Jul17WedJuly 17, 2019
Since the summer is halfway over, how are you doing with showing hospitality to strangers out of obedience to Hebrews 13:2? I know that you have heard this from me a lot lately, but I believe that it must become part of our lifestyle in order to reach our communities for Jesus. According to Christian leaders like Rosaria Butterfield, it is the “untouched resource for bringing the gospel upstream in our polarized, post-Christian world.” Until you begin to practice Biblical hospitality, it can be very easy to convince yourself that you are either too busy, not gifted, or too introverted to create space for these kind of new relationships. Fear and busyness can easily crowd out this significant ministry to which we all are called. So let’s name that and learn to overcome by God’s grace.
When Janice and I lived in Colorado Springs, we served with a ministry called ‘Apartment Life.’ It was our job to meet neighbors, organize events and facilitate opportunities for people in our apartment complex to establish meaningful relationships. The Lord used this time to teach us some valuable lessons about joyful hospitality which we try to put into practice with those who are strangers to us. Here are some of them.
1) If you are inviting a large group of strangers, invite everyone possible but only expect between 10-20% to show up. It can be intimating to attend a gathering in which you don’t know anyone. Therefore, most people will turn down offers until deeper relationships are formed. Don’t let this discourage you, just keep inviting!
2) If you are inviting a small group of strangers, invite personally and genuinely. Most people are hungry for authentic community. If they know that you really care for them, they will be more likely to take your invitation seriously.
3) Have food, drinks and a dessert. Food can easily draw hesitant strangers into a gathering, but it also gives them some helpful social cues. They know what will be happening (eating) and when they can leave (after dessert). Plus, conversations over food seem to flow much more naturally than when there is nothing to ‘do.’
4) Keep the food simple. Inviting people over to your house is about building relationships, not running a restaurant. Most of us are not food pros. Therefore, keep the menu simple and make (or purchase) that which comes easiest for you. At the end of a gathering, you want genuine love to be the lasting memory above and beyond what is now in their stomach.
5) Have something around which can be a focal point or a topic of conversation. It can be hard to begin new conversations with new people. Therefore, a fire pit, a sports game on TV (ideally muted), yard games, flowers on a table, etc. can help people feel comfortable to talk.
6) Learn to ask ‘heart’ questions. When people gather, most conversations will drift into talking about weather, community events, sports or family. These are relational safe zones for most people. But the goal for Christian hospitality is go deeper. Consider asking about people’s firsts (first job, first car, first date, etc.) or what they are looking forward to. These kinds of questions get to a person’s interests and desires. Real relationships build quickly from here.
Janice and I still have a lot of room to grow in this area of ministry, but perhaps some of these lessons will help you as you discover your unique hospitality ministry. If we are to make disciples of Jesus among those who don’t yet know him, we must engage the in long-term work of relationship building. As the summer continues, would you grow in Biblical hospitality with us?