A last-minute dinner invitation plus an empty pantry would be any woman’s worst nightmare. Well, for me, this nightmare became a reality.
Shortly after graduating from Bible college, my husband was working on staff at a church and had just started a new adult Bible class for couples that met on Sunday morning during the children’s Sunday school hour. On the Sunday morning that we had our first visiting couple, my husband invited them to our home for lunch—right in the middle of his Bible lesson. At first, I was shocked, but by the end of class, I had convinced myself that he had been teasing. As we walked home after church that morning, our conversation turned to that impromptu invitation. It was then that I learned that this new couple was coming to our home for lunch and would be arriving shortly.
I was beside myself. Not only was our pantry empty, but our checking account was as well. We had seven dollars in cash, which we used to pick up a few items on our way home. Thus, my ministry debut in hospitality was about as simple a meal as can be: green beans, buttered noodles, and ice cream. I was embarrassed but determined to focus on our guests rather than my discomfort.
To my surprise, the following Sunday that visiting couple joined our church. God used this simple meal to initiate fellowship and to reveal acceptance to a couple who needed it. He also used this experience to show me that regardless of how simple or complex the meal is, God will work through the hospitality of a willing and serving Christian. (And, for the record, my husband did profusely apologize many times. It’s now a humorous memory for both of us.)
From the New Testament, we learn that biblical church life must involve hospitality. The Bible doesn’t portray Christian hospitality as simply a good thing to do if you can; it reveals it as something God commands.
When the apostle Paul gave young pastors Timothy and Titus lists of the necessary character traits of church leaders, he included hospitality: “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate” (Titus 1:8). “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). Paul told the Roman believers that all Christians—not just the church leaders—should be “given to hospitality”: “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13). The apostle Peter challenged the first-century Christians to “use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9).
Gracious hospitality offers comfort, encouragement, and acceptance in generous helpings. It is allowing the Spirit of God to flow through you as you minister to the needs of others.
Although our church uses a formal discipleship program, the biblical picture of discipleship is larger than several weeks of one-on-one meetings. It includes a lifelong process of following Christ. And I have seen the Lord use the opening of my home to facilitate spiritual growth in the lives of others, not to mention in my own life as I extend hospitality.
Encouraging in Christian Growth
Over the years, my husband and I have chosen to open our home regularly to serve others. In our early years at Lancaster Baptist Church, we hosted the new members’ class in our home and held many discipleship meetings in our living room.
Sitting across the table from someone, listening to blessings and burdens, and sharing Scripture together—these moments in your home give opportunities to share fellowship and influence others for Christ. As you give of your time and energy to share your home and your heart, God will increase your opportunities to impact others for Him.
Providing an Example of Normal Christianity
I was saved as a child through a church bus ministry. Because I did not grow up in a Christian home, I didn’t get to observe normal, Spirit-filled family relationships really until after I was married. This has made me especially aware that when we invite newly-saved, first-generation Christians into our home, this may be the first time they are inside the four walls of a Christian home.
When our children were young, my husband and I worked hard at making our home a place of love and nurturing. We wanted our children to sense security and, of course, our love. We weren’t perfect at this, but our kids knew we were sincere in it. The extension of this was that when we had new Christians over, they were able to observe basic family interactions that were endeavoring to honor Christ and love one another.
Our family has had many people visit our home—neighbors, new converts, teenagers, girls from my fourth grade Sunday school class, deacons, church members, West Coast Baptist College students, pastors, news reporters, governors, and congressmen and other elected officials.
God-appointed opportunities and relationships have been cultivated through having these guests into our home. Often, we have had the blessing of leading someone to Christ at our kitchen table. Many friendships have been developed that would not exist today if we had not opened our home and extended an invitation.
I mentioned a moment ago that the Lord uses the process of hospitality to bring spiritual growth in my own life. Hospitality isn’t always easy. Sometimes the opportunities to meet others’ needs come at inconvenient times. But when we see hospitality as a part of discipleship, we are reminded that discipleship isn’t always easy either.
Instead of looking at the challenges of hospitality, it is helpful to look at the opportunities to serve Christ. When I open my home to others as unto the Lord, I am serving Him. And even when the menu is as simple as buttered noodles and green beans, God uses my simple offerings to facilitate the work He is doing in developing the spiritual growth of others.