Intentional Christian Hospitality
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:10-13)
Hospitality is often lacking in the church today.
I have heard gang members and those in the homosexual lifestyle coming to Christ, joining a church, and suddenly feeling very lonely. This is due to their previous life being very much a communal life. The gangs are very similar to a close knit family. The homosexual community finds camaraderie and support with each other. However, in the church, this bonding with others through a common worldview, is often very absent.
It is common for church goers to show up at church once a week, smile, chat, and then not see another fellow church member the rest of the week.
In the Acts, we see that the early church was very involved with each others daily lives.
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
This strong spiritual, emotional, relational, and personal bond would become even more vital to the believers in the early church as persecution against them began to heat up.
What is Hospitality?
So what exactly is hospitality?
Hospitality is not the same thing as entertaining or feeding someone. That may be a part of showing hospitality but it is not the heart of it.
In the Bible, hospitality was encouraged to be shown to strangers (Hebrews 13:1-3), traveling preachers/missionaries, to the poor and downcast (Luke 14:12-14), and to fellow believers (1 Peter 4:7-10).
“…travelers in ancient times depended heavily on the hospitality of strangers as traveling could be dangerous and there were very few inns, and poor Christians could not afford to stay at them, anyway. This generous provision to strangers also included opening one’s home for church services. Hospitality was indeed a highly regarded virtue in ancient times, especially for Christian leaders.” ~ Got Questions1
As the quote above from Got Questions mentions at the end, hospitality is such an important practice in the church that it is listed as one of the qualifications for consideration of a man for the role of leadership (1 Timothy 3:2-3, Titus 1:7-9).
Hospitality is showing those you serve, God’s heart. It is demonstrating His generosity, love, service, and provision. It is also showing our willingness to trust and submit to God’s authority.
As Christ girded Himself and washed the disciples feet in John 13, we are to demonstrate this same humility in how we serve others. We are not greater than our Master. If He was willing to deny Himself in the service of others, we should not think that any less would be expected of us.
Hospitality is more than entertaining and feeding our friends. It is self-denial, self-sacrifice, and humbling ourselves in the serving others, meeting their needs, and forming strong bonds with fellow believers, strangers, the needy, and demonstrating God’s love for others before unbelievers.
Excuses for Not Showing Hospitality
When presented with the idea of intentional hospitality, our own selfishness and idolatry is often quickly revealed. Here are common excuses given for not practicing hospitality.
Keep in mind that I have used almost every one of these myself. This is a list of confession but should also remind us that since we are not above our Master, we really have no excuse. These “excuses” are really not excuses at all but revealing our selfish and idolatrous nature.
“Hospitality is not my spiritual gift.”
Some people are especially gifted at hospitality, my in-laws, for example. It is just not something my husband and I come by naturally.
Hospitality is a spiritual gift. However, just because we have not been gifted with a specific spiritual gift, it does not mean that we are not supposed to practice or have any excuse to get out of practicing these characteristics of a Christian. For example, not everyone is spiritually gifted to be an evangelist, however, we are all commanded to evangelize. Most people are not spiritual gifted to teach but we are all commanded to teach someone. The same is true for hospitality. We may not all be gifted in hospitality but we are all commanded to be hospitable.
Not having a spiritual gift is no excuse for practicing the fruits of the Spirit.
“I’m an introvert.”
This is another excuse that I am quick to claim. Both my husband and I are introverts. This doesn’t mean that we are shy or don’t enjoy being with people. However, it does mean that being around a lot of people often does wear us out quickly. And, sadly, we really don’t even think of having people over or getting together with people very often. With introverts, a short amount of real quality time is much more important than spending lots of time with someone.
Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to be energized by spending as much time as possible with people. They enjoy just being with people as frequently as possible.
These differences in personalities can, at times, lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
An extrovert may think than an introvert is mad at them or being a bit of a snob. An introvert may feel like an extrovert is overstepping boundaries.
One part of hospitality is learning to understand each other’s personalities. Not as an excuse for bad behavior but to better understand a person and to overlook the minor offenses that are really not worth getting bent out of shape over. As 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Being an introvert is not an excuse to not practice hospitality. If the idea of having a ton of people to your house causes you to break out into a cold sweat, consider just inviting one or two people over, or meeting someone for coffee, or taking a walk with a neighbor. There are a multitude of ways of practicing hospitality that even the most extreme introvert can excel in.
Environment (“My house is small,” “My house is disorganized/dirty,” “My house isn’t child safe.”)
We live in a very small home and while, I typically keep it somewhat presentable, you certainly won’t find pictures of our home in Southern Living. We don’t have children so our house is also not exactly child-safe. So, yes, I must confess, I have used these excuses many times myself.
However, true hospitality has nothing to do with the environment. We should be welcoming but we don’t have to put on a show. We don’t have to have twenty people over, either. If you have a small place, only invite a couple of people over.
You also may consider that what you call a “small place” is probably quite large compared to others, particularly those of other nations. In America, most people live in great extravagance compared to the rest of the world.
Hospitality has more to do with how welcoming you are, not how big, clean, or decorated your place is.
