Gospel frontlines. It’s an idea that Mark and I had been talking about since I wrote my thesis in 2016. I want to tell you more but in order to do that, we’ve gotta talk about worship first.
As Lutheran Christians, we’ve got this great theology of worship; we believe that in worship, we hear the Word of God (Scripture) and respond in prayer and praise.
It’s a rhythm as simple and beautiful as breathing.
Rhythm is in our very lungs.
If you’re a lifelong Lutheran, maybe you’re even familiar with the Sunday rhythm (or liturgy) being called the “Divine Service.” I love that! Who is serving who? And the answer is YES. It’s intentionally nebulous.
In worship, God serves and we respond in praise to Him and service to others.
And thinking about worship in this way always brings me back to frontlines. Some disconnected people (that is, folks who don’t know Jesus) might be inclined to show up at a building on a Sunday morning for a public worship service. The Spirit can do that. Undoubtedly. But I wonder if, for our co-workers, neighbors, our kid’s teacher, the mechanic, the other parents waiting around at soccer practice…
I wonder if a formal “worship service” is the best place for them to encounter the Gospel for the very first time.
A frontline is the visible forefront in any action, activity, or field. I wonder if we need more Gospel frontlines in our functionally post-Christian world. Places where the Gospel reaches out into the Enemy's territory rather than waiting for those in the Enemy's territory to show up at our church's doorstep. We have built it and they have, in fact, not come. Perhaps a new approach is in order.
Mark mentioned in a previous blog that we read a fascinating book called The Gospel Comes With A House Key. Using different language, author Rosaria Butterfield expresses this same idea of Gospel frontlines. Her story of meeting Christ is incredible and, as she explains,
“Long before I ever walked through the doors of the church,
[someone’s] home was the place where I wrestled with the Bible,
with the reality that Jesus is who he says he is,
and eventually came face-to-face with him on the
glittering knife’s edge of my [need for him].”
Rosaria's journey to faith began with a Christian couple who welcomed her into their home for a meal. Our kitchen tables, our front porches, our office doorways… these are Gospel frontlines.
I think it's worth noting that she distinguishes hospitality from entertaining. There's pressure in entertaining. But hospitality is more about people than presentation. Just last week we had dinner with a sweet family and I got so caught up in visiting that I forgot to account for our apartment stove being electric (instead of gas, what I'm used to). We all laughed and had a great evening, despite the burnt chicken. In hospitality, there's no room for my pride; but there is always room at the table for one more.
Everyday hospitality is not so everyday anymore. In an age of unlimited digital connectedness, studies report that loneliness--interpersonal disconnectedness--is at an all-time high.
Against the intangible backdrop of digital "relationships," the Incarnation of Christ (the coming of Jesus in the flesh) shines warm and welcome.
In worship, we are filled to fill others. After a meal, we don’t linger at the table waiting for the next one. We are filled to fill others. I’m wrestling with what this looks like for us right now and I invite you do to do the same. I'd love to grab a cup of coffee and hear what you find!
P.S. Tomorrow night is Halloween. What better time to begin practicing hospitality than on a day when our neighbors will literally be knocking on our doors seeking it?