Week 6 of the equity-based hospitality study
- Unpack the critical role building trust plays in equity-based hospitality.
- Consider how you can build your trust in God, yourself, and others.
- Respect the needs, values, beliefs, and voices of all, acknowledging we are members of one body.
Anchor verse: 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
What does trust mean?
Trust: Firm belief in the reliability of character, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
As God’s people, is our relationship to one another grounded in trust that we all have a place in the kingdom of God?
You may be familiar with the trust fall exercise that was popular in the 1990’s as a team-building activity. School groups, youth groups, and summer camps used trust falls as a tool to build trust with each other. A person would fall backward, trusting the person standing behind them to catch them and break the fall. In groups of people that were still getting to know each other, a trust fall was a simple but powerful way to show trust and receive trust.
We all need each other. A common foundation helps us build up trust in one another. It helps us to know that we are all in this, whatever this might be, together.
How does trust contribute to equity-based hospitality?
We all have a purpose, plan, and place in the church, the body of Christ. Hospitality is a form of trusting yourself and trusting others to be a part of that plan and place.
Do you trust each person, including yourself, to try something new and use their gifts and talents?
A lack of hospitality can come from fear of trusting others. We might worry what others will think of us. We might wonder if they’ll like us, or if we’ll be judged. We might not trust that we are loved and can offer hospitality no matter what the hospitality looks like. Trust is an essential value in bringing equity-based hospitality. We must trust that all have the image of God in them and each person has a role to play in the world.
Often, a lack of trust can come from a fear of loss, too. We are afraid that another person might take something from us if we trust them to give of themselves. We might lose our traditional worship or music preference. We might lose our way of doing things. If someone else brings their perspectives and gifts to the church, our normal way of doing things may change.
God shows us that even in change, we can trust God will steward us. We might lose our way of doing things. It might get uncomfortable. Yet, we can trust that God is able to bring us comfort for the losses and is able to show us a new way of working together. God loves you. You can trust God.
I used to struggle to trust my family to do something that I knew I could do better, more efficiently, or in the way I liked it done. Yet if I did everything to my liking, it was not our home; it was my home. My need to control every aspect kept my husband and kids from belonging in their home. I lacked trust that their way would be okay. For our home to be a hospitable place for all of us, I had to let go of my fear. I had to value the gifts and talents of my husband and kids. I needed to see that God was using them to teach me how to trust. When I did, I found that, much of the time, their way was fantastic.
My family has a place in the body of Christ as well as in the body of our home. I need to extend hospitality to my children and spouse as well as everyone who comes into my home and everyone who belongs to the body of Christ.
How to build your trust in God and others
“The mystery of hospitality is how often one senses God’s presence in the midst of very ordinary activities” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room).
Instead of defaulting to skepticism and distrust, practice wondering, “Where is God in this moment?”
Search for God, and you will find him. Simple acts of trust build more trust.
In their book, The Simplest Way to Change the World (2017), Dustin Willis and Brandon Celments state, “The secret weapon for gospel advancement is hospitality, and you can practice it whether you live in a house, an apartment, a dorm or a high rise.” I would add that you can practice it wherever you are—in a grocery store, workplace, restaurant, park—and in whatever activity you are doing at the moment.
Equity-based hospitality starts with trusting God and yourself to welcome the stranger in your midst. Trust that God will guide you and strengthen you to provide hospitality. Trust yourself to extend the invitation. Next, trust the people you welcome into your life to expand your knowledge of God and God’s world. They, too, are created in the image of God.
You are trusting that you are a valuable part of the kingdom of heaven and so is the stranger, the person you do not yet know who might be very different from you.
Do you see yourself as a trustworthy person? Can others trust you to respect their needs, values, beliefs, and culture?
What the Bible teaches about trust
Jesus tells us to trust. He says to Jairus (and us), “Don’t be afraid. Just believe” (Mark 5:36). Jesus proves that he is trustworthy. With people of all kinds, he heals, joins them in their homes, and builds trust. Jesus knew Jairus’s story and life. Jesus chose to show Jairus that he could trust. Jairus was getting to know Jesus and his story. Jesus was investing in Jairus’s story.
