Oct23TueOctober 23, 2018
This fall marks the five year anniversary of joining the ministries of First Mennonite Church as your Lead Pastor. Over the past years, I have grown to deeply love you all and consider it an honor to call FMC our church home. Over the past few weeks, I have also been overwhelmed by the baked goods, meals, gifts and notes of encouragement from you all. The Lord has used your kind words and abundant generosity to reinvigorate my spirit as I discern what the Lord has in store for us throughout the next five years of shared ministry. I am so blessed to be one of your pastors! Thank you!
Throughout this year, many of you have asked how you can be a support for me, or for Janice and me as a couple. What a wonderful question to ask of those within pastoral ministry! My typical answer has been to continue to pray for my family, to pray for one another and to continue to love one another. (The cinnamon rolls have been nice too!) However, if you desire to further strength the ministry and influence of our church, I would add another suggestion – practical hospitality.
Would you prayerfully consider inviting one FMC individual or couple (whom you don’t know very well) over to your house for a meal or dessert before the end of 2018?
And here’s why. Hospitality was a core priority within the Early Church. In Acts 2, we read that they were worshipping together and breaking bread very often with one another in their homes (Acts 2:46). As a result, their hearts were glad and generous! When Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he said, “Seek to show hospitality and contributed to the needs of the saints” (Romans 12:13). Peter gave a similar to charge in 1 Peter 4:9. Habits of hospitality are a key ingredient for a vibrant community of faith.
The main reason for this is that hospitality leads us into establishing authentic relationships. Church is not about a small group of friends or maintaining our personal comforts. It’s about an ever-expanding family which is centered around Jesus. If the only time you see other FMCers is on a Sunday morning, you may know several names and be acquainted with a few but there will be many about whom you know very little. What are their joys or struggles? Yet, when we are in one another’s homes (mess and all), we have clearer insight to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). When hospitality is practiced, the church body exercises its Spirit-led muscles and begins to care for one another in deeper ways.
Another reason why I believe the Lord wants us to focus on hospitality is for the sake of healthy decision-making. Pastor and author, Jonathan Leeman, wrote in his book “Understanding the Congregation’s Authority” (the book your Elders and Church Board are reading...and you are encouraged to read), “Relationship building yields good decision making because decisions will be made with personal knowledge. And the responsibility to make decisions produces the incentive to build relationships again.” It’s hard for us, as an elder-led, congregational church, to make informed, collective decisions if authentic relationships are missing. But when Christians ‘do life together,’ it’s so much easier to fashion a culture which ministers specifically to the real spiritual and physical needs of one another.
As Janice and I leave for an anniversary vacation this week, we will inevitably be talking about our hospitality goals for the rest of this year. Would you join us by having similar conversations? Our church will continue to strengthen if we each continue to grow in practicing authentic hospitality.