1 John 3:18 ESV - Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.
I’ve been sitting with the elders and the deacon candidates in many meetings, of late, and it occurs to me that every point of service to which the new deacons apply themselves is, ultimately, about love in action. While leaning into God in their decision-making process, our elders have discovered and asserted areas of great and specific need and have assigned workers to address those needs. In 1 John 3:18; we are called to take action where our love of Jesus, His Father and our church body are concerned. And, if we are functioning properly as a ministry team, our individual areas of service will show the love we claim to have for our church body, for our visitors and, ultimately, for Jesus.
I waited for God to reveal where I would serve and, as it happens, I have been called to the ministry of Hospitality. Since my last elder/deacon meeting, my quiet times have found me contemplating the biblical meaning of “hospitality” and the necessity and import of this opportunity to serve.
(Yes, that happened in my mind.)
What I have learned is both rhetorical and profound at the same time: To serve in the ministry of hospitality is to apply certain gifting in an effort to “love” our body (present and future) by opening my own arms, the arms of my family and, ultimately, the church’s arms just as Jesus opened His arms to me. By serving in this way, our church gets to say, “Come and sit at the table with Christ,” whatever events or circumstances prevail, and come what may.
In any service to which we commit ourselves (and I am no exception), we come against our own “sin nature.” Belief and obedience, again, are the weapons with which God wages our war against ourselves. Jesus paid it all, yes. But only my belief and obedience allow this reality to “live,” in my own life, such that those I encounter can actually “see” what Jesus did in the first place. As I begin in this particular mission field, I’ve had to ask myself, “What does God have to move out of the way (in me) so that He can use me effectively?” My exploration, in the answering this question, led me to some poignant truths, as well as additional questions.
Do I feel my church excluding people? Do I allow my family to exclude people, or do I allow myself to do so? Have I made idols of my time, my money, my home, my family, my GC, my discipleship group? Am I sand-bagging something, anything, for my own sake or for those who I really love more than I love Jesus? In a few cases that come to mind, I have sinned in these areas, and I ask that you continue to pray for my revelation, repentance and correction. I am facing my own conviction, here, in some ways—yes.
Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song that asked, “Can they see God for Who He really is in what they see in you and me?” (Song: For Who He Really Is.) The song was written during a time when churches and pastors and ministries were being exposed for having belonged to man and not God. God cleanses His church in this manner, and has from the beginning of the church itself. Through the Apostle Paul, God delivered letters of instruction whose affect was aimed at “getting it right” before, during or after something had gone drastically wrong. Left to our own devices, we’ll wreck that which is sanctified—every time. We cannot minister to anyone or anything—you or I—without God in Christ at the helm of our intentions. The Gospel, then, is absolutely necessary to being “hospitable” on behalf of His church.
We are living in times of great paradox. Our culture speaks of inclusion and the fact that “everyone matters,” yes, but what is really happening out there? People have never been more isolated, cornered and ridiculed for what they believe, which compounds their isolation. Christians are at the center of this target these days, but do you think that Paul or Peter found themselves at the center of that target when they lived? Of course, and amen!
Jesus’ arms are wide open because God has the infinite capacity to sort anybody out—plain and simple. Our job is not to do the sorting for Him; as disciple-makers, our task is to live in such a way that they feel God’s “nudge,” step across His threshold and into His house…He can take it from there. The arms of our church should be just as wide open as Jesus’ arms, inviting any parched soul to sit at His table, to eat and to drink, in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel. The Gospel calls us to love; it does not call us to accept, assimilate and mutate for the sake of just any ideology or doctrine that walks in the door. Within the context of the Gospel, we remain absolutely free to love.
Long before Bob Goff wrote his great book entitled Love Does (consider this a strong recommendation), Clint Black sang a beautiful Country song called “Love is Something You Do.” Along with Steven Curtis Chapman’s For Who He Really Is, give this song a listen. I don’t know whether Clint is “saved,” but the point of the song is that, beyond the great professions of love and the idea that we “fall” into love, love itself is actually something that we do. The obvious inference to draw, here, is that if we call it “love” but cannot bring ourselves to take action, can it really be love at all?
Hospitality, to me, is the very threshold of disciple-making. It represents our “front door,” or “showing the love of Christ at the front door.” I am praying for the space in my own heart, and for the sake of any resource I do not yet have, so that God will create in my own life the margin to do His work. As I begin in this service to Him, would you pray for me specifically? Would you ask God to use me to help open the arms of Red Tree West County for the sake of His glory?
My family and I are blessed to serve you and Red Tree Church. If you are interested in the Hospitality ministry, please let me know. Fill out a connect card or grab me on a Sunday morning. Let’s get together because of Jesus.