Pharisees showed mistrust and were not trustworthy. Jesus was the opposite. Pharisees lived to be superior and above all. Jesus lived with ultimate humility to serve all and bring equality to all. Jesus built communities of trust. The Pharisees built communities of mistrust. Think about the woman the Pharisees wanted to stone. The Pharisees constantly judged people for their morality, but Jesus showed in that instant that he was trustworthy. He protected the woman and turned the tables on the mistrust of the Pharisees.
I have recently been reminded of the story of Abigail with King David in 1 Samuel 25. As Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier shares in the She Is Called: Women of the Bible Study session on Abigail,“Abigail makes haste to gather up the bread of humility, the cup of generosity, and the bowl of resistance to meet David and his army.” Her husband was fearful of David. He had received a request from David with suspicion and bitterness. Yet Abigail goes against her husband and welcomes David in.
Dr. Kingdom Grier goes on to say, “Abigail uncovered for David parts of her household that had not been revealed by Nabal. Her household was not just a place of arrogance, but also of humility and honesty.” Abigail trusted David and, in turn, earned his trust.
Let’s not be too quick to judge others for being distrustful. We all have moments of Pharisee-like behavior and moments where, like Nabal, we mistrust. Becoming trustworthy takes commitment. Learning to trust takes commitment. I have found I need to continually ask myself, “Am I exhibiting Pharisee-like behavior? Am I willing to open my life and home in order to build trust with a stranger who is different from me?”
In fact, this is a great time to consider our own failures and mistakes. We all make mistakes. As I write computer science curriculum for my day job, it’s imperative that I give opportunities for the students to fail. In fact, in our communication system at my work, we have both a channel for “wins” and a channel for “fails.” This builds trust. In the fail channel, we support one another and sometimes even laugh at ourselves. This builds mutual respect, the value we looked at in the last session.
Without trust, it can be easy to develop a toxic system where people do not listen to feedback and end up gossiping about one another. Yet, when a system is set up where it’s okay to fail, where it’s fun to celebrate successes, and where participants are actively listening, trust is present.
How to create communal trust
Often, trust is built through honoring one another’s stories and valuing differences.
As a young adult starting off in my career, I worked at a boarding school for runaway teens. The first thing these students had to do was learn to tell their stories and listen to others’ stories. This was a powerful time with new students. Very few people had really listened to them. They had pain and experiences to share.
Often they were buried so deep inside, it took practice telling their story in order for them to understand their story. The more others listened, the more the students learned to trust. They learned to trust the community and trust themselves to make better choices. It all started with honoring one another’s stories and valuing their differences. As a staff person, when I listened to students’ stories, healing took place with the students. Nothing changed from their story. It was just the simple act of being actively listened to. They learned to trust that the staff would listen. They learned to trust that we would be there for them as they journeyed through their story.
Whose stories are you listening to? In order to build equity-based hospitality, you need to make a decision to listen to others’ stories; this will help build trust. Consider intergenerational conversations as a place to start within your congregation. Consider starting a group where you listen to stories of those with diverse backgrounds and cultures.
People with disabilities often are not listened to in everyday settings. This is especially true for people living in congregate settings. (Due to isolation and needing assistance with tasks of daily living, care providers may be the only people who actually listen to what they need.) It’s also common for anyone whose disability is visible; a physical or visible difference can be isolating if people are afraid to interact because they might say or do the wrong thing.
A common foundation of trust is built when we listen to others’ stories. We all have a purpose and place of belonging in the kingdom of heaven and community of God here on earth. When you listen to others’ stories, be attentive to where God has used their unique background to show you more of God.
You never know, you just might be entertaining an angel.
“Let mutual affection continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” –Hebrews 13:1-2
- What does it mean to you to trust? Which part of the trust definition resonates with you?
- Do you have areas in your life where you struggle trusting others? Describe those times.
- What does trust have to do with equity-based hospitality?
- Read Philippians 2:1-4. How does looking to the interests of others build trust?
- Read Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus modeled taking our yoke. Taking another’s yoke means bearing another person’s burden or carrying something for them. Is there someone whose “yoke” you can take? If so, how and when? How does taking a “yoke” help build trust?
- Read Daniel 3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted in God. What was the result of that trust? What advantage did they have in trusting God? Did they know they would be rescued?
- Where in your own life can you own your failures, laugh at your failures, and celebrate your growth?
- Spend some time in prayer and ask God to show you how to continue to grow equity-based hospitality through trust.