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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Worship and Hospitality

Skye Jethani wrote an interesting piece about Bedouin hospitality for Out of Ur.

I went to a seeker-oriented church for fifteen wonderful years. When we moved last summer, in many ways I felt relieved.

In our new town we joined a smaller church with about 500 in attendance each Sunday. I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to hear normal people leading worship. We even have someone in choir who is--gasp!--tone deaf.

We loved our old church, but the worship was so polished it sometimes felt sterile, like just another Hollywood or Broadway production written to provoke tears at just the right moment. We joked that no one could join the praise band unless they had won a Grammy. In our seeker-oriented church, the polish shined so brightly that most normal folk were too intimidated to serve much at all.

Many seeker-oriented churches define worship as an event that occurs on the church stage, led by a band or choir. By this logic, we polish our presentation because our primary audience is God. He deserves the best worship we can offer. But worship is much more than music. In 1897 M. G. Easton defined worship as "homage rendered to God which it is sinful (idolatry) to render to any created being."

In a sense, Skye Jethani seems to be offering hospitality as a new defining virtue. Much of the debate about seeker-oriented churches centers around methodology worship and worship styles. Rather than spend tremendous amounts of energy putting on a spectacle each week (even if it is for God), we can spend Monday through Saturday worshipping God through ordinary hospitality to the people around us.

Hospitality is an accessible virtue. I don't need a lot of money or artistic genius to be a good host.

Hospitality is about personal relationships and humility. It doesn't dictate style or method so much as heart.

Hospitality is about meeting the needs of a guest. Seeker-oriented churches that anticipate the needs of a guest are simply trying to be good hosts. Such deliberate and often rigid planning doesn’t work for everyone, but it can still build relationships and glorify Jesus Christ.

As much as we talk about finding a personal relationship with Jesus, we shouldn't forget to find a personal relationship with each other. That's hospitality.

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