In a world where traditional outreach methods seem to be less effective than they used to be, hospitality in the widest sense has become the key to evangelism. A professional survey carried out in France for the CNEF (National Council of French Evangelicals) revealed that 23% of the population would like to talk with a believer over a cup of coffee! And I have noticed that several Christian books have recently been published on this topic. In the church I pastor in Paris, we have just reconfigured part of our church meeting room to create a cosy corner with easy chairs where people can sit and chat.
In the New Testament, there are specific commands to offer hospitality (Romans 12.13, 1 Tim 5.10, Hebrews 13.2, 1 Peter 4.9) and Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 3.12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else”. Every Christian can be involved in this. Ordinary Christians, who were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria after the stoning of Stephen, shared the Gospel wherever they went (Acts 8.1-4), and were among the first to bring the Gospel to non-Jews (Acts 11.19-21).
Hospitality may mean going out for a drink in a café or inviting them to your home for coffee or a simple meal, getting to know them, letting them see you (and your family) as you really are, answering their questions (Colossians 4.5, 1 Peter 3.15).
Why don’t you challenge your church members to make this a priority in their Christian service! Church activities can easily take up all our time, and we can often feel too busy or tired to reach out to others. But hospitality is something all Christians can do whatever their context. And it’s so simple. I love the expression which I once heard : “It was obvious but we did it”. I am convinced this is a really important factor in revitalizing our churches.
A book to read on hospitality
The Gospel Comes with a House Key : Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World
by Rosaria Butterfield
Published by Crosssway Books
Winner of the 2019 Christianity Today Book Award in the Christian Living and Discipleship category.
Church revitalisation means bringing about changes. And that means knowing how to conceive, plan, and implement a project. Of course the Biblical teaching on the church is valid for all churches at all times. But this project concerns your church, at a specific time, in a specific context, for a specific culture. It’s not an exact science. However here are some principles which might be helpful.
Sow constructive discontent
Start by getting the leaders on board (or form a steering committee approved by the leaders)
Enhance the project with people’s suggestions, even their criticisms. There’s a reason for the reaction of people who are unwilling to change. Listen to them and take their remarks seriously. They may improve your plan!
Invite someone from the outside to come and speak to the church, either a specialist or someone who has already lived through change.
Discuss with opponents in private.
Make the suggestion: “We’ll try it for 3 months and see how it goes”.
Many books have been written on the topic of change. I would like to recommend Our Iceberg is Melting : changing and succeeding under any conditions (by John Kotter). It’s a very simple parable of how a colony of penguins decide to move away from their iceberg to a safer home despite most of them being reluctant to change at the beginning of the story. Buy several copies (it’s not expensive on Amazon) and lend them out to church members! Even the least strategic thinkers will enjoy reading it, and come to understand the need for change and the several stages which are necessary to bring it about.
Church Revitalisation : one size doesn’t fit all !
A revitalised church is quite simply a healthy church. But churches can lose their health at various stages of their life. This diagram shows four critical moments in the life of a church.
The first one, surprisingly, is when the church is growing, because it is all too easy to get into a routine and not plan for the next stage of growth. This may be because the church is becoming inward looking, or because their ways of reaching out to non-Christians are no longer effective. Without change at that critical moment, the church will probably plateau within a few years.
Thom Rainer in his book Autopsy of a Deceased Church suggests some responses for a plateauing church which has “symptoms of sickness”:
It must be a priority as a leader to maintain a healthy spiritual life, but this cannot be reduced to just a few areas in order to get a “quick fix”. Here is a list of areas to consider : why not look at each one and give yourself a rating on a scale of 1 to 10?
Evangelicals Now DECEMBER 2016
REVITALISE YOUR CHURCH
The challenge of falling congregations is a reality for many churches. Phil Walter asks ‘How should we respond?’
Does your church need more strength?
When churches face the situation of lower numbers, the consequences are widespread.
A sense of failure – even guilt – amongst the leadership can be crippling. A falling congregation often means less impact on a community, fewer visitors to Sunday services, fewer workers available and, of course, the fear of closure unless something can be done to reverse the trend.
What is faithfulness?
For churches that are small and struggling the effect is multiplied. Often what follows is a siege mentality: ‘Let’s guard what we have and survive for as long as we can’. Churches focus on being ‘faithful’, in the context of continuing to do what they have always done. Being ‘faithful’ may look different for each church.