Welcome Those Who Fled the Church

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ThomIf
most people currently avoid church (they do), how might the church
change to be more welcoming to these exiles?

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This was a critical question as my wife Joani and I
set out to research the culture before we wrote our new
book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church
Anymore
. We landed on four things that people today
would like to find in a church.

In my 
last post
 I identified four reasons that people avoid
church. The flipside of these things form what, in the book, we
call the “Four Acts of Love.” These are the things that we find
people craving, what they wish the church, the Body of Christ,
would provide:

Radical Hospitality

Fearless Conversation

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Genuine Humility

Divine Anticipation

In coming posts here I’ll preview each of these Acts
of Love. Today I’ll start with Radical Hospitality. In our research
for the book we found that most congregations believe their
churches are friendly and hospitable. But they tend to make that
critique based on cosmetic things that most people don’t equate
with a true welcome.

We describe how Radical Hospitality is NOT:

  • greeters at the door
  • meet-and-greet time in the service
  • an espresso bar
  • parking lot attendants
  • awarding prizes for bringing visitors

Instead, Radical Hospitality begins with extending the
kind of genuine welcome that Jesus demonstrated. He exemplified an
unconditional love for the misfits, the outcasts, the weak, the
young, the broken, the prostitutes.

We tell the story of a remarkable night when an
unusual guest showed up at a Lifetree Cafeprogram
titled “Temptation: Why Good Men Go Bad.” The hour featured a
filmed interview with Ted Haggard, the megachurch pastor who
started a new church after his sizzling sex scandal with a male
prostitute.

Who showed up for this Lifetree episode? Mike
Jones-the male prostitute whom Ted Haggard hired. He outed himself
at the beginning of the hour. The tension at that moment was
palpable. But one by one, the Christians in the room began to
envelope Jones with Radical Hospitality. An hour of open, honest,
loving conversation followed. The group tackled the issue of
temptation and grappled with Jesus’ words from the Lord’s Prayer:
“Lead us not into temptation.”

At the conclusion of the program, Jones stuck around
and talked for another hour with Christ’s followers. He shared how
he expected this crowd to react with judgmentalism toward him. He
was surprised to encounter a refreshing splash of Radical
Hospitality.

Radical Hospitality finds ways to welcome, to include,
to love, without the snarl of judgmentalism, exclusivism, or
elitism. As Jesus demonstrated, this doesn’t mean we condone a
prostitute’s behavior. But we can fully accept the person.
Acceptance does not require endorsement.

Jones thanked the people for welcoming him, accepting
him, and listening to him. As he turned to leave, he said he wished
such a place, with this kind of hospitality, existed near his home.
“I have some friends I’d like to experience this.”

For the love of Christ.

(I’d love to hear what you think. Please comment
below. When you do you’ll be entered to win one of five free copies
of our new book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. If you
can’t wait, you can place a pre-publication 
order here
.)

 

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About Author

Thom Schultz

Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today’s church.

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