Ministry of an Open Door

by Rory Christensen 

I blame my parents for this one.  When I read through the 1 Timothy 3 list of ministry leadership essentials, there’s one that always hits me with an internal, assumed exclamation mark.  It’s their fault.  For as long as I can remember, my parents have used their house to welcome guests, host missionaries, house traveling musicians, and launch Bible studies.  Over the years, I’ve seen the good news shared (Jule Miller film strips anybody?), weddings conducted, meals served, even a displaced family of 8 given a home for the summer (and separate housing provided well beyond).  It all happened because my parents were committed to this particular ministry qualification.  You know what it is by now.  Read 1 Timothy 3:2 to see it spelled out.  “The overseer is to be … hospitable.”  Hospitable.  I hear that word, ministry memories come, and my conviction is sharpened all over again.

It’s my parents’ fault.  Really. 

But in the same breath that I blame them, I realize that I need to thank them too.  As I’ve processed this “hospitable” leadership requirement through the lens of their example, I’ve realized that there are at least a couple reasons why we could all do to emphasize hospitality a little more.

First, we should emphasize it because of its potential.  I like the way Alexander Strauch put it:

I don’t think most Christians understand how essential hospitality is to fanning the flames of love and strengthening the Christian family.  Hospitality fleshes out love in uniquely personal and sacrificial ways.  Through the ministry of hospitality, we share our most prized possessions.  We share our family, home, finances, food, privacy and time.  So hospitality is always costly.  Through the ministry, we provide friendship, acceptance, fellowship, refreshment, comfort and love in one of the richest and deepest ways possible for humans to understand.  Unless we open the doors of our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is only a theory” (The Hospitality Commands, p. 17).

You hear that, and you get a feel for the power behind the “ministry of the open door” (to borrow words from Ozark Christian College President Matt Proctor).

As we lean in to hospitality, our lost, hurting world is impacted (Hebrews 13:2, anyone?), and our Christian family is uplifted.

Second, we should emphasize hospitality because of its practicality.  Go to the Bible and you find hospitality used as a natural conduit for the disciple-making way of life.  Take a scan and you see all manner of Jesus followers using it in all manner of ways:

  • Matthew, for evangelism (Matt 9:9-13)
  • Priscilla and Aquila, for …
    • welcome/care (Acts 18:3)
    • correction (Acts 18:26)
    • worship (1 Cor 16:19)
  • Paul, for evangelism (Acts 28:30-31)
  • The entire early Church, for …
    • table fellowship (Lk 24:13-32; Acts 1:4; 10:41; Gal 2:1-21)
    • instruction (Acts 5:42) 

Robert Coleman has long told us of the need for association, instruction, and demonstration in the disciple-making process (cf. The Master Plan of Evangelism, chapters 2, 4, and 5).  I see these biblical examples and note how “the ministry of an open door provides” a natural context within which all these God-honoring actions can occur.  It is a useful conduit (the best conduit?) for the disciple-making way of life.

When I read these reasons and descriptions again today, I’m inclined to reach a bit beyond definitions that limit hospitality to merely making people feel welcome.  Defining it only as “feeling welcome” strips away its deepest significance.  When we engage in the ministry of open doors we tap into something that has incredible, unlimited Kingdom potential.  Yes, it certainly is practical, but it is much, much more.  In Acts 28:31 Paul’s Kingdom work, rendered through the conduit of hospitality, was unhindered.  

Our Kingdom work can be unhindered as well.  I absolutely believe that and I’m committed to living like that.  Maybe you can join me in it.  I still blame my parents for it, by the way.

Table of One Anothers

One-Another 55 references  (This will open a PDF document in your internet window that you may save and use as you wish.)  

