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How many of you are familiar with the British actor known as Mr. Bean? Played by Rowan Atkinson, Mr. Bean is a rubber-faced physical comedy master in the vein of Jim Carry or the Three Stooges. I stumbled upon a skit called Mr. Bean Goes to Church that I found to be both hilarious and distressingly true.

Mr. Bean visits a country church for the first time and struggles with how to do things “properly” because he is new. He can’t figure out the liturgy, sings off tempo, makes too much noise opening a cough drop, and eventually falls asleep during the sermon with his head bobbing on the shoulder and chest of the VERY visibly disgruntled church member sitting next to him.

Watching the reactions of the disapproving church member is where the story of hospitality in the church is told. He is very inconvenienced with this newbie next to him, is reluctant to share his pew and his hymnal, rolls his eyes when Mr. Bean sings at the wrong time, and does everything in his power to say “You’re not welcome here.” Mr. Bean doesn’t fit in.

Have you ever felt that way in a church? I have. My worst experience was in a church in New Orleans where we were spotted as “new” and made by the pastor to stand and not only introduce ourselves but tell “a little something about us.” We were just trying out all the Methodist churches in the area and simply wanted to worship. I am sure that pastor thought he had a very strong hospitality game by doing this. He was wrong. We never went back.

I have used this clip as an ice-breaker when training churches on how to be more welcoming. Hospitality in the church is the most vital part of our evangelism ministry yet we have no idea how we are perceived.

In Paul’s letter to the new church at Thessalonica, he praises them for their outreach efforts. Note that none of it has to do with brochures, a committee, calling out visitors in worship, or any of the things churches do in the name of “hospitality.”

1 Thessalonians (The Message)

7-10 Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message!

All of us are in the “Evangelism Ministry.” True outreach happens when we authentically walk the talk and live out the Good News of Jesus in front of people with the simple example of our lives. When a fellowship of people truly love the Lord and ALL of his people, the word gets out.

People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.

This actually has nothing to do with church and everything to do with you. When you put away the dead idols of your preconceived notion of who is included in “God’s people,” it is only then that you can embrace and serve God, the true God.

So be the message. Receive strangers with open arms in the name of Jesus. Jesus rescued us from certain doom! Find a way today to tell this Good News to someone who hasn’t heard it yet. YOU are an evangelist when your life echoes the Master’s Word. Go and tell!

Need a laugh? Watch this.

Go and Tell by Michelle Robertson

Hospitable

The quality of hospitality was highly prized in Jesus’ time. People had to depend on the hospitality of a stranger when they needed to travel, as there were no Holiday Inns or Expedia services that made finding accommodations easy. From Abraham, who taught us that sometimes we entertain angels unaware, to the admonition to church leaders in the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, hospitality has been viewed as an attribute of God and thus a practice that all God-followers should embrace.

Do you know somebody who is especially adept at making others feel welcome in their home? Are you that kind of person?

I have a sister-in-law who is gifted this way. She has hosted several of the family bridal and baby showers, and each time she manages to completely anticipate her guests’ every need. It is a pleasure to see how her days of intense preparation come together. Heirloom dishes are beautifully laid out with homemade delicacies, tables are dressed with festive tablecloths and napkins, desserts and drinks are separated to accommodate traffic flow, and comfortable seating is ready to receive weary travelers. She has a heart for her guests that expresses itself in a well-organized and festive celebration. Everyone who walks through her door feels welcomed and loved.

When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

Matthew 10 (The Message)

40 Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me. And anyone who welcomes me also welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who welcomes a prophet, just because that person is a prophet, will be given the same reward as a prophet. Anyone who welcomes a good person, just because that person is good, will be given the same reward as a good person. 

This passage says it all. Anyone who welcomes another welcomes the Lord. And in so doing, they welcome God. Welcoming others in the name of Jesus is like opening your door to Jesus and inviting him in to “set a spell” with a glass of cold ice tea and a slice of hummingbird cake.

And Jesus takes it one step farther:

42 And anyone who gives one of my most humble followers a cup of cool water, just because that person is my follower, will surely be rewarded.

Here we are instructed to go one step beyond normal hospitality and extend ourselves to people in need. Jesus’ most humble followers need what we can provide: cold water, warm food, dry accommodations, and most importantly, compassion.

The pandemic has forced many people to close their businesses and has rendered a large part of our workforce food-insecure. More and more people are becoming shelter-insecure. And we still have a way to go.

Where is God calling you to extend your hospitality beyond your family and friends and welcome the stranger?

Check with your local food bank and see where the needs are. People in your community need a cup of cold water that demonstrates the love, compassion, and hope of Jesus himself.

And when you serve the least of them, you have served Christ.

OBX’s Beach Food Pantry. Photo via Facebook.