This week we are continuing our preaching series on the five historical practices called the Methodist Way. Last week we looked at the early church from Acts 2 and talked about what they did to set their world on fire for Christ and how we might follow that example today with the power of the Holy Spirit. Today we are going to look at one of the five practices of the Methodist Way, Radical Hospitality, and see what that Scripture says about it and how we can carry that out in this world.
What Are the Purposes of the Five Practices
The five practices that we are going to be discussing over the next several weeks are nothing new. These are not some ancient tips that have recently been discovered or a new way of doing church. These practices are Scriptural but sometimes forgotten or overlooked. The Conference describes these practices “as part and parcel of what it means to be the Body of Christ in a local community. They are a natural and essential outgrowth of disciples being in Christ-centered community and joining Him in mission. None of the five practices are optional; all are definitional.”
The man mostly responsible for the wording of these practices Bishop Robert Schnase put it, “these five core discipling practices 'move us from abstract intentions to practical and personal directions for ministry. Once our mission becomes practical and personal. It becomes memorable and achievable.'”
These five practices help us to take our 'good intentions' and make them fruitful actions. These practices are the five things that a church must do to be fruitful and healthy. Again these are not new, they are Scriptural and historical. They are intended to help us better focus our efforts so we can be more influential for the Kingdom.
Today we are going to talk about one practice called Radical Hospitality. When I was growing up I knew a little old lady named Osa Jordan. I called her Miss Osa and she was as sweet as the day is long. She was all of about 4 foot 8 inches tall and had a smile that was a foot wide. She was my church greeter. I remember every Sunday, every Sunday, Miss Osa would be at the front of the sanctuary greeting all who walked in. Now mind you she always said that she did not want to hand out bulletins while she was standing there. She felt she was too busy saying 'Good Morning' to everyone. There was only one door into our sanctuary and Miss Osa guarded it and would not let you in before she got to tell you just how happy she was to see you. And it did not matter if she had seen you once or a thousand times, she was going to tell you how genuinely happy she was to see you. I used to stand off to the side and watch people wait till she was talking to someone and try to sneak by her. Just as you got behind her she would reach out her little hand and grab you by whatever she could and hold on for all she was worth till she got finished and could speak to you. Watching that I would laugh till I cried at how people tried to get by her and how she always managed to get a hold of them. She was in her 90's while she did all of this. But she believed that was her mission from God to let everyone know not only how happy she was to see them but how happy God was for them to be there. She had a way of doing it that was not creepy, intrusive, or bothersome. Everyone honestly felt how genuine she was in her greetings and we all loved Miss Osa.
She understood the idea of Radical Hospitality, of going the second mile to make someone feel welcome at church. So where does Radical Hospitality get its Scriptural basis, who should we show Radical Hospitality too, and how can we carry that out here in our part of Ocala?
Looking at our Scripture lessons today we are given a clear picture of what Radical Hospitality is. In the book of Romans we have the Apostle Paul writing to the believers in Rome to introduce himself and give them a sample of the message he plans to deliver one he arrives. And in chapter 15 Paul is speaking about how we are to treat the weak and the strong. He speaks about how Scripture is meant to help us and give us hope. He goes on to speak about how we are all one in Christ Jesus and how that necessitates that we treat all people the same. After all if we are all one then we should treat each other equally. And this act in and of itself brings praise to God. The oft quoted verse from this section is verse 7 that says “Welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God”. Osa Jordan, Miss Osa understood that. She welcomed each and every person she saw because she knew her God wanted her to. She welcomed them with love in the name of God as if they were her dearest and best of friends. She wanted them to understand that she was genuinely happy to see them at that very moment. And she did it with everyone. Not just the few she saw every week, but with everyone that set foot in that sanctuary.
Who Should We Show Radical Hospitality Too?
We should show it to those un-churched and lost souls we meet, to those people we come across outside the walls of this church. Our Radical Hospitality should go beyond the “come and get it” type of evangelism that some places employ. Radical Hospitality should be a “go and get them” type of evangelism. We need to be proactive rather than reactive. If we wait for them to come to us, we are missing wonderful opportunities to truly be disciples of Christ.
Two friends go fishing. They get up early, pack their gear, and take the boat to the local lake. They put the boat in the water and sit there for hours. Every once in a while they shout to the fish “Come and Get it!” They are waiting for the fish to jump in the boat. They never cast a line or throw a net. You see there is a world of difference between sitting in the boat waiting for the fish to jump in and really fishing- going to where the fish are, knowing what attracts the fish, casting a net again and again. Jesus calls us to fish!
We are called to go beyond our walls and beyond our comfort zone. We need to understand what it takes to reach others and be on the lookout for how we can influence others for Christ.
Our founder John Wesley was not at all comfortable about initially going outside the walls of his church. However, in order to reach those people that might never walk into a church and if by chance they did, not really understand or connect with what they experienced inside, Wesley stepped out of his comfort zone and preached in a field.
In his journal on Thursday, March 29, 1739 Wesley wrote:
“I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which [Mr. Whitfield] set me an example on Sunday; I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.” Then four days later: “At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city to about three thousand people.”
That practice was revolutionary for that day and age and allowed Methodism to reach those never before impacted, the poor, the slaves, the sick. Hebrews 13:1-3 tells us that by welcoming strangers, we will entertain angels without knowing it. We are told to put ourselves in other's places and think about how we would want to be treated if we were the ones on the outside. These people may feel they have no place in a church, or that they might not be welcomed. We need to think of those that feel they have no need for organized religion or those that have gotten so busy by this life that church has lost or never found significance in their lives. Those are the people that we need to reach. Those are the ones that we need to extend Radical Hospitality to. We need to “Welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God”.
So how do we do that here in Ocala?
To help in thinking about and focusing on offering those we meet, Radical Hospitality, I found a few principles that we can follow that will help us be “more vile” so that we can “proclaim in the highways the glad tidings of salvation” here in our section of Ocala.
The first one is to exceed expectations. We need to strive to go beyond friendly and show others that we are genuinely concerned. That they matter and that we are honestly happy to be spending that particular moment with them.
Next we need to be the ones to take the initiative. We need to seek out new people and not wait for them to come to us. One example is the Power of 10 which states that you make conversation and build a relationship with everyone within 10 feet of you. Another is the Power of 3 which says that for 3 minutes following worship, talk to new people. Practicing those little things can open so many doors for us to step out of our comfort zone and practice Radical Hospitality.
Finally we can invite people we meet to church events. Give them the chance to come and see what we are about here. Let them see that we truly are trying to serve Christ by learning, leading, and loving people straight into the Kingdom.
These practices are not new, they just sometimes get overlooked.
Miss Osa greeted every week at church till she was 98 years old. And for so many she was a truly bright light in a world of darkness. She went the extra mile, spoke to everyone she saw, and did her best to bring Radical Hospitality to those she encountered. Now it is our turn to continue what she practiced. It is our turn to fulfill the call of being light and hope for the people here in Ocala.