Throughout the history of the church, the most significant impact of the gospel came through ordinary people living out the gospel in their everyday lives among friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. Rodney Stark, the American sociologist of religion, put it nicrely.
“The primary means of growth was through united and motivated efforts of the growing numbers of Christian believers, who invited their friends, relatives, and neighbors to share the “good news”… The movement began with perhaps no more than a thousand converts in the year 40; three centuries later more than half of the population of the empire (perhaps as many as 33 million people) had become Christians. This result can be attributed to the work of missionaries only if we recognize a universal mission on the part of all believers.” – Stark
Living out the gospel in everyday life is an essential missional activity we are all called to practice. It is part of the incarnational nature of God (God becoming flesh and blood and living life among us). He continues His incarnational life through His body, the church. This means we must get close to people like Jesus did.
- John 1:14 MSG The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
“We’ll leave the light on for you.”
I remember an ad campaign that Motel Six ran years ago on both television and radio. They used the folksy voice of writer and commentator Tom Bodette. Every commercial ended with the tagline, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” It was very effective and ran for several years.
What was the appeal? The folksy voice was welcoming, and the phrase “We’ll leave the light on for you” appealed to something inside of all of us. It is part of the image of God in people that longs for connection, family, friends, and home.
The only thing in creation that God said was not good was aloneness. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Solomon, probably the richest man of all time, recognized the importance of relationships compared to riches.
- Ecc 4:7-11 NIV I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing. Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Therefore, the relational family nature of God is the central feature of His dwelling place (Psalms 65:5-6). Scripture referred to His dwelling place as His House, Household, and Family about 350 times. The designation of Temple only occurs 20 times. The emphasis is clearly on relationships and family with Him and His people.
A Place to Belong
Everyone looks for a place of belonging where people love them, value them, and want them around. Biblical hospitality centers on this critical idea. God has always encouraged His people to exhibit hospitality in the Old Testament (Exo 22:21-23, 23:9, Lev 19:33-34, Deut 10:18-19, 24:19-22, 27:19), and the New (Romans 12:10-13, 1 Peter 4:9). He wanted His people to make outsiders feel like insiders.
- Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.
When we connect with people, even in chance encounters, we need to communicate God’s desire for them. We want to leave people with the impression that I heard someone once speak about our church, “That group sure is a friendly bunch, and they seem to like me being around.” I remember an international student from a Buddhist background make a similar comment, “You Christians have been so kind to me it makes me want to cry.” That feeling was God’s presence flowing through hospitality.
A Caring Smile
It is incredible how simple things like warm greetings, taking an interest in people accompanied by a smile, open doors to speak about Jesus. Your smile causes others to experience the welcome of God.
Smiling is the universal language of friendliness, openness, and caring. Over the decades, study after study shows that smiling lowers blood pressure, leads to better moods, relieves stress, lessens pain, strengthens your immune system, and is contagious. Smiling releases good chemicals in the brain and helps others feel you are approachable. Even the Psalmist asks God to smile on him as He spoke His truth. Psalm 119:135 Smile on me and teach me your laws.
Check out the “Facial Feedback Hypothesis Theory,” which shows this idea. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facial_feedback_hypothesis
The Bible and Smiling
- Job 8:21 CEV He will give you something to smile about.
- Job 29:24 CEV the smile on my face renewed everyone’s hopes.
- Prov 15:13 A glad heart makes a smiling face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
- Num 6:25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you (smile) and be gracious to you (Psa 31:16, 67:1, 80:3-7, 19, 119:35).
- Ecc 8:1 CEV Wisdom makes you cheerful and gives you a smile.
- Psa 84:9 CEV You are the shield that protects your people, and I am your chosen one. Won’t You smile on me?
- Prov 15:13-14 CEV Happiness makes you smile; sorrow can crush you.
- Pro 15:30 CEV A friendly smile makes you happy, and good news makes you feel strong.
Suppose you have to go into an unfamiliar business and feel a little awkward and uncertain. You walk in the front door and find several desks with people busy working. A few of them glance up at you, emotionless, then immediately go back to their work. Others don’t look up at all. They seem engrossed and under pressure in what they are doing.
Then one worker looks up at you, smiles warmly, and greets you. Which worker would you approach? Smiling works the same way in our everyday mission. Don’t neglect this often forgotten tool. See what doors it opens for your gospel life and the gospel message.
Remember to smile at everyone as you are on mission and realize the following truths afresh.
- Smiling is the beginning of love.
- Smiling doesn’t always mean you are happy, but that you are directing yourself towards God’s incarnational love for others.
- Smiling is the best way to show the welcome of God.
- Remember, God loves people!