This past Sunday I preached on the Biblical practice of hospitality. We looked at how hospitality is not a Martha Stewart cliche, but rather at the heart of Christian love. Hospitality means loving strangers, seeking to bring people on the outside into our faith community. It is an inclusive act that models the very gospel itself. We are all born outside of the family of God, strangers to the Lord and separated from fellowship with Him. But Jesus came, so that His blood could purchase our forgiveness and anyone who puts their faith in Him can become part of God’s family. God has been hospitable to us. He has welcomed us with open arms and an open heart. And so as those who have received such love, we are to show that love to others. When we open our hearts as well as our homes, we’re practicing Christian hospitality.
If Christians would practice true hospitality, we could play a significant part in changing our corner of the world. After all, we are living miracles and have so much to share. The bottom line is that God can use people like you and me to touch lives. It doesn’t matter if we rent or own a house or an apartment; our homes are an extension of ourselves. When we practice hospitality, we have the opportunity to touch lives in an intimate, personal way.
But practicing hospitality can be hard and intimidating. Below are a few practical suggestions to get you started on living this lifestyle.
1 Make a plan, write it down and be accountable
Growth doesn’t happen just through desire. Growth happens through discipline. Whether it is Kobe Bryant shooting 2,000 basketball shots per day, YoYo Mah playing violin for 8 hours per day, or Bill Gates dropping out of college so he could spend more time coding, we see that growth doesn’t happen through desire alone, but through the willingness to discipline yourself, to make choices in life to pursue that growth. So if you want to grow in practicing the biblical command of hospitality, you need to think through how to turn that desire into a discipline. What is your action plan? Write it down. A good desire that remains a thought in your head doesn’t get anything done. Writing an action plan down takes it out of your head and gives you a clear path to follow. It also allows you to share your plan with others, so that they can encourage you and help hold you accountable. I write down goals for my year every year and share it with the pastoral team and have always found that to be a really helpful practice.
2. Build a weekly rhythm of hospitality
Powerful things get done, not in big moments, but constant actions over time. If you had a boulder the size of our church building and you had a constant steady drip of water on that building the size of my thumb, who wins that battle over time? It will not even be close, the steady drip of water will crack through that rock. All it needs is time. I think often we don’t see God move in the ways we want to, because we are looking for big stuff. But God works through our faithfulness in little things over time. Remember, Jesus said his kingdom is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of seeds. But when a mustard seed is tended to and cared for, over time it grows and grows and takes over everything. God does big things through small, continual steps of faithfulness. Every week we eat 21 meals. What would happen if we committed to sharing just one of those meals with someone else? We have a 115 members in our church. So 115 x 52 is 5,980. Can you imagine what God could do through 5,980 encounters?
Committing to do hospitality on a weekly basis will force you to slow down and rethink your priorities, which in our fast paced culture is always a good thing to do. There will always be a reason to not be hospitable, but if we commit to the simple act of doing hospitality on a weekly basis than we will have to put aside those excuses, find a solution to the barriers that keep us from doing this and purposefully step into living with intentionality.
3. Team up
Don’t try to do everything yourself. When you read through the gospels you see something really interesting, you see Jesus letting people help him all the time. I think we miss out a lot on what God can do through us, because we only think about us and the resources we have within ourselves. If you want to be more hospitable, then think about teaming up with someone. Ask a friend to bring over dinner, ask someone to think about a game, see if you can use someone else’s home, etc… Don’t just think about what you have to offer. Think about the people in the church and how you could collaborate with others to be more hospitable together.
4. Keep it simple
Complexity is the enemy of growth. If you’ve been over to my house you know we’ve got toys on the grounds, crumbs under the table and sometimes laundry stacked on the stairs. We’ll try to clean up when we have people over, but we also don’t feel pressure to have our home looking immaculate. We want to keep things simple. Hospitality is not about putting on a show, so that people are impressed with you. It is about inviting people into your life. And you know what? Real life is messy. In real life we don’t eat elaborate 5 course meals. In my house we eat a lot of tacos and chicken and rice. If you want to be faithful to live a hospitable lifestyle, you are going to have to be ok with keeping things simple. Throw some food in a crock pot, or just pickup a bag of chips and salsa and spend the night playing cards.
5. If you have kids, include them.
A meal with my three kiddos can be like WWIII. We don’t make it through many meals without having to break up some kind of fight. But that’s just part of life. You haven’t gotten to know me until you’ve seen me trying to keep my 6 year from throwing spaghetti at my 8 year old, while also trying to wipe snot from my 3 year old’s nose. Having kids part of our meal times can be challenging, but hospitality is about inviting people into your life and this is my life.
Also, I want to help model for my kids what it looks like to practice the Christian love of hospitality. I want them to learn how to meet new people. When we have people over, I’ll ask my kids if they have any questions for our guests. I want to teach them how to draw others out and take an interest in people. So don’t shoo kids away or just stick them in front of the TV. Certainly there is a place for just adult conversation, but also don’t miss out on the value of including your kids.
6. Start on Sunday
We have new people coming to our church every single week and that’s low hanging fruit. If someone comes to church, there is obviously already some kind of spiritual interest or some connecting point that brought them here. Here’s three words to think about every Sunday: Who can I greet, who can I eat with, who can I invite to meet up later? Greet, eat and meet. Come to church when we start serving food at 9:30am, greet others as they come in. After the service, don’t just rush to catch up with friends. Look for someone new and greet them. And then don’t just greet, but see if you can get some time to eat. There is a phenomenal book called Meals with Jesus and it looks through the gospels at the many times that Jesus shared meals with people. There is something about eating food with someone that helps lower their guard and builds relationship. So greet new people and then see if you can eat with them. Finally, invite them to meetup with your other Christian friends. Small groups is a great context for this. Invite people to your small group, so that they can get more plugged into our community.
7. Learn to ask questions
When we have people over, I usually have a list of 5-7 questions that I want to ask them to try to get to know them. There are websites you can go to in order to look up good conversation starters. (I have used https://www.conversationstarters.com/101.htm, but you can google conversation starters and get all kinds of hits). If I’m meeting someone new from church I usually ask them: How did you hear about the church? Where are you from? How long have you lived here? What brought you here? Do you have any kind of spiritual background?
Few things make people feel more welcomed than others taking an interest in them, so learning to ask questions is a vital skill for showing hospitality.
Hope this helps you to, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb 13:1-2 ESV)