Web link to “ah-lay-lown” on Interlinearbible.org to see all 100 uses: https://biblehub.com/greek/strongs_240.htm

Our list, in plain text, of 55 “one anothers” / “each others” as applicable to living in a faith community: 

  1. Mark 9.50
  2. Luke 24.32
  3. John 13.14
  4. John 13.34
  5. John 13.35
  6. John 15.12
  7. John 15.17
  8. Acts 7.26
  9. Romans 1.26 
  10. Romans 12.10
  11. Romans 12.16
  12. Romans 13.8
  13. Romans 14.13
  14. Romans 15.5
  15. Romans 15.7
  16. Romans 15.14
  17. Romans 16.16
  18. 1 Corinthians 7.5
  19. 1 Corinthians 12.25
  20. 1 Corinthians 16.20 
  21. 2 Corinthians 13.12
  22. Galatians 5.13
  23. Galatians 5.15
  24. Galatians 5.26
  25. Galatians 6.2
  26. Ephesians 4.2
  27. Ephesians 4.32
  28. Ephesians 5.21
  29. Colossians 3.9
  30. Colossians 3.13
  31. Colossians 3.16
  32. 1 Thessalonians 3.12
  33. 1 Thessalonians 4.9
  34. 1 Thessalonians 4.18
  35. 1 Thessalonians 5.11
  36. 1 Thessalonians 5.15
  37. 2 Thessalonians 1.3
  38. Titus 3.3
  39. Hebrews 3.13
  40. Hebrews 10.24
  41. Hebrews 10.25
  42. James 4.11 
  43. James 5.9
  44. James 5.16
  45. 1 Peter 1.22
  46. 1 Peter 4.8
  47. 1 Peter 5.5
  48. 1 Peter 5.14
  49. 1 John 1.7
  50. 1 John 3.11
  51. 1 John 3.23
  52. 1 John 4.7
  53. 1 John 4.11
  54. 1 John 4.12
  55. 2 John 1.5 

Once Bitten, Twice … Repeat

by Jared Johnson

“There are no Lone Ranger Christians.” 

“Community is messy.” 

Yes.  We know.  But don’t we all, at least sometimes, hole up and avoid others?  Don’t we, even as church leaders, sometimes choose isolation?   We’re in the people business! 

I’m sympathetic.  Just temperamentally, it’s easy for me to clam up verbally and withdraw emotionally.  And even if you’re an extrovert, who, in today’s cultural climate, could be blamed for withdrawing or avoiding at least a little bit?  

I just finished a book titled So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (author Jon Ronson).  Really – just the fact such a book exists shows our dysfunction.  It’s a worthwhile read, and similarly, if you haven’t looked up Dr Brene Brown’s sociological work on shame please do so.  She has interviews and TED Talks on YouTube and has written several books. 

In our default climate of outrage (real or fake) and divisiveness and fault-finding, might it be wise to just not engage?  Perhaps.  But at least within the Body/Bride of Jesus, as Paul told us in 1 Cor. 12.31, “there is a better way;” in fact, multiple translations express that verse as “the most excellent way.”  And I expect we all know how thoroughly Paul then goes on to explain love in 1 Corinthians 13.  

I heard many times over the years from multiple preachers and teachers that “there are 59 ‘one-anothers’ in the New Testament.”  I asked a couple times where they got that factoid, and the answer was “a commentary by … oh, I don’t remember.”  So I looked.  

One of the more well-known is in John 13: “Here’s a new command: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you love each other” (vs 34, more or less).  The Greek word usually translated “each other” and “one another” is ah-lay-lown.  There are fully 100 uses of it in the New Testament.  A number of those are irrelevant to living in a faith community, or even negative.  (Matthew 24.10 and John 4.33 are a couple good examples.)  Click here for our list of 55 community-related uses

Still: one hundred times.  It’s quite a theme.  “If it’s repeated, it’s important.” 

No doubt many of you have heard sermons on many of these commands (many are commands), or even preached them yourselves: 

  • Love each other; delight in honoring each other.  (Rom. 12.10)
  • Owe nothing to anyone – except the debt to keep loving one another.  (Rom. 13.8)
  • Make allowance for each other’s faults.  (Col. 3.13)
  • Think of ways to motivate one another to love and good work.  (Heb. 10.24)

All the individual statements and commands are challenging enough.  But taken as a whole, the message can’t be clearer: be with people!  As a quite comfortable introvert who would rather people-watch than people-engage, that confronts me.  There are no Lone Ranger Christians.  Sigh.  Ok.  

Living in community gets messy, even painful.  Who wants that?

  • Fool me once – shame on you.  Fool me twice – shame on me.
  • Once bitten, twice shy. 

