I wanted to share with you an article that was sent to me this week about being a hospitable church. It was written by Tom Bandy and serves as a good reminder on how to welcome the stranger in our midst, especially in worship. For as Dietrich Bonheoffer once penned, “The church is only the church when it exists for those who are not a part of the church”.
Most churches have learned that hospitality increases worship attendance … but they rarely go far enough. Radical hospitality is the readiness, not just to do what you like only better, but to do what you do not like for the sake of the newcomer. Imagine the hospitality offered by a loving family when the favorite son brings his bride home for the holidays for the very first time! They bend over backwards to welcome her, feed her the food she likes, give her the best seats, the best views, the best service, indeed, the best of everything. They do this because their heart is bursting with affection both for the favorite son, but also for his new bride and companion in life.
The same spirit should drive church hospitality on a weekly basis. You can’t just welcome a stranger. You have to love the stranger. You love them so much that you find out all you can about them, and then change your habits to make them feel totally at home. After all, this stranger is being invited to enter a covenant that is every bit as deep and lasting as the covenant of marriage. You are forming a companionship for life in mission. If you love them, learn from them, adapt yourself to them … then as they in turn become members of your family, they too will love the next stranger, learn from them, adapt themselves to them … and so on and on.