The Chicken and the Egg: Part 3, Friendships on the Margins

A second example of the "chicken and egg" problem concerns practices of hospitality and cultivating friendships on the margins. Because of Unclean and Stranger God this issue is the one I'm most confronted with in consulting with churches. 

In my work with churches regarding their practices of hospitality, we routinely face the imperative to virtue gap. Specifically, you can tell people to be hospitable, but hospitality is hard when the groups involved are very different. Hospitality isn't easy. Hospitality takes you out of your comfort zone. Hospitality can be confusing, awkward, and anxiety-inducing. Consequently, practices of hospitality demand certain emotional and relational capacities. Trouble is, you only acquire those capacities by stepping into hospitality, being willing to try, learn, and make mistakes. Experience is always the best teacher, but you have to be willing to have the experience in the first place.

Which brings us back to a chicken and egg problem. Churches want to be more hospitable, but the hospitality they want to extend creates anxiety and disorientation. New and different faces makes things unpredictable. Many churches lack the tolerances required to step into this ambiguity. So they back up, pulling away from difference. But if you back up you never acquire the skills and experiences needed to cultivate friendships on the margins.

Hospitality requires capacities, but those capacities are only acquired through practicing hospitality. Chicken and egg.    

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