the weblog of Alan Knox

hospitality

Eagerly pursue their company in your home

Posted by on Nov 8, 2012 in blog links, hospitality | 10 comments

Eagerly pursue their company in your home

Stan at “Rocky Meadow” has written a very good article called “The Hospitality Commands Part 1” – which, I guess, indicates that there will be other parts. So, be on the look out for those posts too!

In this post, Stan talks about Romans 12:10-13, especially the instruction to practice hospitality. I love posts about hospitality, because I think it’s one of the things missing in the life of the modern church. (Perhaps it’s been missing for some time, but I only know about the years that I’ve been around…)

At one point, Stan writes this:

For now, let’s concentrate on the hospitality aspect of this description. If I were commenting solely on the English translation the word “practice” would catch my attention. Practice carries with it the idea of doing something repetitively until we get it right. That, in and of itself, would be a very good thing where hospitality among the followers of Christ is concerned.

The Greek behind the English translation conveys a slightly different idea. Practicing means “strive for” or “pursue”. Strive for sharing your hospitality with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Eagerly pursue their company in your home. Seek to share life together in Christ with them.

Think about what Stan said: “Strive for sharing your hospitality with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Eagerly pursue their company in your home. Seek to share life together in Christ with them.” I think that’s a great explanation of the instruction to practice hospitality.

But… there is a little problem. Today, the home is not generally considered a place of socialization. It’s often a place of seclusion.

So, how do we “practice hospitality” if people will not accept an invitation to our home? How do we “eagerly pursue their company in your home” when that’s out of the question for them? Is it possible to begin by “sharing life together in Christ with them” in another location? (By the way, this is the idea of a “third place.”)

Have you found certain places (besides the home) where people are more comfortable building the kind of relationships in Christ that Stan talks about here?

(As a funny / ironic side note… if you search for “hospitality” on Google images, you get almost all pics of restaurants and hotels. That tells us a little about what our culture thinks when they hear the term “hospitality.”)

Learning how to love your neighbors in a new culture

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 in blog links, hospitality, love, service | 10 comments

Learning how to love your neighbors in a new culture

My friends Paul and Laurel moved to the Congo a few months ago. If you’ve heard anything about the Congo in the news lately, they’re in the area of that country that has experienced an ebola outbreak recently.

Recently, they wrote about learning how to love their neighbors in that new culture. They published their thoughts on their blog in a post called “Building relationships in a new culture: Freely go and visit.”

Responding to something they read in a book, they write:

He said that for Westerners, we usually seek to build relationships by inviting people over for a set date and time. We do this a few times and feel like we’re getting to know someone. However, he explains, that in an African culture, that would be out of place for us to do as the visitor. Good to know! Instead, he says it is totally appropriate to drop in, unannounced at someone’s house to spend an undetermined amount of time with a person and their family. If it’s around a mealtime then you would just share in that meal with them. If they had other plans then they would just cancel them! This is how the author encourages Westerners to pursue relationship building in an African cultural context. It’s hard to imagine from my Western point of view because we would usually feel so put out if someone stopped by, especially at a mealtime!

They have made it a personal goal to go against their own inclinations and tendencies and to drop in on their neighbors occasionally.

Now, I realize that most of my readers do not live in Africa. But, do you know your neighbors well enough to know how to show God’s love to them? Have you ever thought that your tendencies may seem rude to your neighbors? And, what they do that seems rude to you may not seem rude to them?

Have you ever gone against your own tendencies or habits in order to show someone that you cared about them?

Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

Posted by on Oct 28, 2011 in community, hospitality, love, missional, scripture, service | 2 comments

Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

This is the fifth post in my series on Christians and giving from the perspective of Scripture. (See the introduction post here.) I’ve already stated that giving directly to those in need is the most prevalent method of giving by Christians in the New Testament (either by example or instruction). There are also a few examples of Christians giving indirectly to people who are in need. Similarly, there are a few examples in Scripture of Christians giving to those who are traveling from place to place to proclaim the gospel or strengthen churches.

