The art of hospitality is hard to find in action today. We think hospitality is just cooking a meal or hosting a party. Hospitality is at least those things, but it is much more than those things. Hospitality is making people feel at home, comfortable, and open to great conversation. Good hospitality will make you drop your guard and be vulnerable. Hospitality is also a spiritual gift, that the Lord can use mightily for his name.
1. Invite People into Your Home
To use a gift of hospitality, you must be willing to open up your home. Our homes can be quite private. Our homes are our space. They are often messy, chaotic, and our place to isolate ourselves from everyone else. Therefore the act of opening up your home is an act of vulnerability. You are inviting people to your most intimate place of rest and solitude. You are inviting them into a personal part of your life.
Many feel a pressure to impress when they invite people over. Many people invite people over not to serve them or to be hospitable, but to show off they cleanliness, furniture, or style. Yes, it is a good idea to clean your house before people come over. Yes, a nicely decorated house is a plus, but it is not the point of hospitality. The pressure to impress others is not hospitality but pride. True hospitality invites people over even though the house still might need a fresh vacuuming. The purpose of inviting others into you home is to serve them, not to impress them.
2. Ask Good Questions of Your Guests
Again the purpose of hospitality is not to fill people's stomachs but to fill their souls. Some of the best conversations to be had happen around the dinner table or sitting on your couch. When you have people over, take the opportunity to ask some good questions that take the conversation deeper. Don't spend the whole night talking about the basketball game or the latest episode of Downton Abby. As a hospitable host you are seeking to meet the spiritual needs of others.
For Christian guests ask questions like:
- How did you come to know Christ?
- What have you been reading in the Bible recently?
- Has there been a sermon or message that has impacted you recently? What was it and why?
For non-Christians ask questions like:
- Do you have any sort of spiritual beliefs?
- What do you think about Church? Have you ever gone before?
- Do you believe in a god? If so, which god?
Throwing out a spiritual question like this can seem awkward at first, but it is amazing how the conversation turns to deeper things after you do so.
3. Listen Carefully, Respond Graciously
A key component to being hospitable means listening to others. Some people are just talkers. We have all been to dinner parties when one or two people tend to dominate the conversation. They talk about themselves, their accomplishments, and their hobbies. A hospitable host is not someone who is self-consumed, but truly listens to others. As you ask questions of your guests, deeply and truly listen to their answers. Don't begin preaching a sermon to them, but listen carefully and respond slowly in gentleness and love. Listen for things like "What is going on in this persons life?", "How can I be praying for this person?", or "Where are they at spiritually?" A hospitable person listens to others looking for opportunities to serve.
4. Pray with Your Guests Before they Leave
Kaitlyn and I are trying to make this a practice anytime we have people over for dinner. After a great meal and some deep conversation, we take time to pray with our guest before the leave. It is a great way to finish the evening, especially when there has been some deeper spiritual dialogue.
The Urgent Need for Hospitable Christians
I believe that the church desperately needs more people using the gift of hospitality. In my experience, people don't tend to open up to much in the hallway of a church or in the pastor's office. Some of the best spiritual conversations I've had with people have taken place in my own home. More Christians need to open up their homes to others for the purpose of ministry. People are not looking for some formal, cold, distant religion, but a warm, personable, relational faith community.
I also believe that hospitality is also a vital component for modern evangelism. Many of our neighbors would never respond to an invitation to go to church, but would jump at the opportunity to come over for dinner. May we leverage our homes for the Gospel, and may they become the missionary outpost scattered across the world to make disciples.
How has someone else's hospitality impacted your life? Share with us in the comments below!