If it works, why isn't it working?

We can take America for God by giving the ministry to laymen who are using their gifts to grow their groups to double their classes every two years or less.

We can it do through at least half-way decent teaching and by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. We can do it by being obedient to the command of God to offer hospitality:

  • Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)
  • Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner. Romans 12:13 (Living)
  • We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. 3 John 1:8 (NIV)
  • Then he told the man who had invited him, "When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don't invite only your friends." Luke 14:12 (GW)

Last week I wrote about a half a dozen or so comments I have received recently confirming the fact that if we will do this--if we will offer hospitality to one another without grumbling, and offer hospitality to the right people, (not just our friends) we can double a class every two years or less.

I received this confirmation from my friend, Sally Hinzie:

Josh - it works in Russia, too!  I have just consulted with a church we helped plant in Russia & this is exactly what I told them to do.  They are doing it already, but not strategically.  I encouraged them to plan & be more strategic in their hospitality. 

Sally Hinzie
Church Consultant
Union Baptist Association
www.ubahouston.org

It begs a question, which is a haunting question of my life: why isn't it happening on a broad scale? I have thought a lot about this question. In fact, it is the basis of this year's Double Your Class Seminar. Presenting this week after week has caused me to really think deeply about this.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that through the ministry of hospitality, we can double a class in two years or less. The average class size is 10. Doubling every two years or less translates into 40% annual growth, or going from 10 to 14 in a year. We can do that. Through Christ who strengthens us, we can do that.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that doubling every two years or less will result in incredible results. A group of 10 that doubles every 18 months can reach 1,000 people in ten years through doubling groups. I agree with Andy Stanley: "I don't know what your plan is for reaching people for Christ, but until you come up with a better plan, why not participate in this plan?"

It still begs the question: why isn't it happening already? The question can be answered with another question.

I had someone in Littlefield, TX ask me this profound question. "I agree. I know this stuff will work. Here is my problem. I come to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, visitation, deacons meetings, committee meetings. I know it will work, but, quite honestly, I don't know that I will get to it."

You may disagree, but here is what I said to him. I think you are going to have to move it up--way up in your priority structure. In fact, if I were your pastor, I would ask you to make it your 2nd church priority. Your first church priority is to come on Sunday morning for Bible Study (Sunday School) and Worship. Then, if you want, stay home on Sunday night. Stay home on Wednesday night. Get off the committees. Resign as a deacon. Don't come to visitation any more. But, make being obedient to the command of God to "Get in the habit of inviting guests home for dinner" your second church priority. Then, if you want, you can add some things back in. You may want to add back in Sunday night, Wednesday night, deacons and so forth. Add them back, in whatever order makes sense to you. But, make giving Friday nights to Jesus your second church priority.

You may disagree with my perspective, and I can respect that. But, here is the deal. If hospitality is your 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th church priority behind Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, deacons, committees, visitation, etc. . . let's get realistic. You won't get this done. You may as well make a conscious, calculated decision to never do hospitality, because if it is that far down on the priority list, it won't get done.

Do you know what keeps many of us from being more effective for God?

Church.

Church keeps many of us from being more effective for God. Church activities that all have one thing in common: we sit in rows and listen to a speaker speak. 

One of the great services that Rick Warren has done for the body of Christ is to remind us that there are five purposes of the church, and we ought to make some attempt to balance the five purposes. Just a reminder, the five purposes are:

  • Worship
  • Discipleship
  • Fellowship
  • Evangelism
  • Ministry

The first three are addressed on Sunday morning. It just makes sense to me that the next time slot we give to God addresses the other two: ministry and evangelism. One way to do that is through the ministry of hospitality.

It makes sense to me, and, the feedback I am getting says it makes sense to a lot of people, but I am fearful it is a change that many will not be willing to make.

There is a strong church culture around the idea that good church members attend church at least three times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. I have heard it preached from the pulpit: Those who really love the church attend Sunday night, but those who really love Jesus, attend Wednesday night."

I ran across this clever appeal for men to attend both Wednesday night and a Saturday morning men's meeting:

C - It shows a commitment to God for what he gave to me.
O - It helps me to remain obedient to Godís Word
M - To share and laugh with fellow believing men
M - Helps one to maintain a level of accountability
I - Helps keep me independent from the secular world
T - Continually reminds me of the treasures that I have in Heaven
M - Reminds me twice weekly of proper biblical moral conduct
E - Reminds me several times a week of everlasting eternal life
N - Helps not to lead me into temptation
T - Staying in the word transforms me into eventual glorification

I am not arguing the virtue of this approach. I am simply stating that life is about choices. If we choose to come Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and, in this case Saturday morning, it is not likely that we will give Friday nights to Jesus.

I am calling for a radical shift in church culture. I think we need to say to people, "It is O.K. to stay home from some of the meetings. Give Friday nights to Jesus. Offer hospitality without grumbling. Get in the habit of inviting guests home for dinner. Make it a priority. Move it up--way up in the priority structure."

Where is an evening of hospitality going to come from? Will it come from your family time? Will you work less? Will you do fewer date nights with your wife? Whenever we say "yes" to one thing, we have to say, "no" to something else.

Giving Friday nights to Jesus will cost you. If you have not done this stuff you have no idea how much trouble it is having fun. Reaching out to people through the ministry of hospitality is work. All good ideas degenerate into work.

I'd invite you to have a long talk with Jesus about where this ought to fit in your priority structure. It may be different for everyone. Search your soul and make a prayerful, thoughtful decision to the glory of God.

The Bible says, "Get in the habit of inviting guests home for dinner." Psychologists tell us about 90% of what we do is a habit. We either do it as a habit or we don't do it at all. We either move it way up in the priority structure, or we don't do it at all. We either make it the default mode or we don't do it all all. Which is it for you--habit, or not doing it at all?

We can take America for God by giving the ministry to laymen who are using their gifts to grow their groups to double their classes every two years or less. We can do it through the ministry of hospitality. But, we are going to have to move it up--way up in the priority structure.

And, although this will be a major shift for many, it is not a royal pain in the back side. It is a wonderful way to live. It is a wonderful thing, living in community, among friends. It is flat-out a fun way to live. Truthfully, I would rather spend an evening doing hospitality ministry than spend an evening doing visitation. But, this is not what I would rather do. This is about what is effective in this generation.

In this generation, it is not enough to tell people about a God who loves them. We must love them. It is not enough to tell people about what a friend we have in Jesus. We must be their friend. And when we become their friend, their heart starts to warm up to a message about what a friend they can have in Jesus. When we love them their heart starts to warm up to a message about a God who loves them.


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