Church is for Fellowship with…

… everyone. See this by Karen Yates?

Too often we leave the job of hospitality, of friendliness and inclusiveness, to someone else (many times the already overextended pastor).  Just like high school, we walk into church and sit with our same friends in our same section. On the patio we approach the people we know, the people we are closest with, because we want to hear about their week, about what’s been happening with their family, about their job or what-have-you.  Mid-week we meet up with a small group at a park or coffee shop or lunch date, “let’s just keep it us so we can really talk.”  We assign people to groups, we divide by difference and common interests.  At MOPS or bible study, we would rather pull up another chair at our friend’s table than sit down with all the singletons at the newbie table.  Many times we have “community groups” and we don’t want new people to join because a new person will “mess up the dynamics.”

The excuse many of us Christians make (when we are aware of our actions) is that “even Jesus himself had a close, inner circle.”  We argue that we can’t be close friends with everyone.  We only have so much time to go around, and we hardly spend time with our best friends, let alone have the time to meet so many new friends, new people.

Those things are true.

But we are to befriend the outcast too.  And if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we simply don’t want to.  It takes energy and effort to befriend new people.  It takes risk.  And we are about our wants.  We want to sit with our clique, the friends that make us feel loved.  We want to go out to lunch with people we like, people we prefer.  We want to spend our time our way.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Adam

    Ha!
    “And we are about our wants.”
    Compared to the previous post on Personhood, this is highly ironic.

    “We only have so much time to go around, and we hardly spend time with our best friends, let alone have the time to meet so many new friends, new people.”

    I think we need to sit with this statement a while. I literally go an entire week without seeing and being with my friends. I think we will find a lot of people do. So, when we arrive at social setting, we are STARVED for companionship. Starving people are not equipped to deal with other needy people. I don’t agree that this is entirely about WANTS but NEEDS. I think we should be rethinking how we live so that we are not so socially starved. Then people will feel capable of engaging the stranger.

  • Tom

    People are so busy these days. Most people in our area work more than 50 hours a week and commute two hours each day. That is just the start. In most families, two people work.
    I think our old models were based on a 40 hour week and a stay at home person.
    The world has changed. The middle class struggled to stay middle class.
    As we become an increasingly stratified society economically, this issue gets worse.
    The world is changing and we are trying to hold onto the old model. As our society gets sicker we will need to find new and better ways to interact with people.

  • Pat Pope

    I went to a church that went to using “care teams” several years ago and I remember saying to people that we shouldn’t leave the job of greeting and hospitality to those teams. Hospitality is all our business. But when you go to setting up special teams or committees to be in charge of greeting, there is a tendency for others to slack off because now it’s someone else’s job and then of course, if someone is not properly greeted or we’re not getting the visitors or return visitors that we think we should be getting, well now we have someone to blame as well.

  • AHH

    Yes but …
    Such thinking also needs to take into account personality types. Those of us who are introverts have a pretty small (albeit usually greater than zero) capacity for taking initiative in greeting strangers. The mostly extroverted leadership in Evangelical churches tends to be blind to that when they tell us how we should be acting in group settings. Leaving us to feel like second-class Christians for not being gregarious.

    I do agree with Pat Pope’s point about how setting up a “team” to focus on something can, if it’s not handled well, be an excuse for others to ignore it since it’s now somebody else’s job. That can be a problem in care, hospitality, missions, and probably other areas I’m not thinking of.

  • DMH

    AHH #4 Yes, personality types and all kinds of variables, but… “personality type” CAN BECOME a way of excusing all kinds of things. In my own case- I am an introvert. I was lead (I believe by the HS) to go beyond myself for the sake of others. specifically this meant introducing myself to someone no one else was talking to and engaging in conversation. Over the years it has gotten easier, though I still wouldn’t describe it as easy for me. I think love dictates that I should do this, inspite of myself.


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