Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hospitality

Two weeks ago we explored a used book store and I was intrigued by a book entitled "Creative Hospitality." My preconceived idea on the theme of this book was quickly tossed out the window when I pulled the book off the shelf. I had imagined something along the lines of creative tips on entertaining. This book had no slick pictures on floral arrangements or how-to tips on making a guest room inviting or about creating a comfortable home for entertaining.

My second thought ran along the lines of how to be seeker-sensitive in our church. My concern is that many people who are trying to meet the "felt needs" of people coming into churches today are ignoring the people's eternal needs. Some churches are removing the words sin and repentance from their services and buildings, instead offering feel-good-about-yourself services (not more than 5 minutes long).

Coming from a mother's point of view its as if my son came to me with a deep gash, filled with gravel and dirt, to have me to make it better. If I kiss his cheek and place a bandage over the wound it will make him feel better in the short-term. But what my son really needs is for me to clean out the wound and take him to the doctor perhaps for stitches and then kiss him. Which hurts more? From my son's point of view the second scenario does, but if allowed to have his way it will lead to more pain.

A book about entertaining I would be interested in, but not a seeker sensitive book. But upon opening this book I found that this book was neither kind. I used my usually practice of opening a book in the middle and start reading. I have found that I can determine if the writer is interesting and if the material is something that will hold my attention. In this case I opened to a chapter called "Biblical Hospitality" and another called "Models of Hospitality." I checked the front of the book and found the full title was "Creative Hospitality: As a Means of Evangelism." After each chapter there are even questions for review or discussion. I had found my book!

As I have begun to read I found that the subject is even more relevant now then it was in 1981 when Bruce Rowlinson wrote it. The book involves hospitality not only in our homes, but also in the church building. It is about real hospitality, not the manufactured kind that many churches put into place.

We saw this at one church we visited. It was a large church that had a "hospitality committee." It was very easy to see what was required of them. The first two weeks we were welcomed by many couples with name tags on. The couples explained that to become involved in the church it would be wise to join one of the small groups the church organized. The third week no one spoke to us, waved or even smiled. They had done their "job." None of the couples encouraged us to become friends with them personally, just others in the church. We didn't stay long. Yes, it is also our responsibility as guests to try to be friendly. But we were never able to become close to any of the people at the church. I am glad to say that at the church we attend now, we found just the opposite. We were at a personal low when we first visited and they opened their hearts and arms to us. They are also very open and understanding to our son's issues.

As I read this book I think of a wonderful Christian who put hospitality into practice, Joanie Barb. Joanie was a wonderful role model for this wife as I began married life almost 22 years ago. I will be sharing this book as I read it.

3 comments:

OlyRita said...

Looking forward to hearing more wisdom from this book. I think I'll try to locate a copy. Our church has recently moved into a renovated school in a well-established community (read that as older part of town). The pastor visited our neighbors and discovered that only a handful attended any church. We are wanting to serve this community. I'm certain your book would help give me some ideas as to how better do that. Our pastor has done a wonderful job so far at listening to the community's needs and responding. More can always be done.
A young woman told me recently that the third Sunday she and her husband attended our church they had decided that if no one speaks to them (besides the greeters at the door) this would be their last Sunday at this church. She said I turned around and smiled at them and said that I was glad to see them there. Of course, I don't remember the incident but it brought tears to my eyes thanking the Holy Spirit for the prompting. We never know what the next person might need but God knows.
I didn't tell that story to impress you with how holy I am -- far from that. Your story of searching for the right section of the flock to serve and be served reminded me of her words.
This is always one of the first blogs I read in the morning. Just wanted you to know that.
Rita in Oly

Kim said...

I started reading some of the book already, but adventures pulled me away. I hope to post some of what we have up to later today (if I don't fall asleep.)
I think it's great that your church is reaching out to those who are not currently attending church. Often churches just seem to rotate members.
It is wonderful that you listened to the Lord's prompting about greeting the family behind you. I have to admit this is one of my shortcomings. It's not that I'm unfriendly, just very quiet until I get to know people. That is one of the things I will work on as I read through this book.
Thank you so much for reading my blog. I really am honored. I wasn't sure when I started my blog in November if anyone would be interested. I have had fun writing and hear from others across the country and world that I would never have had a chance to meet otherwise.

Kim said...

I was thrilled when I saw you have a blog. I love Agatha Christie and have her whole collection (and read them all.)
I will have to check it out in depth.