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Does God Need Your Permission?

The Greek word we translate as hospitality in the New Testament literally means love of strangers.

So how welcome do strangers feel in your weekend services? Do you come off as indifferent…or equally bad, desperate? Hospitality is only one aspect, but you have to take an honest look at the invitational-factor of your services: why are your people not inviting others to their church—especially if the best salesperson is a satisfied customer? I don’t mean your weekend service has to be The Big Show—personally, I’m not into that. It just needs to be authentic, warm and accessible to your community. Or as we say, it needs a good vibe. The vibe of your weekend services is primarily shaped by four drivers (in no particular order):

  • the personality and style of your “up front” people/communicators

  • the expressed values of the church

  • your theology

  • the permissible presence of God

I touch on each one of these in my Elemental Leaders book, but let’s just look at the one that is probably the most challenging to articulate: the permissible presence of God. By “permissible,” I mean our acknowledgment and welcoming of the Holy Spirit. Of course God doesn’t need our permission to do anything. But he also loves his Bride and doesn’t seem to trespass where she is unwilling or reticent; I’m convinced the Holy Spirit longs to cooperate with the willingness of the Church to submit. In the realm of the Spirit, this can be fairly subjective. The objective truth is we know that where two or more are gathered, he is in our midst. But the problem is this: for most of us, we need to cultivate that expectation in a child-like way. For instance, the simplicity of praying, “God, if you don’t show up, nothing happens here,” is rooted in Jesus’ statement, “Apart from me you can do nothing (JOHN 15:5). That is really less a paralyzing prayer than a prayer of rest and confidence. I regularly had formerly unchurched people tell me how they felt some sort of peace the first time they walked into our church. Nearly every other week I would have someone ask me why they wept during worship. I would like to think that it was because of the prep work we put into the music and messages we offered, but frankly, I’m convinced it was simply the presence of God. And that’s as it should be. That can’t be programmed. But it can be valued...and it should be cherished and welcomed. There should be a sense of prayerful expectation.The presence of the Father of compassion is extremely inviting. Are your leaders acknowledging and desiring the reality and presence of God in your gatherings…or have the mechanics of the weekend services overwhelmed this invitation? As a one-time worship leader, the most common conversation with my wife after a service was, “How did you think the worship went?”and we’d end up talking about the technical things that worked or didn’t. But a better question might be, “Did we have a sense of the Spirit’s presence during our time together?” Again, this can obviously be subjective, but as leaders, we have to learn to exercise the gift of discernment.

When you gather together, does your hospitality (and welcoming) intentionally include the Spirit? Do you have a sense of the presence of God?


Adapted from “Elemental Leaders: Four Essentials Every Leader Needs…and Every Church Must Have”

Wonder why visitors come but don't stick? Vibe is a unique tool to help reengineer your “first impressions”. See it in action here!


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