The Spiritual Discipline of Hospitality

Guest Author: Jim Martin

“We can’t invite anyone over to our house for dinner. We don’t have a big, nice house like other people at our church.”

I have heard such statements far too often from Christian people. It almost sounds like hospitality is for those who have large spacious homes while the rest of us who have smaller, more modest homes get a pass. It almost suggests that hospitality is offered by those who have more than others. Yet, that is certainly not what the spiritual discipline of hospitality is about.

Nothing gets in the way of Christian hospitality more than our own self-consciousness. As a result, we may not invite those who are wealthy into our home because we are conscious that they live in larger, nicer homes than we do. Some say they won’t invite others into their home until they can purchase new furniture or unless they can prepare an elaborate meal.

Such self-consciousness means that we are not focused on communicating the welcome of God as much as we are thinking about our own status, position, and the perception of others.

Practicing hospitality extends the welcome of God. We can do this whether we live in an apartment, a duplex, a small frame house, or a sprawling suburban home. We can serve a bowl of soup, a hamburger, or a steak. Our emphasis is the graciousness with which we welcome others.

Nothing will alleviate our self-consciousness like focusing on extending the grace of God through our hospitality. This focus is not on what others will think of you, your house, your furniture, or your meal. The focus is on allowing others to experience the grace of God in your home.

Many years ago, when Charlotte and I were in graduate school, we were invited to the home of a young couple whom we met at church. We were all in our 20’s. As we visited their home, we both were impressed by their hospitality. They were warm, simple, unassuming, and seemed unhurried and relaxed. We both immediately felt at ease and at “home.” Years later, we would still talk about that evening as such a special moment during that chapter of our lives.

Charlotte and I have long continued this practice of having people into our home. For six years we hosted six different mentoring groups in our home. These people were ministers who were guests in our home for an entire day each month. Charlotte and I were thrilled at the opportunity to have these people in our home. They were gracious guests who blessed us in many ways.

Now a few suggestions:

  1.  Invite a guest into your home for lunch or dinner. Remember that the focus is not on food, nor on the quality of your furniture. The focus is on welcoming these guests.
  1.  Keep it simple. Seek to be a host that puts others at ease. Don’t make such elaborate preparation that you cannot relax and be at ease with these people.
  1.  Pray that you might be God-conscious instead of self-conscious. The focus is not on what they think of your house or your neighborhood.

Dr. Jim Martin serves as Vice President of Harding School of Theology. Before coming to Harding he spent over thirty years in ministry, including twenty years with the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, TX. He is also a mentoring partner with Hope Network and regularly leads mentoring groups. He is married to Charlotte and has two daughters and two grandchildren.

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