“When God’s people are in need. Be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:13 NLT
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7 NRSV
In the movie Beauty and the Beast, the residence of the Beast’s house sing “Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test…we only live to serve.” That is a great description of the practice of hospitality. But home is not the only place we practice hospitality. Practicing Hospitality is a key ingredient for a healthy, growing church. Paul in Romans 12:13 in the Message Bible tells the church to “Be inventive in hospitality.”
What does it mean for the church to practice hospitality? Robert Schnase in his book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, says: “radical hospitality is authentically going beyond expectation, to offer gracious invitation, reaching out to others, and becoming truly welcoming as a congregation because we have experienced God reaching out to us in Jesus Christ.”
The Greek word for “hospitality” means “to have a fondness for strangers, to receive strangers and treat them as guests by providing lodging, food and friendship.” Hospitality is allowing room in our life or in our church for the outsider, the stranger, the person who is not yet here. Hospitality is love in action. We are talking about love that is not pretense or politeness, but authentic, love that requires concentration and effort. Genuine love demands our time, money and personal involvement.
I recently attended a workshop on creating a culture of hospitality in our church led by Dr. James Ozier, a UMC pastor from Texas. He described the practice of hospitality this way: “We can be the bridge people walk over to Jesus.”
Our church should always be ready to welcome guests. Guests are highly anticipated, eagerly awaited, and exceedingly loved. That’s what we want guests to experience when they walk through our church doors, or when we meet them in the community at large. We are not part of the church to please ourselves or push our agenda, rather we are to be the bridge which others can walk across to meet Jesus. If you are a member or a regular attender of Antigo United Methodist Church, you are not in worship on Sunday morning just to be a consumer, you are here to love and serve Jesus through serving others.
On Sunday, September 9, as our fall season gets under way, we are going to learn some tips on how we can create an even more welcoming atmosphere at Antigo United Methodist Church. Our next “Big Day”, will be on October 7, when we make that special effort to invite someone to come to worship with us. But we want to be prepared every Sunday, every meeting, to welcome those who may be new to our church gathering, or who have not yet met Jesus. So plan to attend worship at 10:00 A.M. on Sunday September 9, as we learn to put into action the words to the song: “Come be our guest, Come be our guest, put our service to the test!”
See you in worship!
Grace and Peace