Christian hospitality doesn’t need to be fancy or overly planned. Sometimes the best hosting experiences come when we least expect it. Like when our oven breaks or a quick drop by turns into a six-hour visit. It’s these moments of unrehearsed authenticity that allow us to truly connect with people, a goal that is the heartbeat of Christian hospitality.
I used to think I needed an extra bedroom to host overnight guests—matching pillowcases, shell-folded towels, and a perfectly-placed Andes mint on the pillow.
But when a couple we barely knew welcomed us into their tiny Manhattan apartment, the Lord began to renew my mind. As we pushed furniture to the wall, plopped an air mattress on the only floor space left in the room, and spent the night only feet away from our new friends, a fresh take on hospitality—Christian hospitality—came into view.
A Fresh Take on Hospitality
Though their space was small, their large hearts made us feel at home. They asked about our journey in the Lord. With gentle questions and caring hearts, their listening ears allowed us to share freely. On a weekend where we started as acquaintances, we left as lifelong friends.
In Romans 12:10-13, Paul exhorts the saints, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love… practicing hospitality” (NASB). The writer of Hebrews takes our calling a step further, encouraging, “Let brotherly love continue, do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:1-2a).
In the last days, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). All around, we see examples of this. A world that is indeed “deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures,…hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3, NASB). Who can scroll through the headlines without feeling the heaviness?
But while men around us faint from fear (Luke 21:26), the Lord’s call to His church is clear. Do not neglect hospitality. Even if you don’t feel like a natural Martha Stewart (or hold the gospel burden of Rosaria Butterfield), perhaps we can borrow a phrase from Paul’s encouragement to Timothy. We can begin to “do the work of an evangelist” anyway (2 Timothy 4:5). If you’ve been hesitant to open your home in the past, perhaps these four tips will help you reconsider.
1. Begin With Prayer
I learned eventually that good hospitality begins not with the perfect place setting—but with prayer. As you begin to intercede for souls, the Lord may lay a few on your heart. That widow who sits next to you on Sunday, the large family who visited your congregation for the first time last week, or the unsaved neighbor who lives a few houses down.
I remember when we first hosted a family with six children. Their oldest was a new teen in our youth group, and we wanted to get to know them. When they arrived at our door, the entire family overflowed with joy, “You don’t understand,” they told us, “NO ONE has ever invited us over before.” Their visit became the first of many.
2. Invite Those You Usually Wouldn’t
In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus challenges His host to take hospitality to a new level. “Do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors,” He told them, “but when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed…”
As we prepare for this holiday season friends, let’s remember that the spiritually poor, crippled, lame, and blind are all around us. For most of us, it can be scary to invite those with such different beliefs from us into our homes. Immediately we become aware of our weakness. What can we say? How can we possibly reach into such darkness to testify of Him?
I wrestled through these questions while hosting an unsaved friend several years back. But the Lord reminded me that God has placed His life in earthen vessels to demonstrate that “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Like Gideon’s army, we may feel small and weak. We don’t have answers to every possible question that may arise or know how to defeat this great ‘problem’ before us (see Judges 6 and 7). But as we extend our hands to welcome the lost, our broken vessel becomes that very thing that allows the glorious gospel light to shine forth.
Our weakness displays His strength and our inability becomes an opportunity for Him to display His power. God delights in both making Himself known in our weakness and revealing Himself to the lost. We may be surprised at how He shows up if we will only step out in faith to give the invitation.
3. Take Advantage of Your Children.
Initially I thought having children would hinder our ability to host. And it’s partially true; my hosting rarely looks like something out of a magazine anymore. But there’s something about a cuddly baby or a giggly child that warms even the most hardened heart.
Today if you visit, my children will dash to greet you at the door. They’ll welcome you with a personalized drawing and pull you into their favorite board game. I tell them often, “You have a special ability I don’t have.” And they do—their built-in joy does wonders for hospitality.
Sometimes, those of us with small children feel hindered from hosting because of the clutter that comes with raising little ones. If that’s you, take a note from Hudson Taylor’s mother from the book “Hudson Taylor in the Early Years: Growth of a Soul.”
When guests became a regular (and often unannounced) part of the preacher’s daily routine, Amelia Taylor prepared a fabric-covered cubby for her children. When news came of a visitor’s imminent arrival, toys hastily disappeared behind closed curtains.
4. Prepare Like Martha So You Can Host Like Mary
The home in Bethany gives us a beautiful picture of hospitality. A diligent Martha and a warm-hearted Mary. No doubt both sisters prepared together for Jesus’ arrival. But when Jesus arrived, Mary stopped.
As you prepare, pray for your guest, ask the Lord to provide you with a few questions, and pre-prep the meal as much as possible. (Soup-filled crockpots, casseroles with salad, or chicken and vegetables that bake without attention—and yes, even take-out—all allow you to be fully present.)
But once your guest is seated, remember “only one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:42, NASB). When our Lord visited the house at Bethany, He wasn’t there to inspect the cleanliness of the floors. He didn’t need Martha’s last-minute rush to bring the meal to perfection. But He noticed the one who paused everything to stop and listen.
Mary’s interest in Him, His life, and His sharing undoubtedly ministered to our Lord. It made this home in Bethany a welcome respite.
Friends, our churches are filled with saints longing to share their hearts. Saints who would bless you with their salvation stories and bring you to tears with their daily struggles. How many souls hunger for someone to pray with? Or how many put a good face on their struggles but are secretly hoping someone will push past their hard shell to ask if everything is okay?
IF ALL ELSE FAILS…
Sometimes inconveniences are unavoidable. We hosted our annual Young Adult Thanksgiving amid a full kitchen remodel. A piece of plywood, covered with a tablecloth, and held down by a flower-filled cinder block, became our makeshift serving area.
We hosted George Verwer, the head of Operation Mobilization, without working cabinets. He profusely thanked us, unfazed by the dishes spread about the kitchen.
One time we invited a family over for baked salmon but the oven blew a fuse and short-circuited. We ordered pizza, bonded over broken-oven stories, and had a wonderful time together.
THE HEART OF HOSPITALITY
Not too long ago, a young Chinese student called us. “My parents are in town, and I want them to hear the gospel. It’s their last night here. Can we come?”
We had been involved in ministry or church gatherings every night for more than a week. Our hearts were exhausted, and we had long anticipated this free night. But as we cast ourselves on the Lord, He showed us the way. I called a nearby restaurant; we miraculously found three copies of the Gospel of John in Mandarin.
By God’s grace, we hosted the visitors and shared His Good News. The wealthy Communist grandfather came along too, and though he turned his nose up at the Italian take-out, he sat and listened as we shared about Jesus.
A Glorious Calling
Friends, this is our calling to hospitality.
And whether we feel gifted in this way or not, by God’s grace, this calling to “receive [one another] in the Lord with all joy” (Philippians 2:29, NASB) is a calling for all of us. Our homes will always need a little more fixing. And likely our meals will be less than perfect. Our conversation skills will be found wanting.
But in our lack, we cast ourselves on the Lord, and He supplies all that is needed. There is no end of saints who need a listening ear; no end of friends in need of hope, especially in these days before us.
May the Lord strengthen our hesitant hearts to do this desperately needed work of hospitality.
Would you consider yourself a hesitant hostess? Which of Katherine’s tips have inspired or encouraged you to step out in faith and offer someone the gift of hospitality?
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