Leaders form communities, love communities, shape communities, and nurture communities. But as Christine D. Pohl says “Good communities and life-giving congregations emerge at the intersection of divine grace and steady human effort.”

And it is this very need for effort that puts some of us off the idea of being a part of the community, even though many of us in leadership positions long for it desperately. It takes too much time, it is too much work and effort.

I have been very inspired by the lecture I have attended recently led by Christine D. Pohl, the author of Living Into Community, Cultivating Practices That Sustain us. Here are some thoughts from her book.

“The ways we’ve been formed by church and culture have not given us the skills or virtues we need to be part of the very communities we long for and try to create. While we might want community, it is often community on our terms, with easy entrances and exits, lots of choice and support, and minimal responsibilities. Mixed together, this is not a promising recipe for strong or lasting communities.”

Hospitality is at the heart of healthy community. Hospitality and shared meals fill the pages of Scripture. We have a story of Abraham and Sarah and how they welcomed strangers/angels and how this act of hospitality brought promise into their lives.

“In the historical books, we see that the Israelites, themselves strangers and sojourners, are frequently called upon by God to welcome and care for other strangers and sojourners. At the end of the New Testament, Jesus speaks of himself as knocking at the door, and he promises to come in and eat with anyone who opens the door to him (Rev. 3:20). In the Gospels, there are many stories of Jesus as a guest at dinner parties, family meals, and celebrations in various homes. He is also portrayed as a stranger who is sometimes welcomed but more often rejected. Frequently, he is pictured as a host who feeds hungry crowds, makes room for prostitutes and little children, and cooks breakfast for discouraged disciples. God is described as a host in the wilderness, supplying manna every day (Exod. 16). Later, Jesus reveals himself as the manna, the bread of life (John 6:32-35). Not only is he a host or a guest – Jesus is also the meal, the sustenance we need, the source of our lives. The centrality of hospitality is reinforced and regularly re-enacted in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, where we remember the costly welcome we have received into the kingdom, and where we are regularly welcomed to the table of the kingdom.

“We often worry about appearances, and we work hard to project a particular image. Hospitality is revelatory: if we invite people into our lives and homes, they’ll see what’s there. Hospitality and living truthfully meet here because welcome is not about putting on a show but about inviting people into our lives as we live them. When we truly make room for others, we cannot keep up false appearances for long; hospitality is an invitation to mutual truthfulness.”

I like that a lot. Hospitality is the heartbeat of the healthy community, I am challenged to think, when was the last time I invited someone to my home? When was the last time I cooked a meal for someone? As leaders we must make room for the practice of hospitality in our lives. Go ahead; invite someone to your home and your life today, and who knows what blessing they will bring with them.

Joanna has a passion for mentoring female leaders to become mentors for a new generation. She is a founding director of One Rock, a board member of Renovare UK, and an associate lecturer at Oasis College. In her spare time she loves taking photographs of nature, and playing with her cat Chester.

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