Have you ever been somewhere and felt like an outsider? Like you just didn’t belong, fit in, or know anyone? If you’ve been there, it’s not a fun place to be. If we’re not careful our churches, missional communities, and even our families can become this way. Jeff Vanderstelt says hospitality is “making space for people to be who they are and to become more like Christ within community.” Making space for this is not always easy, but it is part of the mission God has called us to.
The truth of the matter is the discipline of hospitality is deeply connected to the gospel and God’s redemptive story. Good hospitality is an outworking of the gospel, for in the gospel God is hospitable to us. J.I. Packer said, “adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name.” If we truly believe that we were once the outsider who God graciously welcomed in, then we should be the first to treat outsiders as if they belong, and love them as we love ourselves.
As we trace the Biblical narrative we see God caring for his people in the wilderness. God’s people are to welcome the stranger, just as he welcomed them (Lev. 19:34). We see hospitality in the life of Jesus. Jesus is constantly eating with people. He is labeled as a “drunkard and a glutton, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). He hangs out with people hated by society, like Levi and Zacchaeus. The early church also exhibited hospitality in numerous ways throughout the book of Acts. Welcoming strangers is common practice for God, Jesus, and the early church.
Practical Hospitality This Easter
The truth about being hospitable is we cannot be hospitable to the stranger or outsider if all we do is hang out with our friends. We should be proactive, outward-facing, and intentional so that we will see our guests this weekend and reach out to them. Be diligent in this. A guest who is attending may represent years of prayer, service and invitation by a church member. These are people coming to us to hear and see what we believe to be true about God and the gospel. Let’s be careful to be good stewards of the people God is bringing to us.
What could this look like during the different events we have going on this weekend?
Good Friday Service - Friday 6:30pm
During our Good Friday service, find a family or someone you don’t recognize and ask them to sit with you. Get to know them and tell them if they have any questions during the service you’d be happy to explain anything they don’t understand. Good Friday isn’t your typical church service, for it’s not as much a celebration but a time of remembrance. Guests or those who aren’t as acquainted with church may have questions. Invite them to meet you for coffee or dessert after the service so you can further get to know them or answer any questions they had about the service.
If you meet a family invite them to our Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt the following morning. This would be a great way to reconnect with them and continue to build a relationship.
Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt - Saturday 10:30am
This is an awesome event to invite your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to. This is a very low-barrier ask for someone and chances are, if they don’t already have plans, they will come to something like this. When you’re at the picnic and egg hunt on Saturday look for people you don’t recognize. Invite them to eat with you and hang out with you some throughout the day. We will have people show up who don’t know anyone and these events do little for the Kingdom if we don’t connect with those people.
An event like this will also attract unchurched, not-yet-believers so we have the awesome opportunity to introduce these people to New City Church and the gospel of Jesus. Begin a relationship with the people you meet and start getting to know them. Be prepared to share your story of what God has done in your life and be prepared to share the gospel. If you need help thinking through ways to share the gospel, check out this other blog post I wrote a few weeks ago: 6 Tips for Sharing the Gospel. Pray and expect God to work through you and your family on Saturday.
Sunday Easter Services - Sunday 8:00am, 9:30am, 11:00am
Outward Facing Posture - Be on the lookout for guests. We will have lots of them on Sunday morning. Research shows that guests will determine within the first 6 minutes if they will ever return to a church. Do you know the number 1 determining factor in whether or not guests return to a church? 84% of them return if someone made a personal connection with them. Be intentional in talking to them and learning more about them, being watchful for anyone who seems to be feeling out of place or without someone to talk to. This may be hard to hear but this will require you to not huddle with your friends all morning.
Make a Connection - According to Lifeway Research it takes guests at least four visits to commit to staying at a church longterm. What can you do to help them come back? Make a connection with them. No matter how good our preaching and singing is (which I think both are pretty great), guests will not stay and invest longterm unless they build relationships. Get to know them and their family, ask them to sit with you during the service, personally invite them to your MC.
Be Kind and Welcoming - Be kind and welcoming to the people you don’t recognize and go out of your way to make them feel welcome. We have a Connect Team but the culture of our whole church body should exemplify hospitality. The “greet your neighbor” time before the sermon can either be the most awkward or one of the most meaningful times of the morning for guests. Don’t find your friends this week. Look for someone you don’t know, go shake their hand, and welcome them to New City.
Go the Extra Mile - Don’t just tell someone where to go, show them. If someone enters in the main floor and doesn’t know where to check-in their children, walk them downstairs. If someone doesn’t know where the restrooms are, walk them around the back of the sanctuary and show them. This will go a long way in making our guests feel welcome.