Christian hospitality is one of the most fruitful of ministry disciplines. Over the years, my wife and I have made a habit of having people over on a regular basis, and we’ve found that opening our home for fellowship often opens hearts for discipleship and mentoring.
No wonder the New Testament emphasizes hospitality as a Christian grace:
Use hospitality one to another without grudging.—1 Peter 4:9
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.—Romans 12:13
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;— 1 Timothy 3:2
But Terrie and I still laugh at one of our early attempts at opening our home. I was teaching a Sunday school class for young married couples, and one Sunday, a visiting couple, the Matthews, attended the class. I met them at the door and learned they had just moved to the area. Eager to encourage them in the Lord and demonstrate hospitality, I invited them to our home for lunch.
As the morning church service concluded, I remembered to tell Terrie that the Matthews were coming.
“Today?” she gulped.
“Yes, what’s wrong with that?”
“Mainly that we don’t have any food in the house.” By now, she was crying.
We didn’t have much money either, but we scraped together a few dollars and picked up a few items at the convenience store down the street.
We hurried to beat the Matthews to our apartment, and Terrie graciously served a lunch of buttered pasta with ice cream for dessert.
I learned two lessons about hospitality that day:
1) Ask your wife first. My wife has always been a servant, but we did have a discussion after the Matthews left about the proper procedure in inviting people over!
2) Hospitality makes a difference in people’s lives. You might think that a lunch of spaghetti noodles would turn people away. (Terrie was sure it would.) But, it didn’t. The Matthews were back for the evening service at church and became faithful members. In our experience through the years, the very action of opening your home to others is far more important than what you feed them.
Hospitality is vital to ministry. But it’s pretty easy to put it off thinking you can’t afford it or don’t have time to prepare.
Christian hospitality need not be a full buffet of the best cooking or a showcase of the cleanest house. While at least a minimum standard of palatability and cleanliness are obviously important, don’t put off extending hospitality until the time is perfect.
Who needs your hospitality? A new Christian? Someone who would visit church if you invited them for lunch afterward? A lonely widow? A family going through a trial?
Just invite them over for lunch today.
But ask your wife first.