This semester I have been writing on the character of missional leaders. Two weeks ago I wrote about missional leaders being Proactive. This week I will write about missional leaders being hospitable. Consider first how it is defined.
: generous and friendly to guests or visitors
: having an environment where plants, animals, or people can live or grow easily
Consider next what the Bible has to say about hospitality.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13
First, we must recognize that God commands us to be hospitable. We’re called to be generous and friendly to guests and to create an environment where people can easily grow. God wants us to love people, especially those who are outside our community. He wants us to create the type of community that includes people and helps them grow.
When thinking about this, I like to think about the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees. They made lots of rules to exclude people. Christians and churches are often guilty of doing the same thing. Jesus dropped the rules to include people. People felt free to approach him, especially those who recognized their own brokenness.
I found this really interesting. Hospitality is required among the list of qualifications for elders and even widows who would be cared for by the church.
Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach… I Timothy 3:1,2
Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Titus 1:7,8
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. I Timothy 5:9,10
If you were to read these passages in full you would see there is a long list of qualifications for church leaders. I love that hospitality is among them. It is not just about what you know, how you teach, your moral standing, etc. To be a leader in the church, you must be hospitable.
So this begs the questions. How do you practice hospitality? How do you be friendly and welcoming to guests and provide an environment where people can grow? Here are at least three ideas.
Be the first to initiate
Welcoming people begins with going out of your way to meet people. If you’re at a party, meet as many people as you can. If your at your worship gathering, make a point to meet new people. If you go to the cafeteria, sit by a student who is eating alone. If a new neighbor moves in, bring a gift by their house to welcome them.
Invite people into your home
Nothing is more hospitable than having people in you home. Homes are private places. When you invite people into them, you are very much inviting them into your lives. There is something very powerful about opening your home to “outsiders.” As your read the gospels, many of Jesus’s best conversations and miracles took place inside homes.
Do not judge others
I love that Webster defined hospitality as an “environment where people can grow.” Hospitable leaders know how to create space for anyone, no matter their faith or lifestyle. If we can create a space where those who are not following Jesus are still welcomed and loved, then we have truly created a hospitable community.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.