Welcoming with Open Arms

This last November, while I was speaking at a Vineyard in Bergen, Norway, I had an experience that reinforced my belief that being missional and discipling is a way of life that we pass on by people seeing and experiencing it.  Whenever we gather it is the unspoken culture or practices of welcome and hospitality expressed by our communities that draws people to Jesus.

Being missional starts with reaching out and crossing the gap to befriend someone who is different from us. Leaving the comfort zone of our circle of friends and making room for others in our “posse” are missional practices. A missional community intentionally builds bridges towards those on the margins such as immigrants.

Learning By Seeing and Doing

I had just finished teaching my message on Belonging Before Believing, and had moved into facilitating a ministry time around the wounds of rejection that keep us from belonging. As people were praying for one another, I noticed this Pakistani couple out of the corner of my eye. The man whispered something in his wife’s ear. The next thing I saw was this young Pakistani girl getting up, going over to a Norwegian gal, placing a hand on her shoulder, and joining in with the prayer ministry.  Then I noticed the Pakistani man receiving prayer from a couple of Norwegian men. This couple had never been to a Vineyard seminar on the 5 step Healing Model. They were simply picking up the culture of this community of Jesus followers, and joining in. I saw before my very eyes an organic demonstration of the Celtic or Jesus Way of apprenticing that starts with belonging before believing before behaving.

Hospitality is Sharing Food Together

The very message I had been talking about was being lived out by the community. After the ministry time, we all sat around tables and enjoyed a meal together. A number of gals were holding the Pakistani couple’s cute baby and engaging them in conversation.

What was so encouraging was that this Pakistani couple was being embraced by the community, and were experiencing welcome and hospitality to such a degree that they felt comfortable to join in the prayer ministry as if it was the normal thing to do.

Nothing seemed forced or contrived.

I later found out that this couple lived close to one of the “regulars” in the community and had been invited to church.  They had suffered a lot of rejection and pain even from their own community since coming to Norway. We don’t know if this couple are Jesus followers or not, and that is not for us to judge. We are called to love the foreigner and treat them like family.

Reflection Questions and Practices:

Do we make space in our community for the outsider?

  • When strangers come into our communities, do they feel welcomed by us greeting them, and including  them into our circle of friends?
  • Is it apparent that there is an “in” group in our community that is hard for others to break into?
  • Start a friendship with someone who is new to Canada, and welcome them into your community.
  • Invite a foreigner or someone who feels like an outsider to your home for a meal.  Don’t be surprised if they respond in kind, and even outdo you in the area of hospitality!
  • As a community, have meals together where you welcome in those who are lonely, on the margins, and can’t reciprocate. These Feasts are a foretaste of the Kingdom come. Jesus says in Luke 13: 29-30 “You’ll watch outsiders stream in from the east, west, north, and south and sit down at the table of God’s Kingdom…This is the Great Reversal: the last in line put at the head of the line, and the so called first ending up last.”

    Sharing Food is a Foretaste of the Big Feast to Come!

    • Read the book of Ruth and reflect on how hospitality and compassion towards the foreigner or outsider is rooted in God’s idea of a near Kinsman/Redeemer!

– Tim