Finally, there are a couple of examples of Christians being encouraged to give in response to the service of some other Christians who are not traveling but are in the same city as themselves. The first example from Galatians is more broad in its context, so I’ll start with it:

One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. (Galatians 6:6 ESV)

The other passage teaches something similar in response to the service of elders:

Let the elders who rule [lead] well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17 ESV)

Similarly, Peter indicates that elders should not serve others only because they receive support, which indicates that some type of gift was often given to elders:

[S]hepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain [or, “not for monetary gain”], but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV)

In each of these instances, someone is sharing or giving something to another believer in response to some service. I think the order is important here: the service is performed (probably continually performed), then the gift is given. I think it’s also evident that the gift is not expected or promised, but is given freely and in gratitude. It’s also important that this type of giving is not limited to elders, but should be offered to any who consistently and continually serve someone or some group.

What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service?

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Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place

Posted by on Oct 27, 2011 in community, hospitality, love, missional, scripture, service | 8 comments

Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place

This is the fourth post in my series on Christians and giving from the perspective of Scripture. (See the introduction post here.) I’ve already stated that giving directly to those in need is the most prevalent method of giving by Christians in the New Testament (either by example or instruction). There are also a few examples of Christians giving indirectly to people who are in need.

Similarly, there are a few examples and exhortations in Scripture of Christians giving to those who are traveling from place to place. These traveling (or itinerant) believers may be apostles, or prophets, or evangelists, or perhaps gifted for some other type of service. The common fact for this type of giving is that the recipients are traveling away from home, and they do not intend to stay in one place.

Of course, Paul is the quintessential example of the itinerant servant in Scripture. It is not surprising, then, that there are many example of him receiving help from other believers. This passage from Philippians is a famous example:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. (Philippians 4:10-14 ESV)

Receiving support from others seems to be a right of itinerant believers. Paul discusses this right in 1 Corinthians 9. This is also the passage where Paul says that he refuses to exercise that right among the people where he is currently working. (Paul accepts money from believers in other locations, but there are no examples of instances in which he accepted support from believers in the location where he is currently serving.) This passage also indicates that there are others (besides Paul and Barnabas) who are traveling from place to place. (See 1 Corinthians 9:4-6.)

Similarly, there are exhortations and instructions in other letters in which believers are encouraged to support other Christians who are traveling through their area. Another famous itinerant support passage is found in 3 John:

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 5-8 ESV)

In fact, John later tells Gaius (the recipient of the letter) that he should not follow Diotrephes’ example, partly because Diotrephes refuses to help Christians who are traveling through their area and even attempts to stop others from helping itinerant servants.

Furthermore, the many instructions about practicing hospitality are primarily focused on helping traveling strangers. (For example, see Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.) There is even a special verb for “sending with hospitality” that is used in several passages. (For example, see Acts 15:3, 2 Corinthians 1:16, and Titus 3:13.)

Again, the important aspects of this kind of giving is that it was offered to people who were traveling from place to place. It seems that as long as the servants were traveling, believers would help them. When they settled down, there is less evidence that the support continued, at least at the same level.

What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving to those itinerant servants who are traveling from place to place?

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Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

Christians giving indirectly to others because of need

Posted by on Oct 26, 2011 in hospitality, love, missional, scripture | 3 comments

Christians giving indirectly to others because of need

This is the third post in my series on Christians and giving from the perspective of Scripture. (See the introduction post here.) I’ve already stated that giving directly to those in need is the most prevalent method of giving by Christians in the New Testament (either by example or instruction).

However, there are a few examples in Scripture of Christians giving indirectly to others because of need. But there are some common aspects of this type of giving in Scripture that is often missing when Christians give today.

First, as with the first type of giving, there are two primary aspects to this type of giving as found in Scripture: 1) someone is giving to someone else through a third party (an intermediary), and 2) the item given is needed by the person receiving it.

Here are two examples of this type of giving:

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35 ESV)

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30 ESV)

In both of these examples, there is a clear need, and the people give specifically to meet those needs. However, instead of giving directly to those in need, they give through someone else – the apostles in the account in Acts 4 and through Barnabas and Saul in the account in Acts 11.

There is another example of Christians giving indirectly to those who are in need in Paul’s letters. Several times Paul mentions that he and others are collecting money to help believers in Jerusalem who are facing another famine, and he encourages his readers to help out their brothers and sisters in Judea.

Here are a few examples where Paul mentions this collection:

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ESV)

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5 ESV)

So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:5-7 ESV)

(In fact, the entirety of 2 Corinthians 8-9 concerns this collection.)

