by Cathy Baker

What is it? 

  • the energetic worship service? 
  • the smiles that greet you at the door?
  • the attendants waving you into the perfect parking spot?
  • the clear and colorful signage? 
  • the way your children are welcomed?
  • the Krispy Kreme doughnuts? (Is there any other kind?) 
  • the silky smooth coffee?  
  • the compelling delivery of the gospel?

The it is hospitality in a church setting. What helps our guests feel most welcomed?

It’s a question I continue to ask as I long to make our guests at Summit feel warmly greeted. Truth is, it’s sometimes hard to navigate. What’s friendly to one person is creepy-friendly to another. Time has been spent in prayer, ideas have been researched, and brainstorming has happened over coffee. Surely there’s something we can do to create a Christ-love kind of atmosphere.

Recently, while driving one morning, with no sound but my breath and God’s, came this whisper:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 
1 Jn 4:20

There it was—a roar disguised as a whisper: 
True hospitality begins with love between Christ followers. 
We can have the Kreme-iest doughnuts and a never-ending flow of coffee but if we don’t love one another? 
All else is empty.

Loving one another doesn’t mean we’ll always like each other at times, or even agree on every decision. And that’s okay. But loving others as Christ loves us calls us to a deeper connection lived out by dying to self, sacrificing for Kingdom-glory, forgiving quickly so as not to give the enemy a foothold, and praying for one another. Although we’ll never perfect the art of Christ-love this side of heaven, it is our motivation for all things, and our deepest desire.

Turns out, the real question as to what true hospitality is (at church, as well as our homes) doesn’t begin with what we can do — but rather, Whose can we be?

So, what’s one practical way your church builds upon the foundation of love when welcoming guests?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
John 13:35