Be a Barnabas
BY RODNEY HEDGE
Think of the feeling you get when you walk into a church for the first time. Facility cleanliness, smiling faces at the front door, and clearly marked signage is what we and many would call a good first impression. But in reality, a good first impression is more than a great looking facility, friendliness, and organization. While all of these things are obviously important in making a good first impression to our visitors, “first impressions” are really more about a church’s culture. The culture about which I am speaking is a culture of hospitality. While our guests do judge a book by its cover, they also get a certain “vibe” from the people within the church walls. The major questions we should be asking ourselves are what “vibe” are we emitting? Are we hospitable? Are we loving?
As believers, we should be reflecting the character of God. God’s character naturally creates a culture of hospitality and grace.
As believers, we should be reflecting the character of God. God’s character naturally creates a culture of hospitality and grace. He is hospitable and gracious. One of the most striking examples of this type of hospitality is found in Acts 9. It is in this passage that we see Saul, a murdering religious zealot who came to trust Jesus, attempting to join Jesus’ disciples. Unfortunately, the disciples rejected him. But then we see in Acts 9:27 that Barnabas took Saul and welcomed him into the group. He loved Paul with a godly hospitality that emulated grace and acceptance. This act of love made Barnabas an advocate for acceptance in the local church. Barnabas advocated for Paul, worked with him, and ministered alongside him. It was Barnabas’s acceptance of an otherwise rejected person from outside the local church that allowed Paul to become the most prolific writer in the New Testament. I would challenge you to read Acts 9 and see Saul’s conversion, acceptance in the church, and continued service for the glory of God.
So how does this New Testament story tie in with “first impressions”? A presentable building alleviates distractions and demonstrates our stewardship with what God has given us. Smiling faces show a welcoming spirit and our joy in serving Christ. But Barnabas–style hospitality and love go much deeper in seeing a visitor return to church. This type of hospitality is not only relegated to a team of people. Each individual in the local church is given the opportunity to demonstrate this type of hospitality by modeling the character of God in seeking the outsider with hospitable grace, love, and acceptance.
Barnabas–style hospitality and love go much deeper in seeing a visitor return to church.
What are some ways that we can model godly hospitality?
- Seek out people at church you do not know. This gets them past a smile at the door and into the life of a disciple of Jesus.
- Invite them into your group of friends. This widens their relationships in the church on their first visit. Be intentional in having conversations that include them.
- Get their contact information and take it upon yourself to follow up with them. This is not a business transaction! Their spiritual welfare could be at stake, and you have the answer they need!
Reflecting the character of God in gracious and loving hospitality endears guests to ourselves as we communicate Jesus to them (Prov. 11:30). Each person who enters the doors of our ministry is an opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s gracious and loving hospitality. The collateral we gain at the beginning of those relationships allows you and the church as a whole to speak more gospel truth into their lives.
Be a Barnabas.
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