Furthermore, according to Luke, Paul mentions this collection (and giving the money to believers in Jerusalem) when talking to the Roman governor Felix:

Now after several years I [Paul] came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. (Acts 24:17 ESV)

Again, in these cases, the people were giving to those who were in need, although they were giving it through others – that is, other people were responsible for delivering the help to those who were actually in need. (However, in the case of Paul’s collection, Paul did invite people from each city to accompany him. So, that was actually a mixed case of both direct and indirect giving.)

Indirect giving is probably the most prevalent type of giving among Christians today – at least, among Christians in the Western world. However, in the examples from Scripture, even though the people were giving indirectly, they knew that the money was being used to support people in need. This is different than most of the giving done through churches and ministries today.

(It is interesting that many of the passages of Scripture that are applied to encourage Christians to give to churches and organizations today are found in the Scripture mentioned above.)

What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving indirectly to those who are in need through a third party?

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Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

Christians giving directly to others because of need

Posted by on Oct 25, 2011 in hospitality, love, missional, scripture | 8 comments

Christians giving directly to others because of need

This is the second post in my series on Christians and giving from the perspective of Scripture. (See the introduction post here.)

There are two primary aspects to this type of giving as found in Scripture: 1) someone is giving directly to someone else, and 2) the item given is needed by the person receiving it. This is the most prevalent type of giving found in the New Testament. (If Scripture is an example of us to learn from – and I think I read that somewhere in Scripture itself – then this probably means that our primary method of giving should be to give directly to someone who is in need.)

There are so many passages of Scripture that model or command this type of giving that I can only highlight a few. For example, this is the method of giving that Jesus praises when contrasting the “righteous/sheep” to the “unrighteous/goats” in Matthew 25:31-46. Similarly, after the Holy Spirit indwells believers on the day of Pentecost, this is one type of giving exemplified in their community when “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as any had need.” (Acts 2:45)

In each case, the believer has something that someone else needs. The person needs this for life and survival. The believer – that is, the one who is following Jesus – provides what is needed directly to the person who has the need.

There are two passages in the general epistles which uses a very similar story of giving directly to someone who has need. Those passages are in James and 1 John:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

Interestingly, James writes that a person who refuses to give directly to someone in need demonstrates a lack of faith (or a dead faith), while John writes that that person demonstrates a lack of love (love of God or love of others). But, this should not surprised us since love and faith are often interwoven in Scriptures.

This passages primarily demonstrate that believers should give to other brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need. However, several statements made by Jesus indicate that similar concern and giving should be practiced towards those who are not believers. (For example, see Matthew 5:43-37.) The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 also seems to demonstrate that our neighbor – that is, the recipient of our love – should include those who do not have the same beliefs as us. Finally, in Galatians 6:10, Paul instructs his reads to do good to all, though he does focus on other believes in that particular passage.

Thus, when we think about Christians giving in Scripture, the primary method of giving is directly to those who are in need. This type and method of giving is the most prevalent (wide-spread) in Scripture and so should probably be the method most practiced by Christians today.

What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving directly to those who are in need?

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Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

Giving and the Church in Scripture

Posted by on Oct 24, 2011 in community, hospitality, love, missional, scripture, service | 7 comments

Giving and the Church in Scripture

I haven’t written much about giving from the perspective of Christians, the church, or Scripture. This is one of those topics that provokes passionate responses on all sides of the issues. So, I’m going to take a “slow and easy” approach to the topic.

To begin, we should admit that giving (or tithing or offering or whatever you want to call it) is a pervasive issue among many in the church. Most of the mail or email that I get from Christians that I do not know personally is requesting monetary support of some kind. And, we’ve all heard the someone say they will “never attend another church service” because they only want money (or they’re always asking for money).

It appears to many (and often to me) that the church runs on money, and that the main mission of the church is to raise money. (There is even a church in our town that has a “yard sale” at least once per month.) Last week, when we went to the NC State Fair, I lost count of the number of food stands that were run by churches attempting to raise money. (I heard an interview in which one of those church members said the state fair was their primary way to raise money.)

When you read through the Gospels, you find that Jesus said quite a bit about money. However, it seems that Jesus primarily spoke about personal use of money or relying on money instead of God. Similarly, we find Paul writing about money a few times, as well. Paul writes about money for many different reasons.

