Summary: Understanding the importance of hospitality as it relates to new comers and visitors who attend our services.
Be Given To Hospitality
Otis T. McMillan,
Director of the Bureau of Evangelism of the AME Zion Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
Ro 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; (11) Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; (12) Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; (13) Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Here in this wonderful scripture, Apostle Paul reminds the church of their responsibility and great need for hospitality. This expression means that they should readily and cheerfully entertain strangers. This is a duty which is frequently enjoined in the Scriptures. Hebrews 13:2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." 1 Peter 4:9, "Use hospitality one to another without grudging." Paul makes this especially the duty of a Christian bishop: 1Timothy 3:2, "A bishop then must--be given to hospitality;" Titus 1:8. Hospitality is especially enjoined by the Saviour, and its exercise commanded: Matthew 10:40,42, "He that receiveth you receiveth me," etc.
I believe the mainline churches sometime fail to realize the importance of hospitality as it relates to new comers and visitors who attend our services. One of our chief goals should be, to become a congregation that is given to hospitality. Most congregations call themselves warm, friendly and welcoming churches, but how do visitors view your church? Romans 12:10-13 challenges us to intentionally strive to be a congregation that will practice genuine hospitality thereby creating an atmosphere in which people feel welcome, feel that they belong and are good candidates to become disciples.
Hospitality is no less common in eastern nations at present than it was in the time of Christ. It is eminently the virtue of oriental nations. The early Christian Church considered one principle part of their duty was to show hospitality to strangers. They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those who were of the household of faith.
The duty of hospitality is still binding on Christians and all men. The law of Christ is not repealed. Although customs of society have changed; people still have a craving to be loved, wanted and welcomed. It is demanded of the Christian faith. Jesus said in John 13:34,35 “ A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
A genuine demonstration of fellowship, love and hospitality towards mankind is the strongest evidence that we are Children of God. Genuine hospitality has a way of uniting society, creating new bonds of interest and affection as we show kindness to the stranger and to the poor. To what extent this is to be done, is one of those questions which are to be left to every man’s conscience and views of duty. No rule can be given on the subject. Many men have not the means to be extensively hospitable; and many are not placed in situations that require it. No rules could be given that should be applicable to all cases; and hence the Bible has left the general direction, has furnished examples where it was exercised, has recommended it to mankind, and then has left every man to act on the rule, as he will answer it to God. (Matthew 25:34-46)
Even though each of us must be led by the Spirit of God in the matter of hospitality, Lyle Pointer and Jim Dorsey, in their book, Evangelism In Everyday Life gives several points for consideration.
(1) Hospitality helps people feel at home in God’s family.
The idea is most new people who come into our churches need to be invited into friendship structures within the church. One person said, “You know you belong when you’re needed and appreciated.” Sometimes our friendship circles within the church are closed circles, we hug our friends, talk to our friends and spend our time with only our friends. We may smile and speak, but leave visitors and new comers feeling like outsiders. “Be Given to Hospitality”
(2) Assimilation begins with acknowledgment of the human need for belonging.
The church has the wonderful privilege of extending itself to include the new prospect, who at some point feels the uneasiness of being a stranger. Most of us have visited a service, how did you feel? Where the people inviting and loving? Did anyone ask you to lunch? We must be intentional in welcoming strangers to our church. People want to feel like they belong! “Be Given To Hospitality.”
(3) People come to church seeking relationships.
Lyle Pointer says “If new comers cannot find several friends in a church within six or seven weeks, they will leave.” God uses these relationships not only to fill a need of the lives of people who may be coming out of some traumatic situation, but these relationships are needed in the maturation process. We learn to be disciples by being with good disciples.