As I write this I'm sitting in the fellowship hall of the building my church calls home, and I'm spending a few hours overseeing a study hall we've created for students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, our nearby neighbors.
Studying is up to them.
There have been eight students in here so far this evening, and they're not here to hear us preach the gospel or to let us inquire about their eternal destiny. Rather, they're here experiencing the gospel of hospitality, which says to them that they're welcome here, that we care about them, that we want what's best for them.
It well may be that none of this effort draws in even a single student who wants to become a member of our church. If someone becomes interested in joining us, well and good. But that's not why we do it.
Rather, our purpose is first to meet their need for a quiet place to study for final exams and some nourishment to get them through the night. Beyond that, our purpose is to demonstrate to them what it starts to look like when a church cares about its neighbors and creates ways to meet the needs that are outside our front door.
We don't demand that they listen to a talk about Jesus. We don't insist that they let us pray with them. We don't hand them a Bible and tell them to read this or that passage. We do give them a gift bag of food and other goodies and there is a welcome folder available to them if they want to know more about our congregation.
But we are doing our best not to be manipulative or exploitive. We just want to love these young scholars.
I'm thinking that loving others probably is what church should be about. Don't you think?
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WHO'S SECOND? THE VICE-POPE?
Pope Francis was such an obvious choice to be Time Magazine's "Person of the Year," that no one was fooled when Time said it had narrowed the field of finalists to 10, then five. These awards, by the way, are much more about selling magazines than they are about the honoree.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.