Dear Creekside family,
For the past couple of weeks, we have been reviewing our core strategies as a church family to live out our mission to Love, Grow and Reach. We have looked at being people of the Word and Prayer, and this week we are looking at hospitality. What does it look like for Creekside to be a hospitable church?
It’s important for me to start by saying that this is an area in which we have seen tremendous growth as a church over the years. I can remember a time when new members to Creekside would not infrequently tell us that while they were grateful for the church, we were not particularly friendly and it was a difficult place to be new. Now, I often hear from our visitors and new members about how friendly and loving the church has been to them. What excites and encourages me about this change is that it means that Christ is being formed in us as a church family. How amazing is that! So, please be encouraged that this is what many people are seeing and experiencing. But it’s important to acknowledge that we still have a lot of room for growth. As I consider this, two things quickly come to mind.
First, the word ‘hospitality’ literally means “loving the stranger”. It was something that set the early Christians apart from others around them. The first-century Christians were known for loving not only each other (which is critical), but also their unbelieving “pagan” neighbors. As we think about growing in hospitality at Creekside, we must ask ourselves, are we loving those that come from different ethnic or social backgrounds than we do? Do we do all we can to make them feel welcome? The book of James warns against giving preferential treatment to the wealthy or powerful, while ignoring the poor. We need to intentionally make room in our lives for people from a variety of backgrounds. We are always tempted to turn the church into a club, a cozy place where everyone looks and acts the same. It’s instructive that so much of the New Testament deals with different groups of people in conflict. The first potential conflict in the church, found in Acts 6, was a cultural ethnic one between Hellenistic Jews and the more culturally-jewish Jews in the church.
The second thing that comes to my mind is that a major deterrent to hospitality is the frantic pace of our lives. It’s easy to overlook others when our schedules are so packed that we don’t have time to stop and meet them. It’s hard to welcome new people into our homes when we’re exhausted and strung out. It’s difficult to make room for them in our lives when we have no margins to do so. In this area, I have seen two things help our family to be more hospitable. One is to plan for it and get it on your schedule. We had a season of hosting Hospitality Monday Night dinners at which anyone in the family could invite someone outside of the family to join us. It worked for a season and was a really sweet time for us. Another suggestion is to leave a portion (or portions) of your week unscheduled so that you have room for last minute invitations.
I am more and more convinced that while we must know our Bibles and hold to the church's historic creeds and doctrines, how we love the strangers around us is critical for our witness as God's people in this time and place. As one of the Reformers said over 500 years ago, "the front door of the home is the side door of the church." Creekside, be encouraged. Christ is being formed in us as individuals and as a church family. Let's pray and press into this all the more.
Steve Gregg, Lead Pastor