Our church motto is to make disciples for Christ from all nations. The word ‘nations’ actually refers to ethnic groups even if we don’t have flags to represent them all.
The sign outside our church says “50 Nations – One Family.” Sometimes we might think that if we have one representative from within the political boundaries of a country that God’s vision is satisfied and we can check that country off the list where every tribe, tongue and nation is included around the throne of Jesus for eternity.
Nigeria is one country but it has 540 distinct ethnic groups. We have three of those groups represented in our church family. It looks like we have room to reach out further.
With 16,600 distinct people groups in our world we realize that people with “shared language, religion, ethnicity, residence, occupation, class, caste etc.” need to be reached with the love of God, the truth of his Word, and the life of his Spirit. 6,700 groups are still considered as unreached with less than 2% of their people knowing Jesus. Your neighbour and my neighbour are possibly in this arena.
20% of the world’s population live among the one-and-a-half billion people who embrace Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or other religions where there is no significant Christian witness. 80% of these religious adherents have no access to any follower of Jesus.
I’ve read data which says that if 2 ½ percent of innovators can latch onto a vision then there is potential for a whole culture to change. Our Technology businesses market their products with this in mind. At Faith, we may just have the percentage needed to take us across ethnic, social, and language barriers. Hospitality could be a key to overcoming boundaries.
Ethnic, religious, language and cultural boundaries aren’t the only things that might have us cross someone off of the potential convert list. Lifestyle choices might also have us giving up on someone.
A former lesbian feminist named Rosario Butterfield has become a prominent spokesperson in reminding us not to give up on people who are in the LGBTQ communities. She came to Christ have years of gentle relationship building by a Christian neighbour – who also happened to be a pastor. She was an articulate and intelligent University professor who finally understood the radical claims of Christ on his people.
Butterfield was recently interviewed by Lindsey Carlson in an online Christianity Today article on April 27th of this year. Here is one question:
How does radically ordinary hospitality look when you live in a community where people go to and from work, pull their cars into the garage, shut the door, and never speak to their neighbors? How do you engage people who seem completely uninterested and never accept your invitation?
Give open invitations, especially invitations for events that are outdoors. We will put an invitation on an app called NextDoor saying, “We’re going to have a cookout. Bring a folding chair and a friend.” And we’ve realized there’s a 10 percent rule. If you invite everyone out, about 10 percent will come. And I’d say be consistent about hosting. Be warm in responding to people. Cast wide nets. In some cases, if we’re responding to a crisis, we have our church there helping. That way, when neighbors show up, 30 people are already there. They’re grilling, talking, filling water balloons, handing out watermelon. It takes away the awkwardness of being the first to walk up.
We forget hospitality isn’t a nice add-on you do when you happen to have a spare Saturday afternoon. It’s the bridge that God is going to use to solve the biggest problems in people’s lives.
Realize your neighbors are struggling with things. I don’t care how meticulous the garage looks when the door closes. Nobody is doing great. I’m not doing great; you’re not doing great. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and we need help. And if that’s true of those of us who have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, how much more for those of us who don’t?
The ministry of open hearts, open hands and open doors makes all the difference no matter who is in our neighbourhood. Who do you think God might encourage you to engage with over these next few months? Is there anyone on that list who you used to think might be unreachable? What would it take for you to add a few more of those names for intentional interaction over the days ahead?