“Hospitality is an underrated gift. When we invite people into our houses, our churches, our lives, the hardest of hearts will melt. There is something about the generosity of an invitation that makes people take notice.
My wife and I bought a home last year and it has taken most of that year to fix it up to the point where we can invite people over without feeling self-conscious. This past summer we invited several of our neighbors to a backyard bar-b-que. It was nothing short of amazing to see them let down their guards and let us get to know them. We have formed friendships and enjoyed the kind of neighborly give and take you hope for when you buy a house in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Hospitality is a lost gift in many churches, yet it should be one of the primary functions of the body…. There was a time when you couldn’t walk through the door of an evangelical church without being approached by four or five well-meaning believers who wanted to make you feel at home. Not only did Christians welcome strangers to worship, but churches had well-oiled visitation programs assuring that newcomers would receive friendly follow-up visits in their homes.
Where has the hospitality gone?
A lack of hospitality toward strangers has crept into churches, where many believers feel safer ignoring those they don’t know. Hospitality is an unglamorous subject that doesn’t get much attention from the pulpit. The command from the writer of Hebrews to “show hospitality to strangers” (13:2) contradicts a protective society’s warning to children to not talk to strangers. Yet in Romans 12:10–13, Paul puts “practicing hospitality” on par with being “devoted to prayer” and “serving the Lord.”
Sharing popcorn and friendship
When I moved to Florida in 1978 to work in Christian radio, a welcoming spirit was evident at the churches I visited there: the Nazarene church where a tall, twenty-something red-haired man would not let me leave without finding out everything about me; the Assembly of God church where a woman invited me to dinner with her family; and the Baptist church where three people literally ran to catch me at the end of the service before I left.
I ended up worshiping regularly at that Baptist church because of a shared bowl of popcorn! One Monday at 9 p.m., after I had visited the church a few times, a young married couple knocked at my door, just as I was making popcorn. I was a bit embarrassed, since my bachelor apartment was a mess and it was obvious that I wasn’t planning on guests. But instead of apologizing or handing me some printed church information and leaving, the couple accepted my halfhearted invitation to sit down and share my snack. Their kindness was not just in stopping by to visit, but in feeling comfortable enough to eat my popcorn and treat me like a friend.”
Let us determine now that you and I will use hospitality in our homes and in our congregation as a means to receive others and introduce them to Christ if they haven’t already met Him!