A few years ago, challenged by our senior pastor Tom Hawkes, I embarked on a mission to think through and determine how the Lord has gifted me for ministry. Having never narrowed it down, I hoped to single out two to three main areas of strengths. One easy way to do this was to ask. So I sent an email to some of my closest friends and coworkers asking them to tell me how they saw the Lord working through me in ministry and to list out 4-5 specific gifts. The goal was to tally the votes and see what rose to the top.
I was actually surprised by the response. One particular gift kept coming up that I did not expect, the gift of hospitality. The more I thought about it the less comfortable I was with this idea. I really didn’t want that gift. In my mind something didn’t sit right. As I was discussing this discomfort with Tom, he asked a question that hit the nail on the head. “Do you think that hospitality is a women’s gift?” Well, I sheepishly had to confess, yes I did!
In a world of Martha Stewarts and Rachel Rays, I had somehow grown to think that hospitality was really only meant for women and centered on the idea of festive house parties. Not only did I fail to understand the breadth of who the Lord gives this gift to, but also what true Christian hospitality involves. It is certainly more than just cake recipes and party favors.
So armed with this new sense of calling I went looking for anything I could find on the gift of hospitality. To learn, develop and put into practice true Christian hospitality. Let’s just say there is not a lot out there, particularly in reformed circles. It is somewhat of a neglected subject and unfortunately culturally it’s falling out of practice as well.
Fortunately, I have stumbled across a few exceptions. Over the next few posts, I hope to review several books that I have found very helpful in understanding hospitality and the Lord’s call to practice it among our neighbors.
First, however, let’s look at scripture itself. There are six explicit commands in the New Testament that gives wisdom and guidance to hospitality.
- 1 Timothy 3:2 “Therefore an overseer must be… hospitable,”
There goes my idea of hospitality only being a women’s gift! It is a prerequisite to be and elder in the church.
- 1 Timothy 5:9-10 “Let a widow be enrolled if she … has shown hospitality,
Widows who wished to come under the financial care of the church in their old age were expected to have lived a life showing hospitality to others.
- 1 Peter 4:9 “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
This speaks to the reality that hospitality is hard, it exhausts resources and is often inconvenient, but we should do it without complaining.
- 3 John 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow-workers for the truth.
The word for “support” means to show hospitality. John is encouraging the church to support fellow laborers in gospel ministry. Hospitality can be a powerful tool for supporting the ministry of others by housing missionaries, seminary students, visiting pastors, etc.
- Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers… and 6. Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Hospitality is to be shown to both strangers as well as those within the Christian community. In other words it is not just people you like or think you might get along with. Hospitality is a call to open your home and meet the needs of people you know and don’t know, may have differing views or think just like you, they may be likable or difficult.
The more I have studied hospitality it has become more and more clear that hospitality is an amazing conduit for the gospel. Whether it is used to support the work of others or it is a direct connection to a neighbor, every Christian is called to practice hospitality. Yes, some are particularly gifted in this area, but make no mistake each one of us needs to look for ways to put this into practice and not neglect to show hospitality.
What might this look like in your home, in your neighborhood or in your city? What obstacles lie in the way of your practice of hospitality? What’s stopping you from opening up your home and inviting a neighbor over this weekend?
Author: Rev. Wes Andrews