Tag Archives: hospitality

Worship Preference, 24/7 Christianity, and Hospitality

I came across an interesting post entitled Extrovert bias or biblical imperative? and it got me thinking quite a bit. I tend to think of worship as a holy and sacred space… but at the same time balanced with the messiness of humanity. Ie, when I hear babies crying up a storm to the point where its hard to hear at times, I think cool, this is a sign of a healthy church… even if it means the scriptures or sermon get obscured at times. Otoh, I am very much against worship practices that seemingly exclude the sacred to embrace humanity, ie hugfests, love bombing, group therapy church growth models, etc.

What makes the article fascinating is its focus on the family… not in a Dobsonian way, but in a church family as a whole, as well as a nuclear family and how all could work together for the benefit of both. Since I view the body of Christ, as composing all Christians, past, present, and future, as well as geographically unlimited, this was an issue I had not thought very much about.

I think back to my younger days as a 20 something single guy, and how some families invited me into their homes. I think of how many times a group of us would cross denominational lines to help move a new pastor, or provide music, or just to celebrate Jesus despite our doctrinal differences. I think the author is spot on with her comments about biological families extending their reach reach and the richer fellowship that spins out of such.

The brings up some objections to her prior post, and I would be one to object to it. I don’t see worship as a social function, albeit part of it can be that, but rather that social functions are what the church, a local body of believers does as a result of worship, not what they do during worship. I don’t think its a black and white line to be crossed… but when worship gets decoupled from the sacred and holy to embrace humanity, warning bells go off. Admittedly I could be wrong in this, as the scriptures are less than clear, and we only have snap shots of the writings of the early church fathers.

Personal preference wise, I’d prefer to walk into church in silence, sit in the pew as prelude music starts, worship corporately via singing, the scriptures, the lord’s prayer, communion, followed by praying silently, and leave in silence during postlude music. The focus is totally on Jesus. The togetherness of a thousand folks singing Amazing Grace rocks, as does hearing the words of God in community, as does praying the lord’s prayer with a thousand others. Whether its hymns, chants, praise chorus, organ, or distorted guitar doesn’t matter much to me, albeit I do tend to prefer worship in a language I understand.

 
Scripture wise, we’ve got the 2 or 3 together thing, so that should be enough… but during my late wife’s illness, where we were Easter Christmas attenders and TV church the rest of the time… it falls short. Even the church of my youth with a hundred members fell short of the oneness and intimacy present within large assemblies.
 
But the above are worship preferences short of the 2 or 3 together thing.
 
And then there is how the church lives out its mission beyond the hour or two of worship on Sunday and/or Christian education programs. Does Jane allow church folks to use her guest bedroom, or Tom, his truck and tools on his days off work? Do they do this, knowing that Tom’s truck could be damaged, or that Jane’s husband could end up in the ER due to a drunken house guest? Do they continue to follow the sharing prescribed in Acts, even though bad things happen? This is where hospitality gets very real…. and its an amazing witness to the Gospel to see it lived out 24/7.
 
This 24/7 bit is where the one-body, one-family, one-people identity gets real. Its the service projects where folks come out of the woodwork where you get to know one another, much more deeply than 5-10 minutes of small talk pre or post worship. Its the small groups, where you start to understand where diverse folks are coming from, as contrasted as to what you might think on first meeting. Its the hanging out during the week, or being invited to someones home where you get to know someone, where the building up in the body of Christ occurs.
 
I needed corporate worship big time after my wife passed away. I did not need the hurtful words of well meaning but inept church folks. For a long time, I’d come late, and leave early just to avoid the headaches. I’d often attend daily mass at a Catholic church, even though I’m protestant.
 
And where does or should hospitality enter into the worship arena?
If I look to my personal preference when it comes to worship, there isn’t much room for hospitality, short of maybe running into a few stragglers after I finished praying in the pew. In many ways, my personal preferences would not be welcoming to newcomers at all. And if a single worship experience like that is all that a newcomer sees, its pretty likely they won’t be back. But, just as the dude who ran into the injured fellow alongside the road, worship preferences have to take a back seat at times.

But the pendulum can swing too far. Getting so wrapped up in hospitality / fire fighting with the problems of others pre-worship can and does lead to one being physically present in worship, but with their mind somewhere else.  In a few cases, worship may need to be sacrificed… consider a fellow parishoner who just got a cancer diagnoses and needs to talk. Walking on the other side of the road to protect ones own worship can leave them hung out to dry. Listening them to be a bit might well help them to hear the preaching of the word, even if it compromises ones own.