Hospitality! It’s an interesting word. There are many words related such as hospital, hospice, host, hotel, and hostel. They all come from the Latin root word “hospes” which means host, guest or stranger. The core idea is welcoming a stranger and offering food, shelter, and safety.

There are many scriptures that encourage hospitality like Romans 12:13b – Practice hospitality. 1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Then there’s the fascinating instruction found in Hebrews 13:2 – Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. When this was written some 2000 years ago, there were few motels and restaurants. So when people traveled, they relied on others, often strangers, to provide food and housing.

Let’s dig a bit deeper. Who is a stranger? It’s someone you don’t know, for sure. 2000 years ago, they were from somewhere other than your village and even from a different culture and background. The stranger was usually different!

In our day, a stranger can be someone we simply don’t know. But they could be someone very different from us. They may be “strange” to us because they are from a different racial, cultural, economic, political, religious or educational background. Why would we be guided by the Bible to open our lives to someone very different from us? Could it be that as we open ourselves to those who are different, God might be teaching us how to love our neighbor who is different? Could it be the Spirit might be opening us up to ideas, values, and insights that are “foreign” to us? Maybe the practice of true hospitality could help us learn to be open to others and welcome differences, welcome the dreams of others, be hospitable and generous with grace, and be a host to something surprising that God has for us and our “guests.” We don’t have to agree with or even like all that a stranger brings, but we can learn to welcome them and expand our perspectives.

Did you catch the end of Hebrews 13:2 – some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. I believe in literal angelic beings and I’ve assumed this passage was asking me to entertain anyone because the guest just might be an actual angel. However, could there be a second meaning to entertaining angels we are unaware of? The word “angel” means messenger and that’s the role of some angels like Gabriel. Could Hebrews 13:2 suggest that these “strangers” could be real human beings who bring us a message from God? Could this different kind of person we welcome into our lives open a door of understanding? Maybe if we intentionally connected with the stranger, someone different from us, we might learn something new about ourselves, about God and about faith and grace that we would never learn anywhere else. Just maybe….

Here’s a chance to enter the world of someone different. Our mission partner, Heartbeat for Africa is having a short-term trip to West Africa on July 15 -27, 2019. There’s an information meeting THIS Sunday (3/17) at 10:15 am in Discover (room 2 off the courtyard). Go and check out this opportunity to show hospitality to a stranger and see what God might do!

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Be Hospitable

A church that is healthy, Bible-believing, and Christ-honoring will attract guests, and weekly we have many guests who visit. That is part of why we are growing so much. I don’t know if you have noticed or not, but on Sunday mornings, besides teaching the Word, my “job one” or focus is to look for, greet and get to know our guests. This is one of the most enjoyable things I get to do. I love to hear the stories of why people were willing to take the risk to visit a church for the first time ever, or at least in a long time. These are the folks I want to reach. Sometimes visitors are new to the area and once in a while someone has been deeply hurt by a church and is looking for a healthy place. It is so much fun to hear the stories of how folks have sensed God is leading them to our church. God still guides and directs people, often in miraculous ways. The question is… will we truly welcome our guests and be great hosts? Will we be hospitable as the Bible commands (1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13)?

Helping Guests Find Their Way

It takes a lot of courage to come to a large church like ours. Our size, while it has many advantages, can be intimidating. Yes, we have a level of quality and excellence that is hard to find. We have so many groups, classes, events, and programs that meet so many needs. We have an abundance of opportunities to serve and make a difference. We are a place where folks can find a place to belong and get help as they journey toward or deepen their walk with Jesus. But, how does a new person feel welcomed and stick around long enough to discover all the good we have?

First Impressions

20 years ago, one of the world’s greatest experts on the customer experience found that a company like a hotel had 30 seconds to make a good impression or the client would be disappointed. Today, that expert says the time has shrunk to 5 seconds… that’s crazy! Now, I haven’t found the research for a church, but the point is we have only a short time to make a good impression and usually only one chance to help someone feel welcome. Why do I care about that? Because I don’t want to, in any way, hinder a person who is finding God from being open to his Word when they come to visit. I don’t want anything to “shut them down” before the Holy Spirit can speak into their heart. I want us to do all we can do to help them find, follow and flourish as they follow Jesus. I want anyone who’s currently a part of Pantano and makes the effort to bring a guest to be proud of how their guest was treated.

New Parking Ministry

That’s why we are starting a new Parking Ministry. We have enough parking, but a visitor might not know our campus well enough to navigate finding those places. So, job one for our new parking lot servants is to help visitors find a place to park, lead them in the right direction and answer any questions they might have. We want this new service to help all people feel welcomed as well as direct them to find an open parking space.

Your Help is Needed

We always need more folks who will greet at the gates and entrances, usher folks to open seats in the auditorium and help out at our Guest Services kiosk. If you are willing to help in any of our Host Team positions, please contact nfarr@pantano.church. We especially need to find a few people who will develop and lead our new Parking Ministry. If God is nudging you, please take the next step and let us know you are open to talking about this. For all who make our church such a warm and welcoming place, I can’t thank you enough. THANK YOU!

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