices that Vincent Van Gogh made to be truly with those he saw as a mission field and how he loved them, and then for Henri Nouwen to be the one to teach about this... amazing. If you haven't read Nouwen, pick up a couple of his books - they're short and easy reads. The Wounded Healer and The Return of the Prodigal Son are a great place to start.

How God Started a Prison Ministry: with Reverend Bernadette Haddad: (Hospitality) Spotify link to episode # 226 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry.

Throughout this site you will see warnings not to take too much on: live simply, learn to say no, develop margin in your life so that you can be interruptible, etc. I could definitely be faulted for taking that theme too far. I do so because I think that we have a problem of "hurry sickness" in our society. For example, this morning I went out to breakfast. I was in no particular hurry and had two hours to get breakfast, which I was getting at a drive through so I could remain in my heated seat with my sore hip. On the way someone pulled out in front of me and then proceeded about ten miles per hour below the speed limit. I commented out loud to the driver, though they couldn't hear me, "that bad, huh?", translated as "you were in that much of a hurry so as to dart out in front of me mildly dangerously but not in so much of a hurry as to drive the speed limit". I was displeased, though not fuming. Why? I wasn't in a hurry. I had a lot of extra time. What was the problem? Hurry sickness is real.

But there is a flip side to that coin. What about when we have enough margin to say yes to things. One article on this site is "Say No to Say Yes". God is present and active in our world. As any good Father, He loves to do stuff with His kids - meaningful stuff especially. And He has meaningful stuff that can offer purpose to each and every one of us. He calls "Come with Me" when He offers this invitation. This link is to a story of a pastor who was having a "bad church day" and was looking for something else meaningful in her life, another way to serve with Her Father. (I prefer "serve with" as opposed to "serve" because that is what we are doing, "serving with" our heavenly Father. He doesn't really need us to serve Him, He is all set and needs nothing, but He loves it when we "serve with" Him.) Anyway, He did indeed have something meaningful for her to do with Him. It started with her prayer, and then saying yes to an invitation.

Do you feel like God must have something more for you? Chances are good that it involves joining Him in something He is doing. Pray, and listen for an invitation, though you may need to seek one out. "Keep knocking, keep seeking."

Radically Ordinary Hospitality / Eating and Drinking Episode 1: (Hospitality) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

This is a wonderful idea, admittedly one I do not take part in, but I feel like that needs to change. I want that to change. I need to change that in my life. This episode is spent explaining how Jesus won people: by eating and drinking with them around the dinner table. I never really noticed this but it is all over the gospels (John Mark points out that it is especially prevalent in Luke's gospel). It is simple. And it is attractive to the world around us. In a sad commentary, John Mark references one author who was a part of the LGBTQ community and she commented how her community does hospitality far better than the Christian community. That needs to change.

Here is the sermon in video formal on Vimeo:

Justice Summit: Session 1: (Hospitality) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

There have been several words and phrases that originally meant something different, but have been so adapted by politics so as to change the meaning in our cultural setting. Understand that this phrase is meant in its classical context and not in its current political one. Social justice is something Jesus invites us into: caring for the poor and marginalized, invitation into community for those who have been left out and forgotten, widows and orphans in the vernacular of the Old Testament,m but includes so many more today: the homeless, the mentally handicapped, the elderly who are shut in or forgotten in homes for the elderly, the very poor, etc. Jesus tells us that what we do for these, we also do for Him. But it is also true that what the Holy Spirit prompts we do but fail to do, we also fail to do for Jesus.

In this lecture, Tyler Staton does a very good job redefining social justice back to its classical terms and helps to explain what the Holy Spirit is inviting us to become a part of today.

Here is the lecture in video format on Vimeo:

Following Christ in Our Work: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Dallas Willard. If I understand correctly, men, moreso than women, tend to compartmentalize their lives. This includes compartmentalizing our work apart from the rest of our lives. In some ways this can be good and helpful, a police detective that sees the dark side of humanity being able, at least to some degree, to leave that at the exit of the police station before heading home can help to shield his family from what he experiences. But compartmentalizing the career is also what can prevent an invitation of the flooding of the Holy Spirit into our work. But our work is meant to be good. It was one of the original commandments at creation: be fruitful and multiply. "subdue" (creatively care for through work) the earth. This was meant to be done in creative connection to, and empowered with, God. That hasn't changed. Our work is how we help to care for the earth, people, animals, in creative union with God. This is true whether we produce in manufacturing or building, repair as an auto technician or plumber, entertain as a singer or actor, share knowledge as a teacher or professor, help others find meaning and purpose as a pastor or philosopher, care for the soul as a counselor or psychologist, or any manner of work.

