The Biblical Principles.
- God is community – in the community of the Trinity, God is never lonely. God did not create us so as to fulfill any need in himself. We were created in his likeness to reflect his glory, which includes reflecting his community.
- It is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), we are created to be in community. Although this has been disrupted by the Fall, the gospel comes to us as a message of reconciliation.
- Our main problem is our disconnection from God which leads to a disconnection with others. Jean Paul Sartre illustrated this with his comments “God is solitude, God is absence” and “hell is other people” – in our fallen world, this would be true had not Christ come to reconcile us to God and to each other.
Hospitality – an attitude of heart
- Although hospitality can be shown by anyone, even those who know nothing of Christ, we, of all people, should excel at welcoming others home.
- John Calvin argued that the existence of restaurants and hotels is proof of the depravity of man. People earn money by providing that which human beings should freely give to each other.
- Attitudes to hospitality vary across cultures. There is something very defensive about British culture, but, in Christ, we don’t need to be afraid but, instead, should reach out to the unloveable (Matthew 5:43-47)
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – We are called to be ministers of reconciliation, called to the mission of God and the commission of Christ to make disciples. We should affirm other people as important.
- There is a danger of thinking that the current move to multi-site is, in itself, the answer. The answer is a church which genuinely loves people on mission and actively cares about the people in our communities.
- The church family which God is building is one for all kinds of people. Martin Luther argued that the kingdom of God must be among enemies or else we are simply blaspheming and betraying Christ, who lived among his enemies!
- We are not just to be receivers of hospitality or just givers of hospitality (spending all out time in the kitchen but barely talking to anyone).
- But what about people living in tiny bedsits or flats, how can they invite people into their homes? We can be grateful to God that Brighton is full of other places (cafes, pubs, parks etc) where we can invite people.
- When you do invite people in, care about them. Watch your language and the subjects that you talk about so as to include people.
- A word on boundaries – The question “Who is my neighbour?” is answered by the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) where a man risks danger to help an enemy. However, note that the Samaritan is in danger from bandits not from the person he is helping. It is right to seek to protect our households when we invite people in. We should be both extravagent and wise in our hospitality. Christian leaders, in particular, are called to model hospitality (literally: “being fond of guests”)
- 1 Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
- 1 Corinthians 9:22 – to the weak we make ourselves weak to lead them to Christ.
- Ephesians 4:28 – The point of not stealing but engaging in honest labour is to share with others.
Breathing life into small groups
- We should not merely have two or three front doors (with the new sites) but hundreds of front doors across the city to welcome people in.
Seven points for small groups:
(1) Ensure that you are on God’s mission (i.e. that mission is not a “bolt-on” activity but the spine of the small group).
(2) See yourselves as God’s immediate provision for one another (gathering around the gospel and showing Christ to each other).
(3) Build one another up for mission. (We also need to open and honest when inviting others).
(4) Transcend “small group night” (the small group is the people not the meeting).
(5) Pray for individuals and localities (we want the city to be blessed by our being here).
(6) Pray and strategise for the area (be proactive and seize opportunities).
(7) Preceive and receive (asking God to show you what he is doing and whom he is sending to you).
Is there a family who will welcome people in?