In the next two weeks I’ll be preaching a sermon that I hope better articulates an answer to this question, Why Radical Hospitality? In the meantime I wanted to expand some thoughts on the topic. This may become a multi-part series over the next few weeks as I’ve found it to be a summer learning project that’s helped form and shape me as both a better pastor and a better Christian.
Let’s begin with the assumption that Christian Hospitality can be defined as-the nature by which we, the Church, receive, accept, nurture, and commission others in the name of Jesus Christ. We then attach Radical to this definition changing it to-the abnormally gracious and exceedingly surprising way we receive, accept, nurture, and commission others in the name of Jesus Christ. I think that will work for now.
Radical Hospitality is the most concrete evidence of salvation through Jesus Christ. If we took a poll of Christians and asked them why should we evangelize, I bet the overwhelming answer will be something like: “so they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s Christian-talk. What does that really mean? Have we ever sat back and asked someone who wasn’t a Christian to explain that for us? But if we operate a church that works in a spirit of Radical Hospitality, things change a bit. Rather that forcing doctrines on people when they enter our doors they’re rather greeted with a sense of love and acceptance that’s above and beyond anything they’ve encountered before.
Radical Hospitality is not done from a position of privilege but rather out of a spirit of servanthood and humility. I’ll admit it-I have a bit of a problem with the popular notion that we as Christians “make” disciples. Have you seen the way we act sometimes? I’m not sure sometimes if any of us ought to get in the business of “making” disciples for the Kingdom of God. For me, God makes disciples. This happens through the ebb and flow of our journey of discipleship. We can’t assume this power of “making” disciples when, frankly, we’re all still in the process of being made. Therefore, Radical Hospitality assumes that God’s Spirit can and does work through the humble act of love and acceptance toward others. In other words, Radical Hospitality ensures that both the giver and receiver are better formed into disciples. Any and all assumptions of power or privilege are taken away from the giver of the hospitality. After all, who wants a pompous host???
Radical Hospitality is not possible if it’s done selectively. Flannery O’Conner points out that in the South, “we’re not so much a Christ-centered culture as we are a Christ-haunted culture.” It’s funny that in the few weeks since I’ve become a pastor I’ve had numerous conversations with people about the level of hurt they’ve felt over the years when the Church turned its back on them because they were somehow viewed as different. It can be easy for Church to be seen as the haven of stability in an ever-changing world. That’s just wrong and a blog post for another day. But church as a place where everyone looks, acts, talks, and believes like us is just ridiculous. Radical Hospitality therefore sees no difference but only opportunity to humbly offer the love of God to ALL.
This will do for now. We should be evaluating the way we do church along the lines of how well we’re able to offer Radical Hospitality. It’s not a program but rather the way we carry out all of our programs and ministries.