The Church Must Learn Christian Hospitality

Church leaders should strive to create in churches a culture of responsiveness.

“There you have the basics of hospitality, of Christian ministry: Share the Gospel. Share yourself. Treat people with tender affection. Get these fundamentals right, and you are well on your way to showing hospitality to your church and community.”

 

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” — Romans 12:13

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” — 1 Peter 4:9

Christian hospitality opens homes and hearts. It’s vitally important for churches to learn the art of hospitality.

My own definition of hospitality: “any direct and personal act of welcoming love, care or provision given by one Christian to guests or strangers, whether Christian or not.”

Hospitality is not charity. Charity is most often indirect care, offered through intermediaries, to those in distress. Hospitality is direct and may be offered to anyone, affluent or poor.

Hospitality is a matter of life and death.

In the ancient world, travel was perilous. Inns were notorious for vice and as gathering places for brigands. Christian hospitality opened homes to traveling Christian preachers and merchants, providing places of refuge that assisted the cultivation of Christian friendships and the spread of the Gospel.

Cities were especially dangerous places, full of violence, disease and danger. Christian hospitality offered newcomers indispensable networks of caring relationships that eased their transition to urban life. To be alone in the city was perilous.

Hospitality was a matter of life and death then. But what about today? In the context of the Gospel, hospitality is still a matter of life and death.

Apart from Christ, we were strangers and aliens. But in our Savior, God has welcomed us to his household (Ephesians 2:19).

Think of those who played a role in your conversion. Perhaps when you were an unbeliever someone cared for you, and his friendship brought you under the influence of the Gospel. For you, hospitality was a matter of spiritual life and death.

Hospitality is also a critical need for those barely hanging on in your church.

One church lost many members over several years. Some moved away for employment. Others remained in the area, but chose another congregation. The church’s leaders conducted a survey to find out why folks left, happy or unhappy.

Members who left satisfied gave as a primary reason that it was a caring congregation. Members who left the church dissatisfied claimed it was not a caring congregation.

How can it be both a caring and uncaring?

Persons who identified the congregation as caring had experienced brief illnesses, deaths, births and celebrations and found the church right there with them.

Persons who judged the church uncaring struggled with chronic illness, ongoing depression, doubts about the Christian faith, persistent marriage problems and rebellious children. Over time the church’s concern for them waned. The church shouldn’t be judged too harshly. Who, after all, hasn’t felt helpless and chose to stand apart rather than serve men and women in perplexing situations? Still, how many would have stayed if they had been recipients of the church’s care?

Hospitality is also a matter of critical importance to those gifted in the art of hospitality. If it’s your gift, then you need the refreshment of other caring Christians. One of the most difficult life lessons for me to learn has been to receive kindness from others — kindness I needed! Hospitality requires grace on the part of the one who extends hospitality, and it requires grace from the one who receives hospitality.

What does hospitality look like? It might mean:

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