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Hospitality: A New Testament Value and Duty

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:42, 46, 47

Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Now the overseer must be…hospitable. 1 Timothy 3:2

There is something mystically bonding when true hospitality occurs. The more a church becomes building oriented, the more this spiritual activity will atrophy. In a healthy church, hospitality and table fellowship are occurring in families and across families. There is nothing quite like breaking physical bread together while sharing how we have feasted on Jesus, the bread of life.

Hospitality is not entertaining. There is a place for entertaining in life. Entertaining is fun. Entertaining is about having a sparkling house and sparkling food and sparkling activities. Entertainment conjures up images of a candlelit living room with hors d’oeuvres and a fire in the fireplace, and several courses to the meal. That makes my mouth water just thinking about it. But that is not hospitality. That is a party. There is a place for parties.

Hospitality is simple. Hospitality is sharing Christ with each other as we share the food we have. It is keeping the meal simple enough so that the fellowship, not the food, is the focus. It is putting food together so that everyone, including the hostess, can enjoy the time. It is asking questions about the other’s walk with Christ, his or her understanding of God, or living the Christian life. It is about all pitching in to clean up.

Barriers to True Hospitality
What are the barriers to true hospitality? Every barrier is, in fact, a spiritual barrier.

Some do not practice hospitality because they do not think they have a nice enough home or apartment. They would be embarrassed if someone saw how they lived. Their house, they think, is too small or too simple. This, perhaps, is a temptation for the women among us. But if the goal is to love others, then there comes a wonderful self-forgetfulness. Sharon and I once ate in an inner-city kitchen on paper plates with a piece of plywood as the table. We had a wonderful time!

Some Christians do not see hospitality as a priority to spend their time and money on. In addition, for some men, their home is their castle. Having people over is for our wives to worry about. Providing a meal does take time and money. It takes effort and death to self. But it is a biblical command for both men and women.

Hospitality is not just about food. It is about spiritual communion. It’s about providing spiritual rest. It’s about asking good questions over good food. It’s about giving our children time to interact with other adults.

How Does Hospitality Aid in Family Discipleship?
Thanks to my wife’s encouragement, this has been a strong emphasis of our family. And looking back, it was helpful in the development of our children. How?

It gave our family a goal to work for. Even though we were not entertaining, it still took work to prepare the food, prepare the table, and straighten up the house. We tried to involve our family in this so that they would see this as a whole family ministry. We were working together as a family to build up the body of Christ.

It builds relationships. From an adult’s perspective, often there are lots of little kids running around, and you can’t remember their names. From a child’s perspective, often there are lots of adults, and you don’t focus on individuals. Having two or three adults over helps narrow the focus. Adults can focus on your children. Your children can focus on these adults. In addition, it can build relationships among your guests if you have more than one family over.

It gives a witness. Often we would ask our guests how they came to know the Lord. Or we might ask about some life lessons they learned. As adults, we really wanted to know the answers to these questions. But in an indirect way, our children were learning as they were listening.

It encourages singles. Though singles display the gospel as they live for heaven, it can still be lonely. Don’t just invite other families at your life stage. Invite those who are older and younger, single and married. They will walk away feeling loved and encouraged.

It builds strong memories. Having Christians (and non-Christians) around your table will be remembered by your children. Now you are not just “going to church,” but you are reaching out to non-Christians, visitors, or other believers. They see and feel the love of their parents toward others. They will cherish those memories.

As you grow in your walk with the Lord, learn to grow in the spiritual ministry of hospitality. And to those who are especially given to this ministry, please know how important you are to the body!