Starting here, the book shifts to looking at ten “signposts of renewal” that Butler Bass says were characteristics of the thriving mainline churches she researched.
First, she saw that an expansive hospitality was evident in each congregation, even as it was expressed in varying ways. This hospitality was more than just a warm handshake and a smile or a church-growth strategy. It was something that you could sense in the atmosphere–that people recognized their shared pilgrimage as the source of their unity rather than a lock-step agreement on all things doctrinal and political.
Diana saw intergenerational fellowship; comfort and friendship between black and white and straight and gay individuals and families; intentional incorporation of homeless neighbors into the worship and fellowship of a congregation; and Republicans and Democrats sharing the Eucharist. The members of these congregations were not merely tolerating each other–they actively loved each other and opened their arms to love their community as well.
This hearkens back to the biblical and eastern practices of hospitality. There was no higher privilege than to be able to welcome a stranger into your home, to provide them with a meal and to give them place to rest. In the 4th commandment in Exodus 20.8-11, in the institution of the weekly Sabbath, God specifically tells the Israelites that they are to offer Sabbath rest to the foreigner within the gates of their town. The outsider gets the same privilege of Sabbath as the Hebrew.
- Where have you seen Adventist communities live out the “hospitality clause” of the Sabbath commandment?
- Where do you see need for improvement in being a Sabbath-offering community?
- Are there limits to hospitality? If so, what would those limitations be?
- Who are the strangers/foreigners/outsiders in your community that could be welcomed into your congregational life?