(Today’s post comes from Ben Ingebretson. Ben was my co-author in Parent Church Landmines and I think you’ll find what he’s sharing here today to be a really valuable perspective.)
Most of us readily recognize that North America is a mission field not only in the number of people to be reached (church attendance averaging 17% nationally) but also the diversity of peoples to be reached. About 15% of our current population or 45 million legal US residents were not born here. They come as students, refugees and people like my Norwegian ancestors in search of a better life. They come from dozens of different countries and the percentages are growing. By 2042 Caucasians will represent less than 50% of the population.
In church planting, words matter.
A pastor friend of mine recently called to tell me a Burmese group approached him asking if they could use his building on Sunday afternoons to start their new church. One of the first wise decisions he made was to embrace the biblical language of “hospitality” as opposed to “parenting” or “daughtering a new church”. If ever you have experienced how choosing the right words is critical, this is a classic example.
“Parenting” conveys a sense of paternalism that tends toward dependency. It sets a hierarchical attitude in the host. The result can be resentment or a persistent weakness in the fledgling congregation. On the other hand, “Hospitality” (gk. “philoxenia” or “love for outsiders”) speaks of the value we place on making room for others (Romans 12:13; I Peter 4:9). It sets an attitude of welcome and love which if met with an attitude of mutual respect can lay a foundation for flourishing.
Parenting vs. Hospitality
The Old and New Testaments say a lot about showing “hospitality to the sojourner” that is highly relevant to our current surge in immigrants (Leviticus 19:34; Hebrews 13:2) . We are commanded to “love the sojourner”. As they make a new life in this “melting pot” we call home, what better way to be on mission with God than to practice hospitality.
Ben Ingebretson is the Catalyst for Ethnic Church Planting in the Reformed Church in America. He is also the author of Multiplication Moves: A field guide for churches planting churches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org