But what if we didn't separate our work from our God? What if we invited the Holy Spirit to baptize our work into the kingdom of heaven? Might we become a walking invitation for others we encounter in our work to step into the kingdom as well? Maybe we are meant to be ambassadors for Christ not just outside of work, but to those we work with and do business with. If you haven't already, consider asking Jesus to partner with you in your career, and ask to partner with Him in His work at your place of employment. Heavenly Father, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, in me, in my career, as it is in heaven.

Telling Others in This Cultural Moment: (Hospitality) Link to the Bridgetown Church website episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast (it was removed from Spotify and this is the only place I could find it).

The speaker does a great job on showing that the heart of the desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others is from a well of love for them. He points out, probably rightly, and we need to do better, that others are afraid to speak to Christians out of fear of being judged. He also shows the other side of the coin. How Christians care deeply for others to come to know the joy and true life found in Jesus Christ, but don't know how, are fearful of turning others off to Jesus, and are imperfect people themselves.

If you are a Christian who wants to invite someone else to explore or experience Jesus, remember that the one you are speaking to has a fear that it will come wrapped in a package that includes condemnation and judgment. If you are not yet a Christian, and someone invites you to explore or experience Jesus, remember that that they are afraid of offending you and turning you off to Jesus and are likely insecure in their asking, but they care about you and want the best for you.

At the end the speaker suggests a program called Alpha. Here is a link to that program. The church I went to for 17 years in Pennsylvania before I moved to North Carolina, Storehouse Church, uses Alpha. If you are in the Plymouth Meeting, PA area, look them up here.

Hiding What They Seek: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Carolyn Arends. I forget where I came across this, whether audibly or in print, but something was talking about how the younger generation is looking for authenticity in a world of fake - fake news, fake social media accounts, everyone only showing their shiny side up on their real social media accounts, politics that is 99% spin, etc. Fake is even invading the church experience. So many churches all across America are populated by people throwing on their "Sunday Best", be that fashion or facial expression, pretending to have it all together even when they say they don't (just listen to the "sins" confessed like "not spending enough time in the Bible" or "failing to pray enough"). Carolyn tells the story of an authentic experience of prayer that a group of public high school students and teacher experienced on a trip to Mexico to help the disadvantaged, and how the reaction of these unchurched people surprised her. The article is an encouragement not to remove Christ from the worship experience in seeker-friendly churches.

Pauses for Advent: Welcoming: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt from Trevor Hudson. What does it mean to be welcoming? Why is being welcoming important? Jesus Himself modeled being welcoming. He often allowed interruptions to His day. As for me, I am far less graceful when I encounter interruptions to my day. Yet things like a simple welcoming smile to a cashier, inviting a co-worker that you do not know well to lunch, or inviting a client having a rough time to sit down and speak with you can mean a lot. Further, what if we become the kind of people that others can trust enough to be free to be themselves and let down their guard around us? What if we invite others to share their stories with us? So many people are hurting, and empathetic listening can often make a real difference. For a long time now I have decided that I want to be the kind of customer that businesses want.  It is important to me to model Jesus in being patient when businesses or doctors offices are running behind, to tip generously whenever I can, and to offer a smile and a thank you and/or compliment for a job done well. It is about seeking to become a welcoming kind of person.

Compassion Starts Near and Small (Streams: Social Jusice) with Richard Foster: (Hospitality) This link is to episode 169 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. Here is another stream that, due to its being politically hijacked, makes me hesitate a little: social justice. But here social justice means simply the idea of doing right by all people and people groups. I like the idea that this is about compassion, and it starts small. Richard and Nathan also point out that well meaning people can, in an attitude of compassion, come to different conclusions on issues, and they encourage us not to condemn others when they come to a different conclusion than our own. They imply that we ought to act in love, then, with those that disagree; not to lay down our beliefs - we can stand firm - but to act in love and hope. They also advise that we release legalism and judgmentalism in this regard. They also add a warning that acting in compassion can become overwhelming and we can work at it so hard that we neglect our own soul care - be aware and avoid that.

Session 2 of the 2019 Holy Spirit Conference: (Hospitality) Link to Bridgetown Church website episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

This is absolutely not an area of strength to me. I include this because of the conviction that it raises in me. One of my biggest fears is looking stupid. Perhaps this is why you see me often reference reputation management, and how we ought not try to control it but instead entrust it to God.

