Sep 21, 2011

Hospitality, Inc. Part 1

As many of you know, I am an avid admirer of Bishop William H. Willimon, who presides over the North Alabama Annual Conference. Recently, he wrote about his investigation of growing congregations “in order to learn more about why they are thriving.” Bishop Willimon was perceptive enough to notice that dynamic and growing congregations had one thing in common—the gift of hospitality. Growing congregations know how to make new people feel welcome.

One example of hospitality Bishop Willimon puts forth is ushers. Willimon remarks that ushers in vibrant churches are “people whom God had given the gift of hospitality.” Pastors say visitors’ early contact with upbeat ushers makes a faithfully growing church a piece of cake!

In churches that people want to be a part of, there is an avid and loving concern for the “outsiders”—those who have yet to hear and respond to the gospel. Though our congregation has the art of Christian hospitality down pat, we can always improve our service in Jesus’ name.

A few years ago, we had as a worship series, focusing on the book “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” by Bishop Robert Schnase. Several people in our congregation remarked how simplistic Bishop Schnase’s ideas seemed. The suggestion, if I heard right—and I am a professionally trained listener—was that everyone knows these things the Bishop offered as guidance. We all know to offer guests “radical hospitality,” but sometimes we are so intent on seeing friends that we forget to practice our gift of hospitality. My own experience in Liberia helped remind me how precious a gift hospitality is.

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