People Are Leaving the Church – Part Thirty

We are looking at practical ways to show the love of Jesus to others as we practice radical hospitality. Last time we saw that we must be seriously aware of:

1> The power of the words that we choose to use and not use
2> The need to make time and take time to befriend others
3> Invite your family and friends – people you already have a relationship with
4> Understand the power of names
5> Get better acquainted through personal storytelling

6> Leaders should set the tone

If you want others to open up and be vulnerable, set the example. Too often I have seen insecure leaders use humour or cynicism or share inappropriate stuff that makes everyone squirm. Leaders are the model for others. If leaders are insecure, unsure, fearful, or unwilling to risk themselves and share something personal, you can be sure that the entire church, group, or class will reflect that.

For example, when you ask people to share their personal story (#5) focusing on a specific topic, the leader should go first. This helps people understand expectations and open up with their own stories. As you provide a living example of growing faith through relationships, people will follow. It is very important that the leader be in tune with how others may be feeling and then take the lead in making them feel genuinely comfortable sharing part of their life story with the others.

Paul stated: “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

7> Eating together

There is more power in eating together than most of us realize. A Gallup survey explored the link between friendship and faith, and the research revealed that church attendees who share meals together experience higher church satisfaction. Those who share meals together are three times more likely to say that they are highly satisfied with their church.

In their book “Many Tables,” Dennis Smith and Hal Tausig write, “In the New Testament, it is notable that Jesus is defined as a ‘friend of collectors and sinners’ precisely by His act of dining with them.” Pharisees and teachers of the Law were often caught muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)

This can be called “banquet friendship,” which is the resulted when people left behind “the divisive social rankings of outer society and in effect [formed] a new society with new social rules.” Jesus rocked cultural barriers simply by eating with others and forming community as He did so. By sharing food, your church can break down social barriers to create common experiences that “form a new society.” Bring on the potlucks, barbecues, snacks, and dessert.

8> Don’t underestimate the power of a smile

Just smile! Offer others the gift of a smile. Not only does a smile convey warmth and the beginning of radical hospitality, it also makes YOU feel better You have heard it said, “If you have the joy of the Lord, tell your face.” One often wonders if born again believers are baptized in lemon juice as they seem to seldom smile and are always talking about their problems.

A study published in the journal Psychological Science “confirms the benefits of the warm gesture: When pedestrians on a busy street walked past a stranger who smiled at them, they felt more connected to others. Researchers note that even small acts of kindness can ward off feelings of isolation and ostracism, plus foster a sense of fraternity and compassion within the community – factors linked to the cultivation of long-term happiness.”

We have been talking about radical hospitality. It might be good to go back and review all the blogs written over the past three weeks or so that were dealing with this much needed change in lifestyle that can win many to the Lord. It is an act of love towards those who are born again and those who are still searching for meaning and purpose.

But, remember that even in an age of “instant everything,” radical hospitality takes time. Be willing to invest in someone’s life for the long haul. Embracing the maxim “You are welcome just as you are” means trusting God’s timing, purposes, and processes. Just as it takes time for a tree to grow, for fine wine to age – for any masterpiece to be created – relationships developed through radical hospitality take time.

The bottom line of radical hospitality: Be a friend. Don’t even think about what a church should do. Do what friends would do. It’s the hospitable thing to do. And these days, it’s the radical thing to do.

As we continue to look at changes that need to be made today in the church so we can see God move and touch lives and build His Church … we will be looking at FEARLESS CONVERSATIONS.

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