Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hospitable Christianity

Have you ever come across a line in a song or a book or a movie that articulates something you feel on the inside in a profound way but were not able to put into words. I came across one such quote about a year ago in a little book by Henri Nouwen called Reaching Out,

“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space in which change can take place.”

The title to the blog seems almost contradictory in this day and age. Just think of how many times you have heard the word hospitable spoken in a conversation next to the word Christian? The truth is that for many folks with sincere questions about God and faith the church is perceived as anything but a hospitable place.

I have been involved in so many church activities at various times in my life which were either something of a bait-and-switch or just down right confrontational. The bait-and-switch tactic involved trying to get folks to come to a concert, a dinner or to some other event or giveaway and then hit them with the gospel message hoping that they would respond. And it usually went over about as well when as when a waiter receives a religious tract in place of a tip (something I experienced on more than one occasion back in my table-waiting days).

The confrontational approach, on the other hand, is unapologetically in people’s faces with the ‘truth’. This was my preferred method as a freshman in college. Again it made few if any converts but I sure walked away feeling good about myself because I had stood up for Jesus in front of those pagan, abortionist, evolutionist, homosexual, secular, atheists types (or just insert any group I missed here ___________________.)

Perhaps there is a different approach to sharing our faith that has less to do with bait-and-switch or merely arguing about belief – a way of creating space where folks can encounter God not by sheer force of arguing or by a sales pitch but in a way that respects them wherever they may be in their journey.

This will be our primer for this week’s small group. I am curious as to what your experience of church has been when it comes to outreach or sharing faith?

What might it look like to be a community of Christ-followers that are not simply trying to change people but creating space and opportunities where change can happen naturally and relationally, where folks can begin to experience God right where they are at?

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