By Bob Carpenter, Pastor of Cedar Street Church
I wish I could remember the name of the brother who greeted me and my family when we worshipped with Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas.
Many years later, I keenly remember the warm, enthusiastic way he took us under his care to find the worship center, receive bulletins and meet a few others before the musicians signaled the beginning of the service.
Most surprising was his enthusiastic offer, “Can you join my family for dinner after worship?”
I am certain it was apparent that we were just tourists and a family already practicing the faith, yet he still gave us the best welcome I have ever received from a church. I think of him often. He lived Christian hospitality.
Here’s the question: “What’s become of Christian hospitality?” Before you dismiss the question with the usual, “Times have changed,” “We’re all too busy,” “We’ve become impersonal,” or “It’s not safe to bring strangers into your home,” consider that hospitality is a command from God’s Word:
Romans 12:13b – “… practicing hospitality …”
Hebrews 13:2a – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers …”
1 Peter 4:9 – “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
The word translated “hospitable” or “hospitality” comes from two words which together mean “love of a guest/stranger.”
Hospitality is one of the commands we inherited from the Jewish roots of our faith and had very practical applications in the early church – as well as God’s church today.
The reasons (excuses?) we cite for not being hospitable might apply in random instances but they do not explain the wholesale neglect of hospitality that often marks contemporary church life.
That neglect weakens God’s church as we lose the warmth and vitality that follows obeying our Lord and the natural connections believers find in “showing love” to one another in our homes.
Hospitality imprints an authenticity on our faith that ministers to those outside the Kingdom.
Longtime Colorado pastor Alexander Strauch, in his book “The Hospitality Commands,” writes, “We need a fresh vision of hospitality’s potential for strengthening our churches and for reaching our neighbors and friends with the gospel.”
There is great synergy with the two rewards Strauch notes regarding biblical hospitality.
Hospitality to fellow believers fosters a depth of love in the church that is inviting to lost people. Hospitality to “strangers” is a disarming tool for sharing the Gospel. Together they are powerful in God’s purpose to use churches to save sinners.
What to do? Organize a church-wide event in which we open our homes to one another; with a little coordinating, we can foster invitations between believers who do not yet know each other.
For a personal approach, set aside one Sunday a month for inviting a family from church or a Sunday morning guest (or one each!) to share dinner with you after worship.
Ask your pastor to suggest some new people you might host for a snack or meal. Invite a few folks for an impromptu ice cream sundae after Sunday evening worship.
The late expository preacher Stephen F. Olford once wrote, “No one can ever predict what eternal reward will be awaiting us for Christian hospitality. But even now there is a compensation in store for us. Hospitality is a thrilling adventure and brings wonderful returns.”
Remember what Jesus said in a parable about inviting the stranger into your home: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).