Day: January 11, 2011

3 reasons missional hospitality is so challenging

1. We have to assume that strangers will be present in our community.

This means we can’t just preach to the converted. We have to embrace the assumption that Paul seems to make in 1 Corinthians 14 — non-Christians will be present.

So we have to embrace accessibility (the expected presence of unbelievers is a big part of why Paul puts a priority on prophecy relative to tongues).

This must go ‘all the way down’ — from our preaching and public prayer to our conversations over coffee.

Tim Keller has some great advice about implementing this. Like not assuming everyone you’re talking with automatically believes or feels comfortable with core gospel truths such as, ‘Jesus died to bear God’s wrath’.

It’s not that Keller thinks you have to make the complete argument every time you mention anything controversial (or potentially controversial). Just that it won’t kill you — and will probably benefit you — to acknowledge that some may think or feel differently.

2. Many of us have got this middle class respectability thing going on.

This can stops us opening our homes or lives to people without substantial preparation.

Maybe it’s just me, but my knee-jerk reaction to having someone over is to rush around cleaning up first. This often prevents me making spontaneous invites.

I think this can apply to our shared spiritual home and life too. Why do we always want to present a sanitised version to visitors (such as with a classic ‘guest service’)?

This is not an argument against regular church cleaning, maintenance or working bees. Nor against doing these things with a view to making people feel comfortable when they turn up.

It’s about our willingness to visibly not have it all together — something that’s among the first things we confess about ourselves when we call ourselves Christian, right?

3. We live in an age of scandal.

What we do with our personal lives and bodies will often be intensely scrutinised. For good reason.

Child Protection legislation — and the broader pressure for Christian people (especially leaders) to be ‘above reproach’ — exists because slipping up in this area is so terrible and tragic.

And we mustn’t assume we’re immune. Sadly, the distance between sinning and not sinning is often measured in units of opportunity and means.

Yet we long to share of ourselves, displaying hospitality and welcome along the lines laid out in (say) Hebrews 13 — where the believers shared their possessions, homes, and lives with each other and with strangers.

And we should act on this longing. But, as we do, we must take special care that ‘the marriage bed [is] kept undefiled’.

We’ve got to work out how to be promiscuous with our money but not with our bodies (as Tim Keller puts it).