“Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision.” Anonymous
Vision has a very short shelf life, especially when people encounter obstacles or grow weary when reaching out to those who are different and difficult.
Churches that successfully practice radical hospitality for the long run provide regular theological teaching and support to keep the vision fresh and alive. Leaders need to consistently remind their congregants why reaching out and welcoming is important.
There are often newcomers to bring into the church’s vision and culture. This casting of vision happens through preaching and teaching that challenges people with God’s heart for the “least of these” and the importance of sharing the same welcome they’ve received from God (Romans 15). Congregants are also taught by example as they observe their pastors and lay leaders making space in their own busy lives for those God sends their way.
(To read what teaching and encouragement looks like in different congregations, click on the green tabs below)
(Fresh Wind Fellowship; Abbotsford, BC) On a basic level, the church leadership models how to interact with people with disabilities to congregants who are unfamiliar (and thus uncomfortable) with interacting with non-verbal or mentally impaired individuals. In addition, Fresh Wind is a church that values listening prayer and believes that the Holy Spirit is alive and working in each believer. People at Fresh Wind believe that the same Holy Spirit is in the nonverbal and wheelchair bound church members (residents) as the pastor person speaking up front. The leadership models this by honoring its disabled members, having them on stage or discerning if an “interruption” to the service by a resident is a Holy Spirit interruption.
(The Church at Brook Hills; Birmingham, AL) Biblical teaching from the pulpit regarding care for the orphan has been important to solidifying the culture of orphan care at Brook Hills and in establishing a vision for foster care adoption. Initially, the trend of international adoption grew up organically. During a period of five years, there was a huge surge in international adoption, many families at Brook Hills adopting older Ukrainian orphans. Reflecting back on that time, there are families who now see that they entered into adoption somewhat naively, with the assumption that lavish love could solve everything. Many adoptive families, especially those who adopted older children or teenagers, had a romantic idea of adoption and had no idea of the hardship involved with adoption as it was difficult for their adopted kids to bond with their family due to childhood trauma and neglect. Many of these older adopted orphans acted out negatively in dramatic ways. However, enough families in the church were in the same situation that they were able to provide support to each other and encouragement in the midst of their difficulties. In 2009, David Platt, Brook Hill’s pastor, preached a sermon challenging the congregation to care for local orphans in the foster care system. His teaching sparked a movement in the church where a larger number of families received training and began offering temporary foster care or foster to adopt. These families also encountered difficulties of parenting foster children many of whom had experienced neglect and abuse. It was at this point that the church leadership got more formally involved with adoptive families and established tangible support for families who took this step. Church leadership working in conjunction fostering families started WRAP (Wrestle in Prayer, Relief Prayer, Acts of Service, Promises of God) which provides holistic support for families during their adoption process.
(Northern Lighthouse Mission; Lincoln, NE) Northern Lighthouse is a congregation that ascribes to be a place of acceptance and direction. Leadership tries to create a space of acceptance where anyone can walk in and feel welcomed as they are. However, church leadership is not shy to challenge its congregants to take steps towards the abundant life God called them to. Teaching is done both upfront in the worship service, on Monday nights during RIP (Re-Integration Program teaching life skills) program but much of the discipleship and correction takes place one-on-one in the context of relationship.
(Grandview Calvary Baptist; Vancouver, BC) Tim Dickau came to Grandview from seminary twenty six years ago with a conviction of the church living as an incarnational presence in a neighborhood. These theological convictions have only deepened and become more robust as Tim and Mary have lived and led a church in this direction. As this has been taught and modeled by the leadership of Grandview, they have seen what grows from a faith community that is rooted in a neighborhood and committed to fostering shalom in a particular place. Twenty six years later, there are many unique and successful initiatives that have grown up out of this church. There is a core group of committed congregants who have chosen to root in the neighborhood even though it is hard to make that happen economically. There are two services/congregations and over 400 people that have been sent out from the church to live out this vision of incarnational Kingdom life in their own neighborhoods. In a very transient impersonal city, Grandview models a culture of shared life as people live together or share daily neighborhood life.
(Peace Lutheran; Tacoma, WA) The leadership articulates and models its values of being a community that welcomes and serves. This articulation happens on Sundays and is embodied in the diversity of the worship service (through who is leading the worship and in music choices) and in the leadership council/structures (the leadership tries to reflect the neighborhood’s diversity in the leadership council).