Some years ago I saw a brilliant video called the Parable of the sea which you can watch here: https://vimeo.com/6407480
The parable is about a lifeboat station, whose mission is to rescue people who are shipwrecked. As time goes on, the success of the lifeboat station results in local people wanting to get involved and a club house being built with better facilities. But before too long people began to voice concern that those rescued from the sea were often wet and dirty and were messing up the new club house. So they built a separate shower block where people could be could be cleaned up before being welcomed inside. Eventually they stopped rescuing people from the sea altogether.
It is not hard to see the parallels with many of our churches.. Often churches want people to be ‘cleaned up’ before they come in. We want them to behave in a certain way and to fit in with the rest of us. We want to have more young people as long as they act like the older people, or more new people as long as they act like the existing members.
To become a growing, fruitful church often requires us to make some changes in our attitudes, values and practices. Radical hospitality calls us to welcome people as they are, and to welcome them as if welcoming Jesus himself.
Sometimes the best place to start is to think about a few simple values or behaviours we would like to see in our church and to make them part of everything we do. So, if we want to be a church that welcomes the stranger we begin to make this part of our teaching, we model it in our meetings and services, and we celebrate those who demonstrate it until it becomes a natural part of our church culture.
What two or three behaviours could your church practice that would shape the culture of your congregation towards a hospitality that exceeds expectations?
Robert Schnase offers us the following prayer and challenge:
Strengthen me Lord, for the hard work of hospitality with excellence and passion.
Cause us to be what you have called us to be: Ambassadors for Christ.
Challenge: Radical hospitality begins with a single heart, a movement from “they ought” to “I will”. Take responsibility for inviting one person per month to an activity of your church and for welcoming people you do not know.