As we enter in and entwine our lives with others through the practice of hospitality we get to experience both the sweet and hard of following Jesus. We get a taste of the Kingdom and we get to show what it’s like to others who don’t yet know.
I love hospitality. The process of welcoming in and providing for others – both stranger and friend – nourishes my soul and reminds me of the way I have been welcomed in and provided for. What God has done for me I now get to do for others. (If you missed our Feasting with the Poor series from Tim Cain the last few weeks, he has some profound things to say on this topic.)
When my family and I formed our first missional community, we were pretty sure our mission would involve feeding people. We also believed it would probably center around our neighborhood. Where we lived wasn’t random or accidental. We believed God had been purposeful in placing us in that house, on that corner, in that neighborhood, in that suburb of Seattle. And, if that was true, then God was just as purposeful with those who lived in our neighborhood. We believed He was already at work in their lives of our neighbors and just maybe He would draw them to Himself through us. We didn’t know exactly what that might look like, but that’s where we started.
So we gathered some people and learned together about what it meant to live life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission. We prayed. And, waited expectantly for God to show us what was next. And, then it happened. On a snowy trip to Portland the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we stopped at one last restaurant trying to squeeze all the must-eats into our short trip; a little hole in the wall (literally) called The Waffle Window which operated out of the back of another restaurant called Bread and Ink (oh Portland!). Waffles and coffee were the only menu items … but, oh what waffles they were! Liege-style waffles made from decadent brioche dough studded with pearl sugar and baked one at a time on heavy cast iron waffle irons. And, the toppings! Bacon, Brie & Basil with Peach preserves, Banana Nutella, Lemon pannacotta with blueberry compote. Our mission was born in those first bites; Weekly Waffles.
We invited our neighbors into our home every Saturday morning for Liege-style waffles, good coffee, and conversation. Together our MC went door-to-door in our neighborhood inviting them to breakfast. “No, we aren’t selling anything. No, we’re not going to try to convert you. (Well, that one was always tricky. ; ) ) . Yes, you can bring your kids, your grandma, your dog. No, it doesn’t cost anything. Yes, we know it sounds weird, but I promise, we’re not scary. Just come once and see what you think.” We invited folks from our kids’ schools, the family who answered our “free gravel” ad on Craig’s List, folks who came to our garage sale. If you were breathing and in the vicinity, you got invited.
And, so our rhythm was established. Our MC met during the week for a family meal, Bible study, teaching, training, and prayer. Then on Saturdays a few of our MC (sometimes all), would come help us with waffles; feasting around the table, opening their lives, and loving on our neighbors. We did it together. Eventually, other members of our MC were inviting our neighbors to their parties and school functions and the neighbors started inviting us to their house for dinner, celebrations, and different opportunities to serve the community. It became bigger than just what was happening during a few hours in our home on Saturday mornings. People found community and connection, a listening ear in times of need, and care in times of pain. Things were borrowed, shared, learned, lost. Babies were born, kid’s graduated, families moved away, and new families joined us.
In this season, I serve my church family as an MC coach and I often find myself encouraging people to open their home by saying, “It’s so easy!” But, in reality, hospitality is not so easy. It is a big commitment involving all-of-self – your doing and your being. Sacrifice and dying to self is a weekly, sometimes daily battle, but it does become “easier” when you live into who and what God has called you to be and do. Romans 12:13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality.” And 1 Peter 4:8–9 says, “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another.” I like how John Piper sums it up,
“When we practice hospitality, here’s what happens: we experience the refreshing joy of becoming conduits of God’s hospitality rather than being self-decaying cul-de-sacs. The joy of receiving God’s hospitality decays and dies if it doesn’t flourish in our own hospitality to others.
Or here is another way to put it: when we practice hospitality, we experience the thrill of feeling God’s power conquer our fears and our stinginess and our self-centeredness. And there are few joys, if any, greater than the joy of experiencing the liberating power of God’s hospitality making us a new and radically different kind of people, who love to reflect the glory of his grace as we extend it to others in all kinds of hospitality.”
As we enter in and entwine our lives with others through the practice of hospitality we get to experience both the sweet and hard of following Jesus. We get a taste of the Kingdom and we get to show what it’s like to others who don’t yet know. When I’m coaching and mentoring leaders, here are a few things I tell them:
- Start small, but just get started. Let the Spirit show you what’s next.
- Build a team committed to the same mission. (And, make sure to leave room for non-Christians. Kick out some of the Christians if it gets too big.)
- Be patient, be intentional, get to know people’s stories so you better understand how to love and care for them.
- Keep these three things in mind: 1.) nobody needs you to save them. That’s God’s work. 2.) People aren’t projects, they’re friends. 3.) You’re just as needy as they are.
- Invite guests to share the responsibilities, decide on the menu, contribute money or food items for the meal, let them host when you’re out of town. By doing so, you’re training others to practice hospitality.
- Have an open door policy. (We never locked our doors. Ever. It’s kind of like when your child isn’t sleeping through the night – as long as you expect to be woken up, you don’t mind so much.) Have boundaries, but be flexible.
- If you have kids, don’t assume your kids think hospitality is their mission too. Give them space and freedom to discover their own gifts and passions.
God has taught me a ton about being a Good News person and what it truly means to be hospitable. And, even though we made many mistakes, we saw great things happen through Weekly Waffles over the years. Thankfully most people are gracious and God is pretty great at fixing our messes.
Where you live isn’t random or accidental, what might God be inviting you into in your neighborhood?
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