Seek to Show Hospitality
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13, ESV)
When Paul wrote his famous letter to the church at Rome, his thesis was that the gospel was the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).
His letter had two main parts. He first told what the gospel was (1-11), and second what it did (12-16).
Chapter 12 begins the gospel-in-practice section of his letter. His thesis for this section is the gospel teaches us to love one another. And in verse 13, we learn hospitality is one of the practical ways of showing love.
The word Paul used (translated hospitality in English) is the Greek word philoxenia which is a compound of two words, philo (friend) and xenia (stranger). It means, literally, show kindness to, or be a friend to, strangers.
Hospitality could be described as opening your heart, opening your hands, and opening your home to strangers.
One of the important places for gospel-believing people to show hospitality is in the church service.
This is one of the primary places in our culture where friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and seekers show up to experience God. And few things makes it more difficult for a guest to experience the good news than an inhospitable congregation.
Of course most churches, in my experience, don’t mean to be inhospitable, but it’s easy to lose sight of how a guest may feel awkward when they walk into a place and culture they’re unaccustomed to.
For the goal of living out the gospel in the context of being hospitable in the church service, I offer the following five action principles:
- Be Available. To be available, a person must be present, punctual, and willing to serve others. Louis XVIII said, punctuality is the politeness of kings. If a member or regular church attendee arrives after the guests have, it’s impossible for them to express hospitality by means of availability.
Be Attentive. If we visit exclusively with the people we already know at church, we’re likely to miss opportunities to be hospitable to guests. This is something I’ve witnessed countless times both at home and when traveling to other churches. The greeters and their friends stand chatting near the door when a guest walks up or into the building only to be ignored by the distracted “conversationalists.”
Hints: We can be attentive (and thereby hospitable) by being proactive and introducing ourselves to people we’ve never met instead of waiting for them to make the first introduction.
We can ask a guest his or her name and then use it in the conversation a couple of times. Dale Carnegie is famous for teaching that the sweetest thing to a person’s ears is their own name.
Assuming that’s true, it’s merely the icing on the cake. Immediately using a guest’s name in casual conversation is an intentional way of avoiding the common tendency of forgetting it three seconds after they tell it to us.
We can introduce them to others and invite them to sit with us.
We can show them around and point out the amenities relevant to their needs, i.e. the restroom or nursery.
- Be Appropriate. It’s perfectly appropriate to share your needs and struggles with your accountability partner, small-group leader, elder, or pastor. But guests aren’t ready to hear about your personal struggles. Not only do they not know you, they’re likely at church looking for answers to their own struggles. The first time someone visits, it’s always a good idea to talk to them about things they are comfortable discussing.
DON’T Be Apathetic. Instead, be enthusiastic. Smile, sincerely. Speak warmly about Jesus, your church, and your pastor(s) and leaders. Express enthusiasm about their having joined you for worship.
Certainly, no one likes a fake, and most people can spot one a mile away. So don’t be fake. If necessary, be enthusiastic by faith; but don’t be fake.
Sure, we all have rough days. But in Christ, we have every reason to be hopeful and enthusiastic about life. We are forgiven. We are accepted. We are blessed. We are redeemed. We are adopted. We have an inheritance. We are sealed. (See Ephesians 1:1-14.)
Your sincere enthusiasm lets others know they are safe and have something good to look forward to.
Here’s your chance to add to the conversation. How have others been hospitable to you in a meaningful way?
Is there something that sticks out in your mind that made you feel welcome and important the first time you visited a new church?
Is there something that didn’t?
Please share your experience in the comments below.
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.