We talk an awful lot about community, fellowship, hospitality and friendship in our church. In truth, there is no pretending that fostering genuine community – and all that goes with it – is easy. It takes work and it will cost us in one way or another. Here are a bunch of ways it will do exactly that:
Community, fellowship and hospitality will cost us time. There is no getting away from the fact that we call it “spending time together” for a reason. It costs. For most people, time is a precious commodity and we all feel we need more of it. “I’m too busy” is the mantra and can usually be read as “I’m too busy for you”. True fellowship requires investment in relationships. It demands our time and, if we are to have it, we must make time for it. Even on a basic level it requires time cooking for people, cleaning up after people, doing favours for people, helping people, listening to people, sharing with people. If we’re not willing to invest time, we’re not really willing to have fellowship.
Community, fellowship and hospitality will cost us money. When we have people in our homes, we will have to spend money on extra food. We may have to run the heating for the comfort of other people (rather than for the thickness of our wallets). It may cost us money in petrol, ferrying people around here, there and everywhere. It may cost us money when we see friends in need and conclude 1 John 3:17 demands we actually help (rather than do a lot of talking about helping). Real fellowship demands our money. If our wallets are not in it, then we are not really in it at all.
Community, fellowship and hospitality may cost us our things. When we have people in our homes, they may not look after things in the way we would like. We may have expensive furniture that people slouch on, drop food over and spill drinks on. We may have carpets that get worn, or stained, quicker than we might like. Things may get damaged because – as we all know – most people don’t care about your things the way you do. Yet, God has given you all those things to enjoy and it is right to share them with others, just as Christ shares the blessings that are his with his people (even though we don’t care for them as he does!) It is not terribly warm, friendly or hospitable to give people a list of items they are not touch or go near. To act that way is to treat them as children; it makes your hospitality something closer to patronage. If your things aren’t included in your hospitality, then you’re not really being all that hospitable.
Community, fellowship and hospitality will cost us emotional energy. We may be happy to share our things, our time and our money but if we are not emotionally invested we aren’t really engaging in proper fellowship. We cannot expect anyone to open up to us if we never open up ourselves. It is a thoroughly vulnerable position to be in – opening ourselves up to scrutiny and judgment – but unless we do so, we cannot expect anyone to make themselves so vulnerable with us. How can we expect people to confess their sin (and grow by putting away with the support of the church) if we continually make out we are perfect? When people are struggling, our emotions must be engaged otherwise we are not really all that concerned. Now, doing that is emotionally draining and tiring. Yet, if our hospitality and fellowship doesn’t extend to our emotions, we may as well be hosting business networking events.