Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Mission as Hospitality

Meals bring mission into the ordinary. But that’s where most people are—living in the ordinary. That’s where we need to go to reach them. We too readily think of mission as extraordinary. Perhaps that’s because we find it awkward to talk about Jesus outside a church gathering. Perhaps it’s because we think God moves through the spectacular rather than the witness of people like us. Perhaps it’s because we want to outsource mission to the professionals, so we invite people to guest services where an “expert” can do mission for us. But most people live in the ordinary, and most people will be reached by ordinary people. Even those who attend a special event will, for the most part, have first been befriended by a Christian. “For those looking to connect with people in the local community it isn’t that hard if you really want to. Just invite people round, let them know they can go home if they need to and then enjoy a meal together. You’re going to eat anyway, so why not do it with others!”  
Jesus’s command to invite the poor for dinner violates our notions of distance and detachment. Mission as hospitality undermines the professionalization of ministry. Mission isn’t something I can clock out from at the end of the day. The hospitality to which Jesus calls us can’t be institutionalized in programs and projects. Jesus challenges us to take mission home. It may be a surprise, given my emphasis on meals, but I loathe church lunches—those potluck suppers in draughty church halls. They’re institutionalized hospitality. Don’t start a hospitality ministry in your church: open your home.  
Much is said of engaging with culture—much that’s right and helpful. But we must never let engaging culture eclipse engaging with people. People are infinitely variable and rarely susceptible to our sociological categories. If you want to understand a person’s worldview, don’t read a book. Talk to them, hang out with them, eat with them.

- Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus, p. 91  (my emphasis)

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