F inding one’s purpose in life is usually a hard question, but I know two things to be true about purpose: that we are to love our God and to love our neighbor. The conversation could move toward Christian duty or meeting human desires and needs, but I think it must move toward obedience. Purpose is about obeying our Savior’s commands, chiefly to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).
I sought community—and found true hospitality
In working out this obedience, I started to seek community, a group of people with whom I could respond to God and my neighbor. I wanted companionship for this journey, people with a like mission. I was searching for the church. In college, many people begin to experience deep community and connection, and that was true for me. I found myself knocking on strangers’ doors, having deep conversations, sharing pain and joy, and growing in heart and thought with one another.
This heart for community started to grow during my college years and formed my decision on my living situations. After I graduated, I moved to California where I lived with different families for three years. As I lived with a church planting family in Compton, I saw how neighbors came together in celebration around the dinner table, honesty was valued, apologies were given, and grace extended. The kids thrived having multiple adults to turn to, the kitchen was alive because someone was always willing to cook dinner or clean the dishes, and there was authenticity in conversations, conflicts, and comforts. There was a continual feeling of hospitality and belonging, knowing we each were wanted.
“We cannot love God unless we love each other and to love we must know each other—and we will know Him in the breaking of the bread—and then we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.” –Dorothy Day, American journalist and activist
These were the qualities that I was searching for as I sought to obey my purpose of loving God and loving my neighbor. I wanted a community that worshiped together, loved one another deeply, responded to life with their whole hearts, and walked beside one another. This was the church that I was searching for.
I have since moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to focus on community development in the heart of city. I have worked on creating events and spaces where different people meet for the first time, where belonging and purpose is shared, and where a flavor of celebration and learning coexist. With a still growing heart for community, I am beginning to see a merger of church and home as a piece of my calling for a church plant. The starting point is communal living—hospitality and belonging.
The immersion model
If we look at Jesus’s teaching model, we see that he walked beside people. Jesus brought people in through apprenticeship, taking the twelve disciples under his wings. Beyond that, Jesus immersed people into a new way of living, thinking, and being. Immersion is how Jesus taught; by existing beside him, people were immersed into something completely other than what they had previously been taught. I think this immersion model is essential for the church’s sustainability, especially in connecting with younger generations and reaching out to a world that is slowly pulling away from Christianity.
It is such a mark against our culture that we come to one another and to church in full privilege and pride with little ability to see our neighbors, whether they are hungry, poor, burdened, depressed, or stable. An immersion model of hospitality and belonging—of reaching out, drawing people in, then drawing them up to God—is my passion and my hope. I want to immerse people into the heart of love so that they may love both God and others more.
In communal living and other spaces of true hospitality, people are able to bring their whole selves into the space. Each person will see the good, bad, and ugly of one another, continually contributing to a place of authenticity and belonging. I see these things being achieved through weekly family meals, extended family nights that could include worship and Bible reading, and neighborhood care. In a basic sense, you are creating church within a home setting—a place where two or more are gathered with an upward focus on worshiping God, an inward focus on discipleship and fellowship, and an outward focus of mission and loving neighbors.
The core purpose of hospitality, especially this immersion model, is to create communal people. The hope is that people would find such belonging that they can’t help but make others feel like they belong too, radiating hospitality and the love of Christ as they encounter others—that the good news would seep out of each person and into the neighbors they encounter throughout their lives.
This is a simple model of love carried out in three main pillars: presence, authenticity, and belonging. The ways these can be accomplished are endless, but my heart for drawing people in is around the table, around fire pits, at bar tops, or in any other gathering place where people can belong, ask honest questions, and live out their love for God and neighbor, finding purpose in obedience.
Follow Savannah’s lead
Savannah is planting a “fresh expression” of church, a new or different type of church for a changing culture. If this resonates with you, learn more at freshexpressionsus.org or email email@example.com.
Support Savannah’s ministry
Inspired by this idea of home-style church? You can help make it a reality by supporting Savannah’s church plant. Checks can be mailed to her sending church, Pella Reformed Church, at:
16101 Pella Rd #7776
Adams, NE 68301
with “Savannah Clapper” written on the memo line.
Savannah Clapper is a former Cultivate participant who served at F Street Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is now preparing to plant a church there that looks and feels like home.