Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Missional Hospitality

Posted on 27 Feb 2014 in Christianity, Discipleship, missional theology | 1 comment

Growing up, I was blessed with multiple sets of parents.

Not through divorce and remarriage, but through hospitality.

My two closest friends and I even designated them “Parents one, Parents two, and Parents three” so that we could decide which house to meet at. Whether the parents were home or not was almost irrelevant (though a bonus when they were, because they often made us something to eat).

We’d walk in, make ourselves at home, and just relax.

On top of that, there was always an extended network of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Though very few of us were actually blood related, we were all deeply connected by love and friendship.

Those houses also ended up being some of the most shaping location of my spiritual journey. I learned a lot over the long summers and cold winters about unlocked doors of open hospitality, unwavering friendship, prayer, laughter, and chocolate chip cookie recipes.

From the latest farm news (a big deal in central Kansas) to the latest high school drama, to the question of God’s calling on our lives, I learned early on what it mean to be open and hospitable to anyone who entered into my life.

Best chocolate chip cookies I've made in decades.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I learned a lot about life from that community, but there were also times I saw the dark side of Christianity. While sitting in a restaurant after church, I’d hear church members complain about the ‘pagans’ that were working on a Sunday instead of being in church (which for the life of me I just couldn’t understand since we the ones making them work by visiting the restaurant).

On the one hand there was wide open grace and hospitality; on the other there was cold-hearted judgment.

For some, the judgment has come far too easy.

I think we’ve lost something.

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[pullquote]”Hospitality” conjures up the context of guests, visitors,  putting on meals for them, providing board and lodging, making the stranger feel ‘at home’ in our home – enlarging our home to make that wider ‘at home-ness’ possible…Hospitality, in a variety of expressions, forms a notable frame of reference for the ministry of Jesus. But there is more to it than that…the whole life and ministry of Jesus {is} a ‘visitation’ on God’s part to Israel and the world…The One who comes as visitor and guest in fact becomes the host and offers a hospitality in which human beings and, potentially, the entire world, can become truly human, be at home, can know salvation in the depths of their heart.”[/pullquote]

The quote, is from Brendan Byrne’s fantastic book The Hospitality of God: A reading of Luke’s Gospel (buy it here) and it highlights the next significant role in the journey of Missional Christianity: Open hospitality.

When we want to cross lines (see part two in the series) into missional ministry and calling, we have to start with an attitude and posture of openness. Jesus frequently ate with people as a way to know them and love them. Many chapters in the Gospel of Luke have Jesus eating with people or him telling stories of God’s redemptive power through characters that eat together.

The point? That sharing has a certain redemptive and holy quality to it.

Sharing food. Sharing space. Sharing laughter. Sharing tears. Sharing time. In any way that we allow others into our space so that we can share something with them, we can advance the Kingdom of God.

The rich man hoarded for himself and it cost him his life (Luke 12). Tax collectors, sinners, and outcasts shared with Jesus and found salvation (Luke 19). Along his journey, people captured the most significant moments with Jesus over a meal.

Because food is a common denominator for all of us. We all need it, we all want it, and we all crave it.

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But we’ve been taught to believe that hospitality is a bad thing, or at least something that should reserved for the ‘special’ people in our lives, the worthy ones, the respectable ones, or the ‘in-crowd.’

I think we’ve missed something because that’s not at all what Jesus did. In fact, he was quite the opposite, and urged his followers to do the same. He ate with the down-and-outs, the not-good-enough’s, the outsiders, the skeptics, the sinners, and the spiritually questioning. He pursued them intentionally just so that they could have a taste of God’s extravagant love for them.

And as we pursue missional spirituality, we need to act the same way.

We host others as a way to expose them to the love of God, and often in turn (as Byrne points out) end up being hosted ourselves. We open ourselves to share, host, give, celebrate, and receive from others what God showed can only be done in community: love, grace, and acceptance. In a world that is often full of lines, barriers, dividers, and bitter individualism, we need to not only cross those lines, but do so with the intent to serve and receive, to host and be hosted, to practice hospitality and receive it. Our life with God calls us into the streets, homes, and lives of people around us, and to share a meal with those around us.

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So what does this mean for Missional Christianity? It means rethinking the way we approach sharing our faith. We often think it needs to be done ‘at church’ or with a program. The way we’ve traditionally thought of evangelism has removed us from a relationship with people. We sort of swoop in with a Bible and a megaphone to tell people something we think they need to hear, and then leave to return to our holy cloister.

Instead, we need to practice what Jesus taught us: to incarnate our lives into the lives of the people around us, to enter into relationship with them, and to share and sacrifice on their behalf so that they might experience the love of God.

And who knows, we might just find ourselves on the receiving end of it too.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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