So when the speaker's friend is out on the street praying for people on the street, including prayer for healing, he comes across a woman with arthritis. He has heard that this can be caused by one leg being shorter than another one, so he asks the woman permission to check her leg lengths. Sure enough, one is shorter than the other. At this point, his friend starts shouting for people to gather around to see a miracle. Meanwhile, the speaker says, he is whisper shouting to his friend to "shut up! What are you doing?" thinking how embarrassing this is going to be if the woman isn't healed, and thinking that the woman probably won't be healed. I can identify with the speaker. I would be the one backing away out of the crowd not wating to have anything to do with this. What's worse, his friend then prays simply, "Leg, grow." This is a disaster, right? We don't take these chances, at least I don't. I would be long gone by the time her leg grew, right there and then, and her arthtritis was gone. We live in a God-bathed world. A God who is good, and wants to see good, and wants others to come to know Him and follow Him. I wonder how many miracles and works of God I don't see because I don't believe, because I don't want to look stupid if God doesn't answer the prayer in the affirmative. I wonder how many people I have let down who could have been positively affected by God. Later in the episode the speaker says "Every city is hard to reach when the church stays in the building."

I guess more than anything I include this episode as an act of confession...and hopes that you (and me) will be encouraged to step out more boldly in faith in the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. The speaker rightly frames these kinds of bold steps as acts of compassion. These are acts of boldly Practicing With.

Magnificent Mission: (Hospitality) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Dallas Willard wrote a book called The Great Omission. In it, he talks about how the church is either working for their idea of social justice on one side, or making converts on the other side. But both have forgotten the mission - make disciples of Jesus. He says that when Jesus adds to making disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, He is referring to immersing people into the Trinitarian reality of our God-bathed world.

The Air We Breathe with Glen Scrivener: (Hospitality) This link is to the More to the Story podcast hosted by Andy Miller III in which he discusses ideas found in Scrivener's new book. Twenty minutes in and I am nearly in tears with how amazing these insights are and what they could mean for practical relational Christian evangelism:

1) Having read a little Plato and Aristotle I think he is right in that it seems that the idea of equality is something that wasn't a part of Western values 2000-2500 or so years ago. So where did these values come from? He suggests it is from Jesus. He is right but seeds were planted even earlier than the advent of Jesus. They were planted in the Jewish tradition if I understand the laws of the Old Testament and read the prophets correctly.

2) Scrivener reminds us that people who say they do not have faith to believe in Jesus already live their lives at least in some ways by faith in things they cannot prove. For example, many people believe in equal treatment under the law, equality of opportunity regardless of race or gender or religion, compassion, kindness, etc.

3) He talks about how the call to keeping sexual relations within the context of marriage between one man and one woman helped to bring equality for women - in ancient Greek culture the word for virgin referred only to women and there was no word for a virgin male. The expectation was that women should stay chaste and powerful men could basically act on their libido in whatever way they wanted.

 

He goes on to describe other ways that Jesus had an impact on Western values. While listening to the podcast I bought the book on Kindle. I have since read it and it is quite good.

Are You Really Following Jesus?: (Hospitality) This link is to an episode or the Become New podcast hosted by John Ortberg on BecomeNew.com.

The early church after Jesus' ascension faced terrible persecution. Early Christians often would lose their lives because of worshiping Jesus and because of the different lifestyle that they led.

It is also true that the early church grew like wildfire. Under such persecution, why did so many flock to Jesus? One big reason is because of that different lifestyle. When Jesus told His followers to take up their cross and follow Him, for many of them it literally meant their death. But their living example of the way of Jesus was appealing, demonstrating values that were attractive to many.

In Matthew 4:17, we see Jesus' message was that the kingdom of heaven was here and available. The chapters of Matthew that follow, Matthew 5-7, are a sermon by Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. In it, He explains the heart of the person living in the kingdom of heaven. He wraps up with a call to heed His words and follow Him. His path led to a cross. In some ways, so does the path of His followers. Today we may not face physical death to follow Jesus, but Christianity is falling out of vogue in the western world. It may cost us reputation, friendships, career, social standing, who knows what.

Do we follow? Or are we simply admiring Jesus?

Again, right now there may not be a severe cost, but that could be coming. It is something to consider now. I don't like to step on toes, including my own, but I want us to be aware that this is something we should talk over with God and with our spouse. Are we following, or are we admiring?

Here is that podcast on Youtube:

The Last Song of Little Bird: (Hospitality) Link to an episode of the Become New podcast with John Ortberg. (on BecomeNew.com)

Is it possible for you and for me to courageously face our executioner just before death and pray for him or her to come to know the peace and freedom on offer through Jesus Christ? Jesus prayed for His executioners while He hung on the cross that they may be forgiven. And Jesus told His followers that they would do even greater things than He did. Hopefully we never face that time, but if we do, I also hope that the last thing we do is to hold open the door to the kingdom of heaven for our executioner.

One such man named Little Bird did just that in Africa. Some of his executioners found their way into the kingdom because of what he did. This link is to his story.