But, what does Scripture (the New Testament in particular) say specifically in relation to the church and money? I’m going to broaden the question a little: What does the New Testament teach in relation to Christians and giving to others?

I use “giving” instead of money because often in Scripture we find other things (besides money) being given to others. If we limit the question to only money, we would have very few passages to consider. However, when we expand the question to include other ways that Christians gave to others in Scripture, we find several additional episodes.

In the study, I’ve divided the various instances of giving into four different groupings: 1) Christians giving directly to others because of need, 2) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need, 3) Christians giving to other Christians traveling from place to place, and 4) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service.

I plan to cover each of these “groupings” in a separate blog post. I think it interesting to find many of the “proof texts” used today are actually applied to different types of giving in the New Testament – types of giving that might not be “acceptable” to those using the “proof texts” today.

I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts and insights as I study this topic. Do you have any comments on this introduction, or on the four categories that I’m using in this study?

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Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service

Guest Blogger: Hospitality and the Life of the New Testament Churches

Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 in guest blogger, hospitality | 7 comments

Guest Blogger: Hospitality and the Life of the New Testament Churches

I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.

(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)

Today’s post was written by Art. Art lives in the Raleigh area, and we’ve met in person several times. You can follow Art on Twitter (@Art_n_Deb) and Facebook.

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Hospitality and the life of the NT churches

We live in a culture that is highly individualistic. We like our privacy, and we manage to keep our friends at a distance by compartmentalizing them. We have friends at work, friends at the gym, friends among our neighbors, friends in sports, and friends at the stores we frequent. Typically, they each stay in their domain: we rarely cross connect friends and we rarely see them outside the area of our relationship. For the most part, we do this with our “church friends,” too. But is this OK for Christians?

The unique thing about the church is that we are all made one—“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28); there is “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col 3:11)

Hospitality opens up our lives and our life spaces to others; it also encroaches on our “me” time and our “private space” (whether you are the visitor or the visitee). Largely, this highly relational aspect of Christian life and service was folded and stored away in the closet of the cathedral church centuries ago, and remains presently set aside in favor of our cultural comfort zones. Still, hospitality is meant to be a normative function among the saints.

Hospitality is one of the key functional ways the church interacts and one of the ways it demonstrates this new unity to the lonely, isolated society around us. (In doing so, we confront our culture with something strange; for all the focus lately on “cultural relevance,” the church always has substantial elements that run against the grain of any culture where we live). Two of the key areas where hospitality plays a major role include:

  1. Providing for the hosting of the church in our homes (for example, Priscilla and Acquilla, Rom 16:5, I Cor 16:19; Nymphas, Col 4:15, Philemon, Philemon v.2; Gaius, Rom 16:23)
  2. Providing an intimate context to be together and serve one another day to day (see acts 2:42; Rom 12:13; I Pet 4:8-10)

Anyone who has regularly opened their homes for the church at large and for brothers and sisters daily knows how exhausting and intrusive that can be for we North Americans. It’s hard to have people traipsing in and out of your house at all hours (as well as delightful). They also know the joy of deep relationships and connectedness, and the positive impact on our growth and intimacy with the Lord and with each other. But, the full biblical employment of hospitality is fairly rare today.

Besides these two purposes that are meant to deepen relationships and enhance the impact we have on each other as it provides for mutual service in the local church, there is even a more obscure function of hospitality: enabling and amplifying the work of itinerants.

Imagine, for a moment, that itinerants were a normative function in the life of the churches. Imagine, too, that typically elders were especially to be given (addicted) to hospitality. As in so many areas elders were to be teachers by example to the saints in the way they lived and functioned, and so in this too, for all the saints hospitality was the common practice in the daily life of the church. In that light, let’s look at this described in the NT:

I Tim 5:10 (widows) “lodged strangers”
Titus 1:8 (elders) “lover of” strangers
I Tim 3:2 (elders) “given to hospitality” (Young’s Literal “a friend of strangers”)
Heb 13:2 (all) “don’t forget” to entertain strangers

II John v. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (of Christ), receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed…” (conversely, if they do, receive them).

Imagine these itinerants living in the homes of the church for weeks and months on the road, not lounging at Holiday Inns. Remember, a major source of impact of itinerants (as well as of elders and saints on each other) is in demonstrating/manifesting the life and power of God in us—teaching by example. By the itinerants living in homes of the churches they were working with (and they usually traveled in teams, so several homes would be involved), the opportunities to “teach by example” were greatly multiplied by the living arrangements of becoming “room-mates.”

