Article by Kendra Gerbrandt
I love helping out with children. I am always willing to jump in and buckle my friend’s kids into their car seat, or wipe that runny nose. But I will never forget the afternoon I was at a new friends’ house and they thrust their child into my arms because dinner prep was getting out of hand. I wasn’t surprised because I didn’t know what to do with their squirming child; I was surprised because I wasn’t used to that kind of hospitality. Yes, hospitality! I don’t mean the kind of hospitality we often think of when we host people, a perfectly set table and soft background music. I mean the kind of hospitality that says, “You belong here, even in the chaos that we are experiencing right now.” With everything that was going on with meal prep, my friends would not have gotten an award for being good hosts, but in my book, they get a gold star for being hospitable. Why? Because they treated me like I belonged there. I wasn’t treated like an outsider who was awkwardly observing them in their space. I was invited to participate, truly participate, even if it meant entering into their chaos with them. I was fully welcomed.
For most of my life the notion of true hospitality has been crowded out by ideas of hosting. Think about having someone over to your home. Do your thoughts wander to all the things that need to be cleaned up first? Do you wonder if you have time to prepare any food and get the house (and your life) just a little more organized before they arrive? There is something beautiful about having intentional spaces that are created for our guests to enjoy, but hospitality is more than the excellent hosting of guests. True hospitality moves people from feeling like a guest, to knowing that they belong. It is all about welcoming people in.
There is good biblical warrant for this as well. Think about the history of God’s people. We need to remember that they used to be slaves in Egypt. They used to be outsiders from a relationship with God, but when he miraculously rescued them from slavery, he welcomed them in to a new community with him. God made them his people (not Pharoah’s people) and because they now belonged to God they were supposed to treat others with the same attitude they received from God, an attitude of extending hospitality toward others (Deuteronomy 10:19, 24:17-22).
The apostle Peter writes that believers in Jesus have experienced this same welcome from God, “once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (1 Peter 2:10). He is saying that Christians used to not belong to God, but through Jesus’ death and resurrection they have been rescued from sin and rebellion, and now belong to God. As people who have received this radical hospitality from God, we are to seek to show this generous attitude of hospitality to others (Romans 12:9-21).
This attitude of hospitality ought to influence every sphere of a Christian’s life, but one specific area that I’ve been pondering lately is how can we show hospitality each Sunday as we gather together? How can we say “you belong” to those we bump shoulders with as we gather as Christ City?
A few years back author Rebecca McLaughlin tweeted three simple rules for engaging in a church gathering that have stuck with me. Let me explain how her three ideas can help shape an attitude of hospitality as we gather each week, helping us communicate to others that they belong.
1. Sitting alone is an emergency!
On occasion people like to sit alone. Maybe they need some quiet contemplative space before the Lord. Maybe they are slowly re-entering public spaces post-COVID. But most often people sit alone because they come alone. They might live alone and always arrive by themselves. Their family members might not be Christians and week after week they come by themselves to worship God with his church. A spouse might be out of town or sick, and this person hasn’t attended church alone in years.
A hospitality mindset doesn’t put the onus on the alone person to “find someone to sit with”. Rather hospitality takes the ownership to say, “I see you; you belong here with me.” Hospitality is on the lookout for someone walking in alone, and invites them to sit with you. Hospitality notices someone who is sitting alone, and causes you to pick up your things to go sit with them.
It doesn’t really matter the reason why someone is sitting alone, sitting alone is (usually) an emergency! If we want to be a hospitable church, one way to communicate “you belong” is to sit with people who are alone.
2. Your friends can wait.
It is an undeniable blessing to be able to worship alongside other people. When those people are your dear friends, it can feel like double the blessing! To be able to have fun with, share life with, and grow deeper in faith with our friends is a gracious gift of God.
One of the most hospitable things those of us with deep friendships at Christ City can do is to remember that our friends can (and will) wait for us. The reality is, we will always have another chance to speak with our friends. They will either wait around for us or will shoot us a text later in the day. But people we don’t know won’t wait around for us to say hi. If we only ever talk with our friends on Sundays, we will miss opportunities that God has prepared for us to serve others who are also in need of friendship, growth, and encouragement.
If we want to be a hospitable church, one way to communicate “you belong” is to remember that our friends can wait, and be intentional about talking with someone we don’t know very well, before we visit with our friends.
3. Introduce a new person to someone else.
There are a lot of unknowns when you are in a new place. Think about the last time you were in a new place and didn’t know anyone. Did you know exactly where to go, or what to do, or who to talk to? Even if new experiences don’t overwhelm you, there is still objectively a lot that you need to figure out when you are somewhere new.
Hospitality is aware of these challenges and takes the initiative to make the first introductions. For those of us who feel like we belong with Christ City, this is an opportunity to meet someone on their journey from being a guest, to belonging.
It is significant, though, that Christians don’t just belong to God, we also belong to each other. In order to help our brothers and sisters in Christ feel welcome among us we should not only introduce ourselves, but we should also introduce them to someone else. This small step exponentially increases a new person’s connection on a Sunday, and helps them learn who they belong to, and who belongs to them.
If we want to be a hospitable church, one way to communicate “you belong” is to take the initiative to meet new people and then introduce them to someone else.
You are the hospitality team.
Christian, part of belonging to Christ and ministering to his church is having an attitude of hospitality. God has welcomed us so graciously into his family and has called us to the ministry of loving one another. As we intentionally connect with our brothers and sisters on a Sunday morning, we are communicating that “you belong” here with us.
As you prepare to gather with the church this Sunday, why don’t you spend some time asking God to help you see someone who you can welcome. Who can you sit with? Who can you give up your prized seat in order to prioritize the people you are worshipping alongside with? Who can you speak with? Who can you introduce to someone?
Who will you minister to this Sunday with hospitality?