The church that man is building; the one that leaves the Holy Spirit out of most of its planning and events… has many false aspects of radical hospitality.
Let’s look today at what radical hospitality – an open heart as well as an open home – is not:
1> Greeters at the door. Well-meaning churches think if we plant bodies at the church doorways, we have accomplished our mission of hospitality. Too often, official greeters are completing a task that they have been assigned – to smile and shake hands. There is nothing sincere or relational about that checklist duty.
2> Meet-and-greet time in the service. Some churches ask people to greet each other somewhere near the start of the worship service. Some call it the “passing of the peace.” If you are near and dear to those around you, it can be sort of fun and semi-fulfilling. But if you are surrounded by strangers, it can be awkward and stiff. The hope that this portion of the service demonstrates warmth and friendliness may be more the leader’s wish than reality. No relationships are formed during these fruitless 15 seconds.
3> Coffee and donuts or an expresso bar. A great idea and always a nice treat. But the presence of goodies in itself does not translate into radical hospitality. Refreshments must be accompanied by sincerely friendly people. Too often church coffee time devolves into cliques, and new people are, often unintentionally, excluded from the circles of conversation. Installing a coffee bar is only half a step in the right direction.
4> A come-to-our-deal event. Churches have outdone themselves in finding creative ways to invite new people, advertising everything from comedy shows, special speakers, and fun events which include a free give-away. As outgoing and robust as these outreach efforts may be, they are still inviting people to OUR thing, which communicates that it is about us. Outreach events are fun, but they don’t necessarily result in changed lives or even lasting relationships – even if an altar call or gospel presentation is tacked on. We may like to count noses, but radical hospitality is much harder because it requires genuine investment in the lives of others.
5> A bait and switch. People not connected with the lord have built-in radar to detect this. The who don’t see value in church are doubly suspicious of invitations or relationships that seem inauthentic. If we are inviting people simply to get them saved (gaining a notch on our spiritual belt) then people will detect that you are really not interested in them as a person and that they are simply a target for your gospel presentation.
Beware: People in authentic relationships are in them for the long haul. And they are in them for the right reasons. There are some common expectations people have when you invite a friend for coffee. So, if you want to build a relationship, do what a real friend would do.
6> Guestbook signing. This may be great when you are entertaining people in your home (although this practice is dying quickly, it seems). But, churches that rely on guestbooks to capture guests and their relevant contact information may not be capturing much of anything.