Sara G Barton on “Welcoming Strangers into our Scriptural Home”


As many of you know, I help lead a movement of Christian college students focused on embodying God’s hospitality at DePaul University. Over the past few years, I’ve been surprised to see how consistently that vision has resulted in groups of students–Christians and non-Christians–getting together to read the Bible together. Prior to moving to Chicago, I had never experienced a Bible study that wasn’t populated exclusively by church people. Reading the Bible alongside both “church kids” and “outsiders” has been one of the unexpected joys of my time at DePaul

I’ve struggled to explain exactly what makes these moments so remarkable; fortunately, my friend/mentor Sara Gaston Barton paints a beautiful little picture of her similar experiences in her book, A Woman Called. Until I find my own words to describe the  mutual transformation I’ve seen in these inclusive Bible studies, I’ll use hers instead:

“When I read the Bible with those outside the church, I choose to consider my pastoral role with them to be hospitality, a central aspect of the missional life. When they accept my invitation to read with them, I welcome strangers into my scriptural home; and while I sometimes feel vulnerable about what they will think of my home, I know that a hospitable spirit will be central to a positive experience. While I obviously do not own Scripture in an exclusive way, I do know my way around… I am comfortable there, and I can embrace others enthusiastically as they enter the experience with me. As readers become comfortable in a hospitable environment, they share with unbelievable depth about what it means for human life to intersect with God and Scripture…

As I host those who don’t know the Bible, they don’t know all the things that Christians tend to avoid. They don’t know how we pick and choose what experienced Bible readers pick and choose. They don’t know what’s going to happen next in a story, and so there are wonderful moments of shock and surprise…

My role of hospitality reminds me all the time that I do not control the outcome of a Bible study. The Spirit is in control. It’s a delightful, joyful, colorful experience. And when I take part in it, I know that I am filling the insatiable thirst God gave me for sharing life with others. (p. 62-64)

What do you think? Have you been a part of a hospitable Bible study like the one described here (either as a host or as a guest)? What was your experience like?

Oh, and if you want to hear more from Mrs. Barton, click here to jump to her blog. Or, click the photo below to order her fantastic reflection on being a woman called to minister within a community that limits women in ministry (one of Rachel Held Evan’s “Top Books of 2012”).