by Evi Rodemann
During the Olympics 2012 in London I watched my friend Marty organize community festivals all across the UK. In that one summer they had 1% of the whole population attend one of the community festivals organized by churches, organizations, etc.
The success story is nearly unbelievable! Churches that had not cooperated before now joined in impacting their town or city.
I had the great joy of attending one taking place in London. Simple. Reproducible. Entertaining. Breaking barriers.
As people gathered in the park (the church had done some inviting a few days before), church folk and neighbors got together to play games, enjoy food and drinks, and have time to get to know each other.
Across the nation, Christians went out of their buildings, welcomed strangers, bridged gaps between nations and cultures, and celebrated community together.
The side effects for the churches were many as people got to know Christians, shared life stories, got invited to church, became believers, and encountered people from another faith first time. Fars of the stranger disappeared.
The passion of Marty and the team was to help people see Jesus. This was done through hospitality and community.
God´s greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matt. 22:36-40). Hospitality is known as entertaining and welcoming in guests. It is a genuine way to show love and acceptance for others. Jesus tells us that whatever we do for the least of people, we do for him.
From the Old to the New Testament, we find encouragements to practice hospitality. Its practice characterized Abraham (Gen. 18:22-28), and New Testament church leaders (1 Tim. 3:2).
One of my pastor’s friends in Frankfurt invites every new person in church home for a meal. This is hospitality at its best. It is role modelled from the leaders, helping the church to develop the same attitude, adopting it as a core value of being church. And it is not just an add-on or nice to have; hospitality is ministry.
Throughout scripture and in the ancient world, hospitality was focused on the stranger in need. The strangers are similar to the millions of refugees in our world today. Their plight was and is desperate. They lack membership in the community, the city, or even the nation. They are often in need of immediate food and lodging.
Widows, orphans, the poor, the sojourners from other lands lack the familial or community status so the means of making a living and protection is no longer available to them. In Bible times, the practice of hospitality meant welcoming a stranger into one´s land, home, or community, and providing directly for that person´s need.
The Bible provides some practical ways of demonstrating hospitality: reception of travelers into one´s home for food, lodging, and protection (Job 31:16-23); allowing the stranger to harvest from one´s field (Ruth 2:2-17), clothing the naked (Isa. 58:7); tithing food for the needy (Deut. 14:28-29); and including the foreigners in religious celebrations (Exod. 12:48-49).
The hospitable act of sharing a meal has great significance as sharing food with someone else is also to share life. As the Bible encourages hospitality in various ways, what does it look like for us today? How do we as Christians and churches practise hospitality when it is counter-culture?
I have been challenged to rethink the way I do hospitality over the past year. Encouraged by other Christians, I am trying out two things. First, I open my home for guests to stay (sometimes that means even giving up my bedroom). Second, I am trying “Living Room Conversations,” where people get invited to have a meal together, have a special guest to share his or her life story, interact with each other, and provide a platform for inspiration and new friends, no matter the religious background.
It is indeed life changing!
Questions for Reflection:
- Who are the strangers in need around you?
- What might hinder you from being a hospitable person? What are some fears which should need to be addressed?
- What are some practical ways you can personally express hospitality this season? (e.g., organise a get together with your neighbors, your street)
- How can your church express more hospitality outside of its building?
For more information on community festivals, Fusion is excellent at it: fusionyac.org/ocf/resources.php
Evi Rodemann (@erodemann) is part of the Lausanne European steering team and a member of the Lausanne YLGen Development team, living out her passion of reaching young people and developing younger leaders, especially with a focus on Europe. In 2016, she completed her MA on European Mission with Redcliffe College, UK.