April 13 – Introduction To Radical Hospitality with Mike Herzberg

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Christian hospitality is sometimes thought of as just a practice of being polite or kind even to strangers. I have attended many churches where that description would certainly apply to the reception I received. It was certainly polite, and I suppose it could be classified as kind – but I certainly did not feel welcome. Jesus expects more of us. In fact, Jesus commands it! By practicing radical hospitality in everything we do we expose ourselves as being not just self-proclaimed Christians but true and practicing disciples of Jesus Christ!

In the many years of my adult church-life there are only two churches that I visited and then came to be an active member of the congregation. There was one thing common of the two and that was the key to my staying and participating: members of both churches unfailingly displayed radical hospitality in everything they did. Radical hospitality extended from greeting visitors and congregants at the door to serving in the kitchen for Wednesday night dinners; walking into a new bible study group; serving on a mission to assist with the cleanup of a neighborhood; helping to prepare and serve food at a local outreach effort. Radical hospitality permeated every facet of worship, ministries, missions and administration. Even the valued facilities managers adopted the principle of radical hospitality and the clean and welcoming nature of the buildings reflected that dedication.

I hope you will be with me in our study of Five Principles of Fruitful Congregations. You can start by watching this video as I talk more about radical hospitality and the two churches I found that practice it!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Remembering the first time you visited Lake Deaton UMC, did you feel welcomed? 
  2. What would you do to improve what a visitor feels or sees when visiting LDUMC for worship, classes or events?

Prayer: Lord Father, instill in us a burning desire to do as You would do and help us to embrace and obey Your commandment to love others as we have loved you. Help us to shed our fear and shyness about greeting others in Your name and welcoming them as our brothers and sisters. Open our eyes and ears to others so we can see what they see and hear what they hear and use that to make them feel welcome and loved by us. Amen

April 12 – Introduction to Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations with Jonathan Baker

Read Colossians 1:1-14

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the church at Colossae with a prayer ending with these words: “so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work …”

“Have they fruit?”  asked John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, of his would-be preachers. Could those who were seeking ordination show anything for their service? Was there at least one person who had found faith through the word they proclaimed? A single person whose spiritual practices had been improved by what they taught? A hungry person who found bread? Was there any sign that the ministry exercised by this person was waking the world to the dream of God?

Have they fruit? It’s not a bad question for would-be preachers, and as a denomination we’ve been asking it for more than 200 years. It’s also not a bad question for any of us who claim to be a follower of Jesus and congregations to ask themselves. Imagine the discussion that would ensue at the next Trustee or Finance or Ministry Team meeting if the question were asked, “Have we fruit?” Imagine the conversation if the topic at the meeting became, “What evidence is there? What can we point to that demonstrates that the community and world in which we live is better, healthier, and more faithful because of the presence of our church? Are our ministries making any kind of difference to our neighbors? Is the Spirit, through us, changing lives, deepening faith, seeding hope in this neighborhood? I imagine a lively scene as a congregation deliberates and discusses its missional role in its own context, all the while answering the question, “Have we fruit?”

This is precisely the question as a congregation we’ll be asking over the next 6 weeks as we begin the study and subsequent conversation of the book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. We hope everyone will want to be part of that study and you can find lots of helpful information on our WEB site or call the church office if you want to join us. We also hope you will want to be part of a small group discussion of the book. It’s part of our planning process, what we’re calling Re-Visioning, for Lake Deaton. We want to prayerfully consider what God’s vision and direction is for our congregation because we want to be “FRUITFUL” – to make a different for Christ and our world.

My prayer for us and Lake Deaton is that Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations helps us grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God. May we be changed from the inside out so God can use us to help transform the world for the purposes of Christ.

Join me in the video for the “rest of the story”!

Discussion Question:

  1. What “fruit” do you see being produced through the mission and ministry of our Lake Deaton congregation?
  2. How can you grow in grace so you can bear fruit for Christ in your everyday life: your home, community, church, nation, and world?
  3. Are you willing to invest your time and prayers in the study of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations so God can use us in discerning God’s Vision for Lake Deaton?

Practice:  Talk to someone at Lake Deaton about joining our daily devotional and study.

Closing Prayer: Creating God, we want to be connected to our Lord. Like a branch that draws its life from the vine, so we draw our strength, courage, direction, and saving grace from you, our Vine. Open wide our eyes and ears, our hearts, and wills so we might receive your plan for our lives and for our Lake Deaton church family. Come, Holy Spirit, come and work in us. May we be changed from the inside out so God can use us as we PRACTICE our faith to help transform the world for the purposes of Christ. Amen.