Missional living: hospitality at work

In my last post, I suggested that being prayerfully attentive was the key to anything that passed as a missional life. I applied this first to our neighborhoods and suggested walking the neighborhood as a way to cultivate a missional presence. But, I’m convinced that the same kind of attention should be given to the places where we work.

The challenges of a missional identity at work can be inhibiting. This is in part because loyalty to the company is part of being a good employee, and wearing your faith on your sleeve might not be the best way to demonstrate that loyalty. Also, as I mentioned in my last post, relationships at work can be asymmetrical, some holding power over others, which can make the free exchange of lives difficult–a necessary condition for the gospel to be seen, in my opinion.

So, I’m not suggesting that mission at work take the form of Bible thumping or bumper sticker displaying. Instead, I’m suggesting an incarnational approach rooted in hospitality. That is, the open character of your life should be the leading edge of your missional witness.

I’m convinced that hospitality is not simply a good practice for Christians to do. Rather, hospitality is central to God’s life. The very identity of God as Father, Son, and Spirit reveals the divine as making room for the other. When we practice hospitality in Jesus’ name, then, we are participating in the very life of God. We learn this as our way of life in worship as we gather around a table to enjoy the hospitality of God.

I once taught a class where I suggested that the words, “This Do In Remembrance of Me,” should also be found in our kitchens and living rooms. A few weeks later, my friend Cari Bonneau, showed me a picture of the new border in her kitchen displaying just these words. Awesome.

But I also think these words should appear in our desk drawer at work, the one we open the most, to remind us that the shape of mission at work means being open to the other. Your office or cubicle should be a place of welcome. And by this, I mean that you should be interruptible and available. And I mean you should be just as welcoming and attentive to the person who empties your trash as you are to the person who signs your checks.

This sounds obvious, right? But my hunch is that we aren’t intentional about these kinds of things, we lapse into the paths of least resistance which usually tend toward currying favor and protecting our space and time.

About Mark Love

I am the Dean for the School of Theology and Ministry and Director of the Resource Center for Missional Leadership at Rochester College. Part of my job includes directing a master's degree in missional leadership, a situated learning degree. I am married to Donna and have a son, Josh Love, who is a practicing new monastic in Abilene, TX. With Donna, I have also inherited three great daughters and two amazing granddaughters.
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5 Responses to Missional living: hospitality at work

  1. Mark Bell says:

    At my first church after graduate school, we had two deacons who were salesmen by profession and evangelists by temperment. They had a standing bet over who could set up a Bible study first with any visitor. They were good. But by the time I arrived, they had already baptized everyone they knew. We had Flavil Yeakley come in to do a church growth study for us. He discovered that all the baptisms in the previous 5 years were all connected to one woman. She ran the “card program” at her office, sending cards for birthdays, illness, or any thing else. People saw her as a caring person. They wanted to be around her and get to know her. She never held a single Bible study or even a discussion. But she was the only true evangelist we had.

  2. Mark Manassee says:

    Great post! Do you have any book suggestions on the Trinity and hospitality? I am sharing some of these posts as bulletin articles–giving you credit of course.

    • Mark Love says:

      Thanks, Mark. I think a lot of the good hospitality books make this connection, so Pohl and others. I am following Moltmann, Trinity and Kingdom.

  3. Brad says:

    Great post, I really enjoy reading what you write. As someone in a very secular workplace (restaurant kitchen) it can be hard for me to maintain an evangelical mindset, but a mindset of hospitality is a step in the right direction, especially being in the hospitality industry.

    Lately it feels like God has been pushing me to not just extend hospitality to others, but to receive the hospitality of others. Seems like something we inadvertently do in church is try to have it all together and not need anything from someone else. This puts us in a posture of having it all figured out and trying to fix the broken people around us, which typically isn’t helpful to anyone except our own sense of pride.

    When Jesus sends out the 72, they would certainly be required to receive some hospitality since they were told to take nothing with them, with the assumption being that they would be provided for. I think this receiving of hospitality from others puts us on a much more even relational field with them, instead of us assuming we have everything to offer (both physically and spiritually), and they can only being on the receiving end.

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