NuDunkers: Moving Beyond Language to Hospitality

Posted: May 14, 2013 in Theology

On Friday, May 3rd, the NuDunkers facilitated another Google hangout hosting David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, co-authors of Prodigal Christianity. I had been eagerly anticipating what turned out to be a surprising and thought-provoking conversation. My expectation for this time was that we would delve into the contents of their book instigating queries as to instigation of ideas and explanations for areas that might still be unclear. I was even expecting hopefully to tap into some of the inspiration this book seems to be generating concerning a faithful Christian community in a post-Christendom world. However, as usual I was surprised (and fascinated in a good way) by the direction the conversation took. When you watch the video it is noticeable how both those on video as well as those participating via chat got caught up in a conversation regarding language. For more on that conversation I direct you to my fellow NuDunker bloggers: Josh Brockway’s ; Dana Cassel’s ; and Laura Stone’s (Brian Gumm takes it a different direction focusing on what NuDunkers is and what it takes to be part of the conversation

This being said, I’d like to take an opportunity to go in a bit of a different direction. While I greatly appreciate Prodigal Christianity, which seems to say much of what I would like to say only better, “sign-post seven: the church,” surprisingly left out a substantial practice of the church, hospitality. To be fair, this is discussed under the heading of the Lord’s Supper but it seems that for a community which is seeking to reside in God’s prodigality, hospitality would be central. In fact I would argue that it warrants its own heading as a core practice. I had planned to ask this question during the conversation but things went a different way. So now I ask the question, “Why not include hospitality as one of those core practices?”

Biblical hospitality (as compared to hotels) unlike the modern virtues of “inclusion” and “tolerance,” requires the costly giving of grace and love. Hospitality as Jesus modeled it requires the hosts into radical postures of feetwashing and service. Instead of “putting up with someone or something” or including someone, hospitality requires lovingly embracing the other in ways that go beyond caring for the basic necessities of life. It essentially necessitates a vulnerable openness which doesn’t merely welcome, but invites the other (even enemy) to share in one’s very living space. I particularly remember a story told by a Palestinian brother (Christian) just outside of Bethlehem. He told of an occasion when the Israeli military came to his family’s farm to evict them to make way for more Jewish settlements. He told of how they came to the gate with their tanks and armored vehicles. Rather than fearfully keeping them outside the gates, he welcomed them in for a cup of tea. He described how through this simple act a confrontation of “enemies” was transformed. The military personnel enjoyed their tea and left peacefully.

It seems to me that the practice of biblical hospitality is essential for any community seeking to abide in the prodigality of God’s grace. In fact, I would argue that hospitality is no more efficacious expression of prodigal faith than one that practices this kind of hospitality. It is wasteful in its grace and risky with its invitation. After reading Prodigal Christianity I couldn’t help but think that this radical (going to the root) expression of the Christian faith is marked by a practice which extends directly from the Lord’s Supper into the everyday life of the believer. It is in this that prodigal Christianity is sacramentally incarnational. It is this for which the world longs. So if we could have our conversation again, I’d like to ask David and Geoff if they would include hospitality as one of those essential practices of the prodigal church. Maybe, next time.

  1. Matt McKimmy says:

    I really resonate with your concern for hospitality, and love the opportunity to consider what “prodigal hospitality” might look like using the framework of Prodigal Christianity.

    Over the last two years I was part of a pastors cohort where one of our main foci was exploring what hospitality as a form of leadership in the 21st century might look like. I think you’re right that there’s more to hospitality than mere welcome or tolerance. Biblical hospitality calls us to open our lives, our homes, and our communities up to the “other” in ways that we might not normally be inclined, especially among sometimes sectarian-inclined Anabaptists.

    My vote is for the NuDunker conversation to circle back around to a fuller conversation on hospitality some time down the road!

    • Andrew says:

      Matt thanks for the comment. I agree that this would make a good topic of conversation for the nudunkers.

    • Laura Stone says:

      Definitely has my vote, too! On this topic, I’d love to talk about what hospitality looks like when it moves away from its home base, too. One of the things about the missional church is that it seeks to move outward constantly, “into the far country” as Geoff and David put it, and the traditional idea of hospitality has a movement of inviting others into a “home” — how do we think about the concept of hospitality in concert with the idea of outreach? What does it look like to give and receive hospitality outside the church comfort zone?

      • Andrew says:

        Laura thanks for jumping in. I think your question is particularly interesting if we understand biblical hospitality as developed in the context of the Lord’s Supper (especially how brethren practice it)..

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