Craig Groeschel tells a story of being a church staff pastor a while back. He had worked really hard for months to get three of his friends to come to church one Sunday. They were far from God, but they were getting closer, and finally they came. They sat down on the front row. Along comes a woman named “Fern” who realized these young bucks were in her seat. So she shooed them away. Those guys got out of Fern’s seat, walked out of the church and didn’t come back. Craig was heartbroken. Any of us would be, but before we get angry at Fern think about this . . .
All of us have a family member or a close friend who is far from God – a cousin, grandchild, uncle, best friend from childhood. Think of them right now, get their picture in your mind. What if that person walked into a church in their city this Sunday? What kind of experience would we want them to have? . . . What kind of experience would serve to connect them to church in a way that would make them want to come back? Would it depend on the singing/music? What about the preaching? Or how about the coffee 🙂 – would that be a significant motivator for them to return? Those things are all important, but in our socially starved culture studies and experience confirm that hospitality is the one factor that outshines them all. The Scripture agrees . . .
Rom 12:13, “Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (NLT)
Every church says they are super friendly. Yet, the biggest reason first time guests say they don’t come back a second time – friendliness – at the same churches who say they’re super friendly!!!! Where’s the disconnect? We all tend to overestimate our friendliness. It doesn’t count when we’re only friendly to the people we already know. This Sunday at Journey Life Church someone’s cousin, or uncle, or grandchild that they’ve been praying for, for so many years will walk in our doors to sit in our gathering. Let’s treat them like they’re ours. (This is so key) When that gathering ends connect with them meaningfully, ask them about their story, invite them into your life, tell awesome stories about the church!
There is power in hospitality, that’s why it’s listed as a spiritual gift (1 Pet 4). Love everyone as if they’re spiritual life depends on it . . . because it does.