July 24, 2017

Healthy Churches: Irresistible Hospitality

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A Note from Luminex: This morning’s blog post is the ninth in an 11-week series on “Healthy Churches.” Each week, one of our stable of leaders/bloggers will share thoughts on a significant aspect of healthy churches. Enjoy!

What a four days it was. As part of my Sabbatical my wife and I had an opportunity to attend a Pastor-Spouse retreat. Hosted and paid for by WinShape, the purpose of the retreat was to provide those who served others an opportunity to be served. It was four days of being pampered in northwest Georgia. Our orders in fact were basically, “Relax. Don’t do anything that smells like work. And whatever you need, ask for it – don’t get or do it yourself.” At mealtimes we were chastised if we so much as picked up a napkin we dropped or in any way tried to serve ourselves.

It took some adjustment. I remember thinking about the discomfort of the disciples when Jesus knelt down and washed their feet. I began to understand their reactions. Somehow it didn’t feel right to let someone else do all the serving – not when I am accustomed to being the server. But as I adjusted and relaxed, my emotions shifted. Once I allowed myself to be served, I felt humbled, uplifted, accepted, cared for, and loved. No wonder Jesus wouldn’t let Peter avoid having his feet washed. He needed the experience of being humbled, uplifted, accepted, cared for, and loved. It profoundly changes a person. We left the retreat fully transformed.

But I observed something else just as powerful. I saw the countenance of those who did the serving. They radiated pure joy. They expressed a heavenly delight in everything they said and did. I eventually understood why. In serving others we are most like Jesus. John records that after washing the disciples’ feet Jesus “… put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.  ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.’” (John 13:12-16)

It’s one of those “one another” admonitions. To be like Jesus is to wash one another’s feet. It means to serve one another.  Paul caught it. He wrote, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT) To serve is to provide for another, to give to another what they need. It means willingly taking the focus off of ourselves and zeroing in on others. It’s not just talking about but living out the principle that “It’s not about me – it’s all about you.”

Come to think of it, is this not really the heart of hospitality? How full would our churches be if we greeted not only guests who visit but also those we meet during the week with an attitude of, “What can I do for you?” And then did it? What would your life look like if you approached everyone you encounter with this spirit? How would our families, our neighborhoods change? I can’t say for sure – but wouldn’t it be great to find out? What I do know for sure is this promise of Jesus: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17) You will radiate pure joy and express a heavenly delight in everything you say and do. And that will make you, and our churches – and ultimately Jesus – irresistible.

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