Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
- Romans 12:12-16
Over the years, I have been involved in a number of different evangelism programs. All of these programs have increased my desire and skill for sharing my faith with others. Yet despite the value I have derived from these programs, I have found that alone they were insufficient to equip me to successfully share my faith. I felt as if something was missing. The missing ingredient that I was longing to find was the simple act of hospitality.
Practicing hospitality is encouraged in the Bible. Verses like 1st Timothy 3:2, 1st Timothy 5:10, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:2, and I Peter 4:9 combine with the verse from Romans 12 above to create a powerful picture for how believers should both order their lives and how they should connect with those who don't know Christ. Despite its practical importance, however, hospitality can easily get lost in the business of our everyday lives. I believe it is time for us as believers to re-appropriate this special grace God has put at our disposal.
If we are to effectively practice hospitality, we need to understand exactly what it is. Hospitality is not the same as fellowship. Fellowship is enjoying the company of like minded people such as those with whom we share a common faith bond. Hospitality, however, is opening our homes to people who are strangers to our faith. This means making sacrifices of time and treasure in order to make ourselves available to those who don't know Christ. This is the kind of evangelism we see Christ practicing throughout the gospels and this is the kind of evangelism that puts its money where its mouth is. Hospitality and fellowship are not always mutually exclusive but if we consistently forego hospitality in order to enjoy fellowship then we are going about it the wrong way. Fellowship is priceless and necessary but it should never come at the expense of hospitality.
So where should we start? It could be something as simple as establishing a weekly community meal, or shared holiday experience. It could be hosting a game night or establishing a food train for a sick neighbor. It doesn't have to be fancy or fussy, it just has to be genuine. People will much more notice the warmth and openness of your home than its state of cleanliness. Don't let another week go by without earnestly asking the Lord to give you an opportunity to open your home to those outside the church and then act on the opportunities He gives. You might just find that the simple act of hospitality is the missing ingredient that you have been longing for.
MIke Hall lives in Cary with his wife.