• Jennie Sheppard

Christian Hospitality in a Covid World

In my lifetime, March 2020 goes down as a benchmark. Certainly, no one could have foreseen what the next year would hold while the entire world navigated a global pandemic. As we faced an unknown viral enemy, we separated ourselves from each other for the protection of the most vulnerable. We grew accustomed to canceled plans, rescheduling, and the alternate term, “pivoting.” Early on, my heart hurt for the businesses who had to shut their doors and rethink their models. Then, my heart swelled as I watched the entrepreneurial spirit of these small stores and restaurants come up with brilliant alternatives to keep their doors open. Literally every aspect of life was faced with unprecedented choices, and it did not surprise me to see creative minds coming up with ways to keep children educated, businesses open, and churches worshipping. Our church adapted with the best of them to move services online, reach out via phone, hold life groups on Zoom, and teach children via videos and even “snail mail.” As time progressed, we longed to be together physically because nothing can substitute face-to-face interactions with our people.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews not to neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another. At Central Baptist Church, we know that life is better together. In addition to meeting together corporately for worship and bible study, we take the call of hospitality seriously. What exactly does it mean to practice hospitality? It means loving everyone the same and inviting them into your life and your home, both Christian and non-Christian friends. It is treating every person you meet as an image-bearer of God. It is living your Christian life out in front of others and representing Christ to a world that needs to know Him. A lot of times we overcomplicate hospitality, but Jesus modeled it greater than anyone in history. The remarkable part? He did not even have a home to open. He simply opened his life. While hospitality can be as formal or informal as one desires, living in a Covid world put a quick damper on physical gatherings around a table, bible studies, book clubs, Little Caesar’s Hot-N-Ready pizzas on paper plates, and pot luck dinners. We do not need to wring our hands and give up. With a little creativity, a person can still practice hospitality. Don’t you think the God who created the duck-billed platypus, migratory birds, the stars in the skies, and dandelions that have tiny parachutes for seed dispersal has a penchant for creativity? If booksellers, gourmet dining establishments, and grocery stores can change to a to-go model, what makes hospitality any different? A pandemic might require that we tweak our methods, but the end goal of hospitality should remain unchanged. Go back to basics. Write a handwritten letter to a relative or friend across the miles. Pass your grocery clerk a note and a $5 gift card for a coffee to let them know how grateful you are for their service to the community. Make signs of gratitude and wave to your sanitation workers. Pick up a beverage for a friend at the drive-thru and pray for them as you drive to drop it on their porch. When you pray for someone, call them up, leave a voicemail, or text them the prayer. Let them know that you are truly praying. Pay attention to social media and reach out if it seems like someone is struggling. Organize a picnic. Take note of seemingly small needs and act on them. Resist the urge to put off to tomorrow what you can do to encourage someone today. Do things that make people ask you about the reason for the hope you have within you, and be prepared to give them an answer! (Hint: It’s not a trick question! It’s Jesus!) In “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” young Kevin finds himself in Central Park conversing with an unusual bird-obsessed woman. As they chat, he finds out that she’s a social recluse, disenchanted and broken-hearted, unwilling to become vulnerable lest her heart continues to be broken by those she loves. Kevin listened to her as she told her story and before they parted ways, he poignantly said, “I won’t forget to remember you.” We are not created to be reclusive. God created us to live in community. Romans 15:5 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” When we show the love of Christ to each other we go out of our way. We get creative. We pray for endurance and we do not give up. We do not forget to remember our most vulnerable who remain isolated for health reasons. Let us use this day that God has gifted us to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. Challenge yourself to think about how to show biblical hospitality in creative ways to your church family, your non-Christian friends, your acquaintances, and even strangers. Let us shine a light that others may see our God in heaven and become part of the best family this side of eternity.

SPECIAL EVENT: Jennie and her husband, Sam, will be joining our panel discussion on Cultivating Gospel Hospitality In Your Home at Central Baptist Church on March 21st for our very first TDI Workshop! The event will be from 6:00-7:30pm and childcare is available. The cost is $15 per couple or individual. Click here to save your seat today!

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