And who is my neighbor? The one who showed mercy… Go and do Likewise. Luke 10:37
Let’s talk about the claim from Alice Mann’s book, Raising the Roof. She says that the first, and most fundamental, barrier of church vitality is this: “We are unclear whether we have a vocation to make room for more of our neighbors in order to serve a growing community.” (p.18)
We are unclear. That we means the congregation, particularly the leadership, has not consciously and intentionally made a decision to be hospitable. Being hospitable is ever so much more than wanting people to fill the pews, ever so much more than standing at the door and smiling. More than nametags, more than coffee and doughnuts.
Alice Mann challenges us to make this our vocation. Any congregation that is thriving and not dying is changing. Changes may take us out of our comfort zone, but they teach us to be aware, to look and to listen, and to adapt.
Our calling is to make room, what she identifies as having a passion for invitational outreach. We need to continually look inward, at our own patterns of worship, gathering, and speech, and outward, to the community around us. Are people hurting? Is anyone excluded? Who is not connected to the family of faith, and why? How do we relate to an increasingly diverse culture: compassionately, judgmentally, or simple not at all?
To serve a growing community should be our priority in every area of our ministry. If invitational outreach occurs only by a committee that is designated to be welcoming, then the church is not really welcoming.
Can we face the challenge to be a good neighbor? How might our church be different if everyone accepts that mission? Let’s do it!
Together with you, in prayer and service,