Only By Prayer and Faith: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by George Muller. If you don't know the story of George Muller and the orphanage that he started, and the miraculous ways that God provided for it without George Muller ever asking for a thing from anyone (George would only pray to God for its needs), then I recommend that you seek out his story. There is a referenced Veggie Tales video but the link in the article no longer works so here is one that works (as of the time I write this). But this article, written by George Muller himself, explains why he started the orphanage to begin with. Oh, and God worked with Mr Muller (always "with") and multiplied the number of orphanages, orphans helped, and souls won and lifted. 

Being Christian in a Pluralistic Society: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Dallas Willard. Have you ever seen the movie Melancholia? Kirsten Dunst plays a woman who is depressed while everyone around her is seemingly happy. One day the world finds out that another planet is on a collision course to Earth and everyone is going to die... soon. Everyone else gets depressed while Kirsten Dunst's character comes alive. I feel a little like the oddball when I feel hopeful just as I think I see our society moving in a direction against Christianity. The first century church was persecuted and it grew like wildfire. I have heard stories of Christianity's growth in China and North Korea where it is actively persecuted as well as prosecuted. Could it be that Tertullian was right, that "the blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity"? In this article, Dallas Willard says that we ought to take heart as Christians in a pluralistic society, and reminds us that we ought not fear if public sentiment turns against the Christian in such a society. After all, such a problem is not a problem at all for an infinite God that has demonstrated time and again His power when the odds are seemingly stacked against Him. It is then that He can be seen most clearly in a fallen world.

Helping Children Notice God: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Lacy Finn Borgo. While I am not a parent, I do enjoy being around children, as I suspect most people do, even people who say they do not. In this article, Lacy offers practical ways to open conversations with your young children about God. I like that these ideas are simple and hopeful. I didn't know it but a few of these I do already when speaking with children about any topic.

Helping Children Come Away from Distraction to Enjoy God: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Grace Pouch. I know this article is about helping create and encourage spaces where kids can escape from distraction to focus on intentional time with God, but the how-to of paring down and curating a simplified space is a beautiful one for kids and adults alike. I am working on this. I am far from there. Simplicity carries a beauty of white space that helps us slow down and hear the voice of God.

The First Thing Necessary for Salvation: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt from Watchman Nee. There is something so amazingly simple and obvious in the practice of Watchman Nee's evangelism, that I am shocked that I so rarely hear about it at all. (Perhaps it would be helpful to re-read John 16:7-11 to see the three-fold general convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit in this world. Remember that conviction is not the same thing as condemnation.) In this excerpt, Watchman tells us about a conversation with a man who realized that he needed a Savior, but did not want to become a Christian until he had first taken his fill of the temporary pleasures of a sinful life. Nee had the perfect response, “You can tell the Lord all you have told me. He is the Friend of unre­pen­tant sin­ners like you.” Read the article to see how the conversation goes. Another story tells of a girl he spoke with where she said that she wanted to believe but could not find the faith to do so. In that case, too, he invited her to come before God in prayer with him as they asked God for faith for her. Prayer need not be complicated, and we don't need to have words of insight, the Holy Spirit is present and will help (though the other person remains free to choose). Also, I think that the point about a cry of the heart is a good one. While not all conversions are highly emotional, I agree they are relational, Nee says "meeting Jesus", not a dispassionate mental agreement with a fact. One more thing: we all have different viewpoints on theology, and there are a couple of things in here that I don't see the same way (like most of the articles I post), but just like anything, including the things I write, take the helpful and leave the rest.

Hospitality: Making Space for the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by C Randy Shrock. This article is a good reminder. Notice what made the difference in Randy's life. Someone made time for him, listened, included him in what they were doing, and spoke words of encouragement and belief in him. So many are disconnected, discouraged, talked down to by either themselves or others, feel worthless. These simple things that we can all do for each other made a world of difference in the life of this young man. One of the best things I have done was to take an active listening course back in my early twenties, so some thirty years ago. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

Helping Children Make Room for God with Lacy Borgo: (Hospitality) This link is to episode 24 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. I don't have children of my own but I love her approach to spiritual practices with children. It is an invitation and not a command, which I believe in for anyone since we are gifted free will with our lives by God. One of the beautiful practices she has with her own children is to ask them where they saw God that day as she is tucking them into bed - she calls that a thin space between our world and the world of heaven. Some really good ideas here (I think :-) ).

Helping Children Enter into Life with God with Lacy Borgo: (Hospitality) This link is to episode 42 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. Lacy makes the argument in this podcast that we are to help children have an experience of, and relationship with, God. She encourages focusing on the relational and letting/helping children grow into right theology. I don't remember her saying this but it likely has to do with the idea that God meets us where we are, and He invites us into relationship without forcing one. She encourages wonder and creativity and imagination to help kids connect with God.

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