Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your Place or Our Place?

What comes to mind when you hear the word hospitality? Some may think of hotel staff that provides a warm greeting to the new arrivals that are ready to check in. Others may think of restaurant staff that is eager to seat you at a table so you can order food. But what about hospitality in our homes and churches?

I was beginning to think that it had all but disappeared until this past year. We’ve attended several churches over the past 15 years and while we’ve invited others into our home for food and fellowship it was only on rare occasions that it was reciprocated. This left us feeling isolated and longing for true friendships that went beyond the “’How are you?’ ‘I’m fine’” stage.

How is it that we can be in churches with 300+ people and yet we don’t really know one another? I honestly believe it is because we have put church into this little box and we don’t allow it to spill over into other areas. Do you remember the little fingerplay:
“Here is the church.” (hands clasped together with fingers tucked inside.)
“Here is the steeple.” (forefingers taken out and put up.)
“Open the door and see all the people.” (invert hands and wiggle fingers to represent the people.)

That little rhyme has it all mixed up. The church is not simply the structure that people go to but instead it is the believers that come together. The fingerplay would be better if it said: “Here is the building. Here is the steeple. Open the door and see all the church.” For this reason we have tried to be more deliberate in our speech when we are talking to our children and instead of saying “We’re going to church.” We say “We’re going to be with the church.” Of course, it’s not a big deal to mix up the phrases but it is important that we always remember what the church is.

Over this past year we have been in and out of the homes of so many members of the church (both from our local church body and others) and have had the privilege of hosting many in our home as well. There are so many joys to be had over a simple dinner, games and sharing family worship with others. It takes us beyond the rote conversations and digs deeper where relationships begin to grow. We were once feeling starved for friendships and now we are so blessed that we couldn’t even imagine moving away from Phoenix (despite my longing for green).

There are many excuses that we make to not have others over and I thought that I would take a moment to address some of them.
• The number one excuse is simply a lack of intention. When you have that conversation on Sunday with the person sharing the pew with your family and they say “We should get together sometime” stop right there and make plans for that current week to actually get together. So often we say that we want to see someone but week after week goes by and then we simply stop saying it because it’s a bit embarrassing to say it once more. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
• We are simply too busy. It’s a common fact that Americans are busy and we are great about overloading our schedules with sport practices and games, music rehearsals and concerts, and church programming. If we say that we are too busy then it is time to do something about that and begin eliminating activities that draw us away from our home. Carve out at least one night a week that is open for having people over.
• We don’t have the space or a home of our own. I can absolutely sympathize with this statement and can share what we have done to overcome. Don’t feel limited to the walls where you reside to invite people into. Arrange for dinner at a local park or consider meeting at a cheap restaurant. We have also been known to bring all of the ingredients for dinner over to a friend’s house and prepare it there.
• Funds are tight and we can barely feed our family let alone feeding someone else’s every week. Don’t worry- no one seems to have money these days and beans and rice go a long way. Here’s one of our favorite meals that stretches the food easily:
Chipotle Chicken with Beans and Rice
 Cook dried pinto beans in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes and place in a bowl.
 Cook brown rice for 30 minutes on stovetop.
 Toss in four or five boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (you can usually get these on sale for $0.99/lb) into pressure cooker.
 Puree a can of chipotle peppers and spoon in about a third of it onto the chicken. (Freeze the rest for future vistors.)
 Slice up an onion and throw that on top of the chicken along with some cumin and fresh garlic and a cup of broth.
 Pressure cook for 15 minutes and viola your chicken is ready to be shredded up with a fork.
 Tear up some lettuce and have everyone pile the beans, rice and chicken on top along with tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, cheese and avocado (on sale typically for $0.25 each).
We rarely serve a dessert (sometimes people who are coming over offer to bring one) and always have water with our meals, so there is no additional expense.
• No one has ever invited us over. Start a new trend in your church and talk to your pastor about the importance of hospitality. Maybe you can get him on board and the church can get some motivation straight from the pulpit!
• I wouldn’t know what to do with visitors. This is the fun part!  Have fun! Learn a new game. We love playing card games but there are tons of great games to be discovered. Visit Goodwill (my favorite store) and pick up a game super cheap.
o Do Family Worship together. We make it a goal to share our family worship with anyone that comes over in the evening. We stick to the same routine but just add them in so they can choose a favorite song and pray with us.
o Do an activity together. The past couple of years I have coordinated a Gingerbread decorating event for friends. The only problem is I don’t have a home of my own to host this in. So what’s to be done? I asked a dear friend if we could use her home and she was thrilled to help out with this. Now, several parents and their children get together with ooey gooey icing and candy treats to create masterpieces while making a joyful noise in singing.

Showing hospitality isn’t just a matter of courtesies that we ought to extend to one another but it is something that God specifically chose to show us in His Word. For instance in 1 Peter 4:9 we are told “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” In the Bible hospitality is often in the form of proving lodging for the traveling teachers. This need is still here and I am thankful for the times when Brad has had to travel distances to teach that made it where he couldn’t make it back to our home that night and someone in the congregation offered him a place to stay. These overnight visits provided him a respite before starting the journey back home and at the same time he has gained friendships with the host families. Even if you are unable to host someone for an entire night, God still directs “Let brotherly love continue.” Hebrews 13:1. What better way to show brotherly love than to extend hospitality.

This is the perfect time for launching out in hospitality. Look around your church and see if there is a widow or older couple that may enjoy having dinner with you. Could there be a new young family in your church that just moved across the country and has no extended family close by? You could be an “adopted” aunt, uncle or even grandparent! Consider inviting a church leader and his family over for fellowship. Remember, they need friends too. Start filling in your calendar and you will soon see your heart filling with brotherly (and sisterly) love!

1 comment:

  1. I love this article. I have been lamenting about the unfriendliness in my new church. No outreach to each other. But I have always been so fearful about extending hospitality myself. I am and older adult but I know I need to pray about all this. By the way, Valerie Smith (you apparently attend the same church) sent me information about you and Brad and what you are doing.