I’ve been doing alot of thinking lately on hospitality and "home ministry," and it seems I’m not the only one. Several posts on the topic have sprouted up on the internet lately, so you might have seen them already. Since both Lydia Brownbeck over at The Purple Cellar and Nicole over at 168 Hours have both said so many helpful things on the topic, I’m not going to try too hard to add something new to the mix. I think both of these ladies are much more experienced in the area than I am (as if that’s hard!).
I do want to say a couple of things, though, while I point you in their direction.
What do I mean by "intentional hospitality"? How is that different from the regular kind?
Down here in the south (particularly Mississippi, which is "The Hospitality State"), hospitality usually means throwing parties, baking cookies or casseroles for people, sponsoring an event, or some other form of entertainment-oriented activity. You can’t help but think of Southern Living or Mississippi Magazine as your standard. Being hospitable has become more of an image issue than anything else, as people try to keep up their facade of the quintessential wife, mother, homemaker, and hostess. People are hospitable, but only if they’ve spent weeks beforehand making sure that their floors, windows, houses, makeup, and children are pristine.
Hospitality from a Christian and Biblical standpoint looks different, though. It’s not an issue of image, but of relationship. The purpose is to provide an environment suitable for serving, ministering, witnessing, comforting, and developing & nurturing relationships with both Christians and non-Christians. The point isn’t to impress, but to make people comfortable enough that walls and guards are dropped and the gospel is visible.
And that’s why it’s intentional. Hospitality from a Christian perspective is meant to have a reason and a plan behind it, even if that reason is nothing more than developing a deeper relationship and the plan is just to get comfortable enough that you can invite them over a second time. It means watching what you do and say because you understand that every aspect of your life is a witness to your relationship with Jesus. It means being real with your guests. It means using each and every opportunity as a chance to point people towards the cross. Even when your opportunity for hospitality is nothing more than a passing conversation in the doorway of your home, it’s an opportunity that God has placed in your lap and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Now let me be the first to say that I am NOT that great at this. I want to be, but it’s a constant struggle. It’s so easy for me to get busy and wrapped up in my classwork and jobs and forget that part of my calling is to minister to people in my home. I forget that the several times a week when either Nate or I have a friend at the house, it’s a God-given chance to show Christ to another person in a comfortable and non-threatening atmosphere. And I don’t mean that I’m supposed to give a full-on gospel presentation every time I have someone walk through my door. But I am supposed to be encouraging, uplifting, comforting, and patient. I am supposed to have conversations that are glorifying to God (whether it’s with my guest or with my husband). I am supposed to be looking for chances to encourage others in their relationship with Christ and with others. I am supposed to be honoring the Lord with my words, actions, and attitudes. I am supposed to be an example as to how a Child of God responds to the Father.
The catch to this is that I should be seeking out opportunities to do these things. I should be excited about encouraging others and showing Christ to them. I have to be intentional about watching for the chances that God presents to me and Nate to witness to others in our home, and I should jump on them. When guests are there, I have to be intentional in the way I handle myself and my family so that Christ is glorified. I have to be intentional about learning about and investing in my guests, so that I can learn to serve them better. Most of all, I have to intentionally keep Christ at the center instead of my own selfish motives.
Intentionality is the hard part.. and all of your life should be intentional. Hospitality should be, too.