Where Does Jesus Live in Your Church - Part 4
December 5, 2016
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This is the fourth in an eight part series on congregational culture and its importance for faith formation. (Here are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).
Church Culture and Hospitality
A decade ago Group Publishing asked 10,000 teenagers what they valued most in a church, and #1 on the list was “a welcoming atmosphere where you can be yourself.”
Recently the Fuller Youth Institute asked 500 high school seniors what they wished they had experienced more of in their church, and their #1 response was “more time for deep conversations.”
Bob and Laura Keeley explored what qualities are foundational for growing in faith, and they discovered that the #1 quality is to be part of a community where you know deep down in your bones that you belong.
All three of these discoveries point to the same reality: teens (and, I would argue, all of us) long for congregations that embody a hospitable church culture. Deep conversations happen in places where you can be yourself, and such places are hospitable places, places where we know we belong.
Being hospitable feels simple, but it is quite difficult. Jesus was condemned by religious leaders for the company he kept:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15: 1-2). When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2: 16-17)
Jesus was condemned by the religious leaders for being hospitable.
A couple thoughts on hospitality:
Ponder these thoughts:
You can see the common thread here: each situation was one-directional.
What happens as congregations practice two-directional hospitality?
Two-directional hospitality creates more room for Jesus to live in our congregations. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve seen it become real:
I’m sure as you read these, many more such examples came to mind. Every congregation I know that practices such hospitality will talk about “being stretched out of our comfort zones” and “our church became a more messy place.” Yes, it’s a bit scary.
But it sounds like amazing Advent gospel to me.
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Thank you Syd for not only talking about the "theory" of hospitality but giving concrete examples of what it can look like. Often I think we use words without really understanding what we are meaning.
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