Why Hospitality?

Making disciples of Jesus is best done in the context of your home, whether for your natural children or your spiritual children.  Disciples are the children of God; therefore the home is an ideal environment for a disciple to experience, (1) the parental nature of God, (2) what it means to belong to a family, (3) how to love and serve others, and (4) how to attach to brothers and sisters.  Children can witness what it means to follow Jesus by observing the daily lives of their parents in various circumstances.

In the West we tend to compartmentalize our lives, often separating our ministry from our home.  Even when ministry is conducted in the home, it tends to be done as a “study” or “meeting” rather than being a family gathering.  (In the many small group training conferences that I have attended, never did “family” or “a meal” enter the discussion.  A house was only a convenient place to hold a meeting.)

Some Benefits of Hospitality:

  • Hospitality provides you an opportunity to serve your disciple.  (Serving is another way to say “I love you”.)
  • Hospitality opens up your life to your disciple.  (A person’s home tells a lot about a person.  I have been in very few homes of pastors or church leaders.)
  • Hospitality provides your disciple an opportunity to observe how you relate to your wife and children.
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to serve others and to learn how to share.
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to love others and for others to love your children.   (A hug from a 4 year old will melt any heart.)
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to observe how you minister and interact with others.
  • Hospitality provides a place for your disciple to belong.
  • Hospitality provides a place for your disciple to serve.  (Help cook, help clean up, help with the children)
  • Hospitality provides you an opportunity for you to observe how your disciple relates to others.

Hospitality and the Gospel

The question I am asked most often is “what does your ministry look like?” Although there are many components to our approach, hospitality would be central. If you would ask how we make disciples, I would say through the means of hospitality.  If you would ask our method for evangelism, again I would answer hospitality.

At my last church we were teaching through the qualifications of an elder, one of which is hospitality.  My immediate question was, “If hospitality is a qualification for spiritual leadership, then why was it not part of my pastoral training?” Although we would have said that our church was hospitable, as an elder I had to admit that I knew little of hospitality.  I had lived in the same apartment for 10 years with only 6 overnight guests and no dinner guests.  (Friends made fun of the fact that I used my oven for storage.)

In contrast, over the past 5 years we have had nearly a thousand overnight guests and even more dinner guests in our Chicago apartment.  Our prayer has been “bring the right people to us and keep the wrong people away.” We keep prepared for the unexpected guest, whether for a meal or overnight.

Rachel Davis is a friend in the hospitality industry.  She taught me the difference between entertainment and hospitality.  Entertainment is about “me” as the host or hostess-how my house looks, the quality of food, how good of a party I can give- whereas hospitality is about others and serving them.  As the Father, Son, and Spirit opened up their family at a great sacrifice allowing us to be adopted as children of God, so we can open up our homes to give an experiential demonstration of the love of the God to others.   It is hard work.  It does take time and cost money, but it is the sacrifice that empowers hospitality to be an illustration of the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Hospitality As A Means to Make Followers of Jesus

There are only a few requirements listed in the Bible for leaders (elders) of the family of God but on that short list hospitality is named. If one would ask 100 Christians to list their top ten qualifications for Christian leadership I doubt many would list hospitality and yet it does make the Holy Spirit’s top ten list.

Hospitality is an expression of the heart and nature of God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit extended to mankind an opportunity to be adopted into the family of God through Jesus coming to earth. Jesus’ ministry on earth was marked by hospitality. “Luke portrays Jesus not only as a guest at the table of others, but also as an indiscriminate host who welcomes those outside the boundaries of religious and social approval.” [1] Jesus used hospitality to connect to the poor, the wealthy, the working man and the disenfranchised in order for them to become his followers. Craig Blomberg observes:

As to the meaning of Jesus’ behavior, the unifying theme that emerges is one that may be called  contagious holiness’. Jesus discloses not one instance of fearing contamination, whether moral or ritual, by associating with the wicked or impure. Rather, he believes that his purity can rub off on them, and he hopes that his magnanimity toward them will lead them to heed his calls to discipleship. [2]

I am not a cook. But after discovering hospitality in the life of Jesus I resolved (after great consternation) to learn how to cook. A group of men I was discipling were meeting in my home each week, so I decided to cook for them. After we started eating meals together the spiritual intensity of the group and our love for one another increased immediately. The simple act of preparing a meal exhibits one’s willingness to sacrifice and create for the benefit of another which reflects the power of the cross and the new created life found in Jesus.

[1] Delmar Paez, “The Missionary Dimension of Hospitality In The Third Gospel,” Maryhill School of Theology, p.2.
[2] Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals With Sinners, p. 167