As I prayed over what to share with you this week and was asking the Lord what His message was for you, a Bible passage popped into my head. I’m sharing in a written post this week, rather than a video, but please watch “A Helping of Hospitality #1,” and “A Helping of Hospitality #2,” if you haven’t already joined me for this series.
This is a little post with a big thought, or it was for me.
First, though, I’d like to expand our thinking about where hospitality takes place. Hospitality doesn’t only take place in the home. I’ll be talking more about this in future posts. But, for now, I want to expand your thinking, if you’ve never thought of it before, to be aware that you can and should show hospitality outside your own home. There are many times that you’re the one “at home” and you can make a real difference in the life and experience of a “new person” or “outsider.” This can be anyone from the new person at your moms’ group to a person from another country experiencing a completely foreign culture. Whenever you’re in a setting where you have come more than once, you’re a “regular” and if there’s a visitor or new person there, you can make them feel “at home” by welcoming them, getting to know them a little and answering any questions they have or giving them a few tips on how to settle in and what they can expect. One of these places to show hospitality that you may not have thought of is the place you worship each Sunday, at church.
When a visitor comes through the door of your church, go over and say, “Hi.” Introduce yourself, and say, “I don’t believe I’ve met you, I’m _____.” Extend your hand, if they have a free hand, to shake theirs. Introduce your spouse and children, if they’re with you. If time is short, just let them know that if they have any questions, they can feel free to ask. Then, if you have responsibilities to get to, politely tell them you have some things to attend to before the service and that it was very nice to meet them.
If there’s time before the service begins, ask them where they’re from, and how they found out about your church. Don’t be distracted. Listen. Care about them! Help them settle in. Show them where to hang their coat, if they have one. If they have children, give them information on what is available for their care, and what time everything will begin, so they know how much time they have. Let them know the location of restrooms, where the nursery is (if your church has one), where the Sunday School classrooms are and what classes are available, if they’re interested in attending, etc. If your church has any printed materials for visitors, get that for them, or a bulletin, if your church has one. Point out places where they can get more information, should they desire it (perhaps a bulletin board, or back table). If you haven’t visited a new church in some time, try to remember how that feels! Be sensitive to their needs and don’t overwhelm them with information. (I think it’s a great idea to take a week off about once a year and visit a new church, if for no other reason than it gives you a whole new perspective on how it feels to walk into a church that you’ve never been to before!) If you have many new visitors each week, be prepared with this information in your hand already, and have a plan. (If your church has no visitor information printed up, maybe this is something you could suggest, or even print up some basic information for people you meet.) Be welcoming, give helpful information, and then introduce them to another person or family from your church, and move on to the next visitor. You may want to keep a little notebook handy to write down at least their first names, and some general information about them. There’s nothing that says, “I care” more than remembering a person’s name the next time you see them, and if you also remember details from your previous conversation, even better!
When you’re at your own church, you are the one “at home.” Have you considered how you’re to treat others who visit? Have you thought of this as showing hospitality? When I asked God what His message was this week for me to share with you, the passage of Scripture that came immediately to my mind was from James 2. I was surprised. And, frankly, convicted. Do we have “respect of persons” in showing hospitality, and loving people? At church? And, perhaps, also when inviting people to our home?
James 2:1-4, 8-9:
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”
Do we choose to invite (to our church or to our home) only those who are beautiful, well-dressed, popular, leaders, people who would make us look good to be seen with them? Successful people? People who seem to have Godly families and no problems? Do we invite people who live in nice houses, and who have nice things? Do we try to get to know those who have expensive toys or do fun activities, in hopes that they’ll invite us to share or participate? Do we invite people who are in the “in” group? Do we want to be part of the class or small group that seems to be having so much fun? And, do we only invite those who we have “something in common with”? Is that what hospitality is about? It seems that God has some harsh words about that.
When we’re at church, do we ask God, “Lead me to who You want me to talk to, Lord. Guide the conversation to whatever You want. If there are needs, help me see them, and use me today.” Or do we always sit with “our friends” and talk to those we feel comfortable with?
Your heart is God’s home, and He desires to love and speak to others through you and your life. Is there openness, sensitivity to others, even awareness of others, or are you only thinking about yourself, your list, your desires, what you’re trying to accomplish, and your own problems?
We often are so consumed with our own things that we don’t even see the opportunities and needs that God places in front of us in our day, and the ways He wants to use us. Or we don’t want to take the time or make the effort, or inconvenience ourselves. When you’re at church, what is your attitude?
If a visitor comes to our group (at church, or anywhere), do we say hello and seek to make them feel welcome? Do we show hospitality when we’re outside of our own home?
What is God’s way, as exhibited in Jesus’ life?
He loved us before we loved Him. While we were yet sinners, (when we were very messed up) Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) He sacrificed, He went out of His comfort zone, He risked rejection, He gave, He was unselfish, He took time, He poured Himself out. With no expectation of anything in return.
This is our example. Let us follow in His steps.