In regards to their work described in II Tim 2:2 and Titus 1:5 (what I think of as the “traveling seminary”), and the fact that elders were to be “addicted” to hospitality, it is likely that some of the itinerants would be staying with recognized or emerging elders (see again Rom 16:23), thus amplifying the development of elders as servants to the church.

Our Lord used hospitality as an enabler in His own ministry (for example, see Luke 10:1,5,7,8; Luke 10:38). John, Peter and Paul also utilized and recommended hospitality to further itinerant movement:

Acts 9:32,38,43 Peter at Lyda/Joppa, Simon the tanner
Acts 10:22,48 Peter to Caesarea, Cornelius the centurion

Acts 16:14,15 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

Acts 21:16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

Rom 16:23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. (I Cor 1:14)

Philemon 1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

III Jn 5-8, “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have born witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his names sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

III Jn:9-11 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil,

It is likely the following passages represent Paul requesting not only acceptance of his coworkers in ministry, but also their lodging:

II Cor 8:23,24 “Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.”

Phil 2:19-30 Sending men to the Philippians: receive them…

Col 4:7-10 sending men: receive them…

Hospitality is vital to the life and mutual ministry of the local church, and hospitality is vital to the work and functioning of itinerants among the churches.

  1. What are some ways you can begin to use hospitality in your current circumstances?
  2. I know of several people who offered to have their homes open for getting together on the same day every week. No one showed up. Why do you think that is? How can this be overcome?
  3. Would you consider having an itinerant (who may be with wife and family) stay in your home for say, three weeks? Can you see yourself traveling in that way?

The Church: The Character of God’s Family

Posted by on Jun 16, 2010 in definition, discipleship, fellowship, hospitality, love, service | 3 comments

The Church: The Character of God’s Family

This week, I’m publishing a few posts on “The Church” which explain the basis of my ecclesiology. In the first post, I said that our understanding of the church must begin with God. (see “The Church: It All Begins with God“) In the second post, I continue from that first point by concluding that our relationship with God and with one another is dependent upon God’s re-creative work, not any work of our own. (see “The Church: God’s Children and God’s Family“)

The way we act is defined by who we are. We are God’s children and God’s family, and thus we act as if God is our father. In the Gospels, we see Jesus giving us example after example of what it means to live as God’s children. Since we have been re-created, we have the opportunity and the ability to live as God’s children.

God loves. As his children, then, we also love. We go because God goes and sends. We care because God cares. We give because God gives. We serve because God serves.

When we love, serve, teach, care, etc., we do so because we are God’s children and we have been re-created to imitate our father. We do not become God’s children because we do these things, but we do these things because we are God’s children.

Similarly, we do not do these things (and other things) because we are the church. We are God’s children, and we do these things in demonstration of his character. The character of the family should be a demonstration of the character of the father.

Again, while this may seem obvious, we sometimes delegate this to a side story. If someone goes to another part of the world, they do not go because they are part of the church and the church sent them. They go because God’s cares about the people of that part of the world, and because God has sent them. If someone chooses to take care of a homeless person, they do not do so because the church has a homeless outreach, but because God cares for this person and their concern is a direct reflection of the father’s love.

Finally, this brings us to gathering together. As a family, we gather together. This does not make us family. Instead, gathering together is a demonstration that we are family. We love one another and desire to spend time with one another. That will be the topic for my next post in this series.

More unhypocritical love

Posted by on May 24, 2010 in discipleship, hospitality, love, service, spirit/holy spirit | 2 comments

A few days ago, I pointed out that unhypocritical (or sincere) love (Romans 12:9) includes the practice of “showing more honor” to one another (Romans 12:10).

But, Paul described “unhypocritical love” in other ways as well. He says unhypocritical love (Romans 12:11-13):

  • is not idle in eagerness
  • is burning for the Spirit
  • is a slave to the Lord
  • is rejoicing in hope
  • is enduring troubles
  • is persisting in prayer
  • is contributing to the needs of the saints (God’s children)
  • is pursuing hospitality.

I’ve translated these in a way that indicates a sense of continual action. What do you think?