The world’s way is withdrawal, protecting ourselves, separating from and walling off those who “rub us the wrong way;” we “get out of Dodge.” 

But… “God’s way is perfect.”  (Both 2 Sam. 22.31 and Ps. 18.30 in part.)  

“Share each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of [Jesus],” (Gal. 6.2).  We can’t get “shy” after taking a blow.  “’How often should I forgive someone – seven times?’  ‘Nope.  77 times.’”  (Matt. 18.21-22) 

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.  …you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  (Matthew 6.14-15, 7.2 NLT)  

It will hurt.  So be it.  If Paul could persevere through the litany he enumerates in 2 Corinthians 11 for the sake of people – even difficult people – I can stick it out through the trivialities people throw at me.  

Rather than “once bitten, twice shy,” let’s remember a phrase we sometimes see posted by a sink.  God expects us to stay with people.  He would tell us: “lather, rinse, repeat.”

Preach the Word

by Barry Cameron 

I heard of an old church in England with a sign on the front of their building that said, “We preach Christ crucified.”  Over time, ivy grew up and obscured the last word.  The sign now said, “We preach Christ.”  As the ivy continued to grow it covered even more of the sign until it said, “We preach.”  It wasn’t long until ivy covered so much of the sign you could only see the word, “We,” and it wasn’t long before the church died.
 
John Wesley, said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the Kingdom of God upon the earth.”
 
The Bible tells us God chose “the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).  But honestly, a lot of what is being preached today would be considered mere foolishness.  Much of the current preaching in our world doesn’t honor God, reach the lost or come close to shaking the gates of Hell.
 
Instead, in our misguided efforts not to offend those who are lost and Hell-bound, much of today’s preaching has become so ostentatious the only person it could possibly offend is God Himself, and the only kind of people it could possibly reach are those with hearing problems (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
 
Years ago a preacher named Peter Cartwright was getting ready to preach.  Before he went to the pulpit, he was informed President Andrew Jackson was in the audience.  Church leaders told him to be careful about what he said in his sermon so as not to offend the President.  When Cartwright took the pulpit, it’s reported he said, “I understand that Andrew Jackson is here.  I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks.  Andrew Jackson will go to Hell if he doesn’t repent.”  The congregation was stunned and wondered how President Jackson would respond.  Following the service, the President shook hands with Cartwright and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.” 

Our passion isn’t to whip the world.  Rather it’s to win it.  But if we ever hope to win the world, we’re going to have to preach the Word, in season and out of season, and we’re going to need preachers like John Wesley and Peter Cartwright.
 
Steven Lawson said, “The reality is that not all preaching is the same.  There is the kind of preaching that God blesses, and there is that which he abandons.  There is the kind of preaching that has the favor of Heaven upon it, and there is that which is a mere exercise in rhetoric.  There is a world of difference between the two.”
 
We dare not “shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), but “preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23), and the Gospel, “not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17), and preach the Word “in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2), “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
 
Charles Spurgeon said, “The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil.  The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes all hell shake.”
 
Let’s pray our preaching will shake the very gates of Hell and touch the souls of men for eternity. 

Saying “No”

by Ken Idleman

I love this Scripture passage in the Pastoral Epistles:  Titus 2:11-14.  It consists in a short declarative statement followed immediately by one of the longest recorded sentences in the entire New Testament.  Ready to focus? 

Here we go:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

One of the first words we learn to say as toddlers is the word “no.”  You and I probably don’t remember saying it during our own childhoods, but those who have reared toddlers know very well that they have it down!

“Time to go to bed.”  “No!”

“Brush your teeth.”  “No!”

“Eat your carrots.”  “No!”

“Clean up your toys.”  “No!”

Of course, our job as parents is to teach our children the real meaning of “no” and the appropriate times to say it.  It can actually be a good word.  “No” can be used in a very positive way if it describes God-honoring boundaries for your life.  Learning to say “no” is a capacity that can and should be honed and directed; when it is, it’s a good thing.

To say “no” to some things is actually a virtue.  Saying “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions is a prelude to living a self-controlled, upright and godly life.  “No” helps to define your values.  It shapes your ethical and moral development.  It divides good from best.  It shapes your future.  It ensures your destiny.  

We all need more practice at saying “no.”