Now, the child safety situation, may be something to really consider before having children in your home. You may consider buying a couple of cabinet locks, putting breakables away, and notifying the parents that your house is not child-safe. You may also consider changing the venue to something like having a picnic at a local park. We have a kiddie pool we are going to put in the back yard and let the kids play in while we grill on the patio with some friends. There are lots of other ideas you can come of up with when you do a little brainstorming.
Budgeting for hospitality can be tricky. However, we are told in Acts that the early church members sold their belongings in order to meet the needs of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This can really cut to our idols and selfish nature. We suddenly find where the “rubber meets the road” when we are asked to sacrifice financially.
However, remember that when showing someone hospitality whether that is having them over to your home, cooking them a meal, or whatever, you do not have to put on some extravagant presentation. You don’t have to make lobster and baked Alaska. You can practice hospitality by something as simple as ordering pizza or having sandwiches.
Don’t feel like you have to put on a show. Don’t make hospitality about impressing your friends. Rather, focus on the fellowship and meeting other’s needs.
This is a common excuse for just about everything these days. We have robots that do almost everything for us from washing our clothes, washing our dishes, transporting us from place to place, and even making our dinner. Yet, we claim to have no time anymore.
If this is your excuse, you may want to start keeping a log of where you spend your time. It will likely be embarrassingly revealing. Almost all of us spend way more than we should entertaining ourselves whether that be from social media, reading blogs, watching TV, or participating in sports or other extracurricular activities. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with participating in any of these activities. However, if they are taking up so much of your time that you are “too busy” to obey the commands of Scripture, then they have become sinful distractions.
If you are “too busy” to show hospitality, you are too busy and you need to take a close look at how you are spending your time and pare down some of the unnecessary distractions.
Unsupportive family members
Now this excuse is a little different. If your husband does not support the idea of having people in your home, then this is an issue with his heart. I would not advise pestering him about it but rather keep praying for his heart to be softened and for him to be convicted. Pray for him and let the Holy Spirit do His job. It is not your job to be the Holy Spirit.
There are other ways to show hospitality other than having people over in your home. You could meet a young mother at a local park for a chat and to let her children play, you could meet someone for lunch or coffee, you could invite a neighbor for a walk, clean the house of someone who is ill, visit with a shut-in or the nursing home, you could call a friend on the phone, etc…
An unsupportive family member may eliminate for a time certain ways of offering hospitality but there are many other ways of serving others.
Ideas for Practice Hospitality
I’ve mentioned a few ideas above of ways of practicing hospitality I’ll list a few more ideas that will help get your creative juices flowing below. However, we need to keep in mind what is the purpose of hospitality. It is not to simply entertain but to form strong relationships with believers, to encourage each other as we grow in sanctification and face difficult times, and to show God’s love to both believers and unbelievers. It isn’t about showing off your cooking skills or showing someone a good time but humbling ourselves and “washing the feet” of others.
- Have people over to dinner
- Host a Bible study in your home
- Take a meal to a new mom or someone who is ill
- Clean the home of a new mom/someone who is ill/an older person who may not be able to
- Mow a lawn
- Do house repairs
- Take an older person shopping
- Go shopping with a mom who has multiple children
- Babysit for free
- Plan a baby/wedding shower
- Invite a neighbor to go on a walk
- Meet a mom or family at the park for a picnic and to let the kids play
- Meet someone for coffee or lunch
- Call someone on the phone
Free Hospitality Planner
Practicing hospitality shouldn’t be something we just check off of our “holiness” list or something that we do one time and then feel like we have done our part. Hospitality is a lifestyle that we should embrace. It should become so much a part of us that it becomes one of our characteristics.
Having said that, in attempting to become more intentional in how we practice hospitality, I had to actually schedule days where we would make an effort to invite a family over for dinner. We currently have every other Tuesday penciled in for “hospitality night.” This doesn’t mean that we are always successful and sometimes we have to adjust our schedule to accommodate other’s schedules. The point is that it is something we are trying to make a part of our regular schedule. We want it to become a habit but until it is something we don’t even think about, we have to intentionally scheduling it.
This type of hospitality is specifically for inviting people into our home and forming close bonds with those in our young church. This does not include the hospitality of organizing a meal train, meeting someone at the park, having coffee, or going for a walk with a neighbor.
I am also the type that stresses out if I don’t have some sort of organization to my plans. Because of this, I sat down one weekend and created a couple of spreadsheets to help me with intentional hospitality. These spread sheets help me to remember who we have or have yet to invite to our home, help me to remember any food allergies or preferences, what works for one family and what doesn’t work (schedules, personalities, etc), and meal ideas.
If you are interested in this free hospitality planner, sign up from my newsletter below and I will send you a link to the download library. Here you will also find other great downloads to help you in your personal Bible study.
Hospitality is not about how we feel but about denying our self and serving others. Although this sound like a burden, the ironic thing is that in serving others, we are rewarded with deep and strong relationships that are mutually encouraging and delightful. It is also beautiful to form close relationships with people of different personalities, likes, and backgrounds simple because we share in the adoption by our Lord. It reveals the beautiful tapestry Christ is weaving as He adds to His Bride. It gives us a glimpse of what eternity will be like in fellowship and glorifying our God for all eternity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
1. “What Does The Bible Say About Hospitality?”. 2017. Gotquestions.Org. Accessed July 11. https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-hospitality.html.