Gospel hospitality

The Give Up Bad Coffee For Lent twibbon.
The Give Up Bad Coffee For Lent twibbon.

This is a follow-up post to the one on [Give up bad coffee for lent](https://crimperman.org/2011/03/10/give-up-bad-coffee-for-lent/) (which increasingly becoming a misnomer). It’s been good to see support for churches showing their best in their service. I’ve heard reports of churches experiencing increased activity and participation in their post-service refreshments time (or whatever you call the time coffee is served) just by serving fresh coffee. Indeed some have reported that they have people turn up after church just for the coffee! It’s amazing how the smell (and taste) of good fresh-brewed coffee (and maybe the prospect of some cake) can get people together and it’s important to ensure visitors and regulars alike can share in this most vital but oft neglected part of our church service.

But again it’s more than just serving coffee and cake. We have to be welcoming in all things. This does not mean (as I recently read about) “ushering” first-time visitors into an office to await an “official welcome” by the church leader. Neither is it inundating the poor souls with repeated questions about their personal life. The trouble is in our attempts to not do these things we can often go too far the other way. A friend of mine on (and off) Twitter, [tweeted the following](http://twitter.com/#!/Kneewax/status/49539562514563072):

@Kneewax RT @revmaryhawes: Visited a church. Stayed for coffee 15 minutes later no one had spoken to me <<< #gubc4l it's all about gospel hospitality

The first part was @revmaryhawes experience and the second part the response of my friend @kneewax. I like that term Gospel Hospitality so I’m borrowing it. I did a bit of digging around on it though and found some useful articles. One in particular stood out in the context of GUBC4L. Written by David Black in 2005 and entitled [‘Gospel of Hospitality’](http://www.daveblackonline.com/gospel_of_hospitality.htm) it says:

> This Gospel of Hospitality invites people to come with their hopes and failures and questions to a place where they will be unconditionally accepted and, over time, brought to an understanding of their failings and God’s forgiveness. It is a place of refuge for the weary traveler. It welcomes the stranger, the neighbor, the pilgrim. **Our only motivation is the fact that, being ourselves recipients of God’s hospitality that made us members of His household, we now have the joy of becoming conduits of His hospitality to others**. (emphasis mine)

There’s a lot more to that piece so do go and read it. As you’d expect it also quotes 1 Peter 4:9 regarding hospitality _”Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”_ 1 Peter 4:9 NIV. Other versions speak of doing so “cheerfully” or “without complaining”. Again though I’m going to come back to The Message and widen the context slightly:

> 8Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. 9Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully. 10Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: 11if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything – encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! 1 Peter 4:8-11 MSG

*Serve coffee as if your life depended on it? Well yes.* Because it’s not just your life. Making somebody welcome could mean a big difference in their life. As Mother Theresa said _”We cannot do great things but we can do small things with great love”_ and _”Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”_.

### So how do we respond to newcomers?

Many – better than I – have tried and failed to answer this trickiest of questions so I’m largely ducking out of it here too. Mostly that’s because the how depends upon the where and the who. It’s something we should “play by ear”. We should respond to people as _people_ and not just another new face. They’ve come through our door for a reason, they may not wish to share it but if we are to make their visit worthwhile then how we treat them is vital. This should be a no-brainer but sadly it’s not. All too often we can be too busy running around doing stuff that we forget the people the stuff is for.

I would say that whenever I have been to a church for the first time the coffee time is the place where I have been able to get to know more about it than at any other. The friendly churches are not those that have “newcomer spotters” who prey upon strange faces. The friendly ones are the ones where you are engaged and involved in a non-threatening way. More oftne than not that will happen over coffee making it a decent cup means you have given value to those to whom you are serving it. Serving is where we will “entertain angels unawares”. But we shouldn’t serve our best just on the off chance that this is an angel in dire need of a latte. We should serve our best because the _people_ we are serving are God’s children and because like it or not we are His representatives at that moment, in that place.

You can show your support for Give Up Bad Coffee for Lent via [the Twibbon](http://twibbon.com/cause/Give-up-bad-coffee-for-lent/) on your facebook or twitter avatars. You can also use the twitter hashtag of #GUBC4L but above all you can show support by being generous, serving your best and showing some Gospel Hospitality.