One of the most rewarding areas of ministry my wife Terrie and I have shared over the years is practicing hospitality.
We’ve had the privilege of leading people to Christ at our dining room table, hosing new members classes in our living room, encouraging guest pastors, traveling missionaries, and our own neighbors and church family. At least twice a year, Terrie invites her college class over as well as hosting a special activity for her fourth grade girls Sunday school class in our home.
I can’t say enough what it has meant to me for Terrie to so warmly share in opening our home to serve others. And she would say the same. It has truly been one of the special aspects of our ministry together.
That’s why I’m thrilled that she has recently released a new book: Heartfelt Hospitality. The book is divided into three sections. The first section includes five chapters on the biblical practice of hospitality, which Terrie explains is not just for pastors and those in vocational ministry but should be part of “normal Christianity” for all Christians. The second section provides over fifty of our favorite recipes (with pictures of completed dishes) for hosting. And the third section suggests menu combinations for various hosting events. The article below is a guest post by Terrie and is an excerpt from the chapter 3 of her book.
There is an American fast food chain that, besides serving good food, excels at customer service. Chances are, if you have eaten there, you know exactly what restaurant I’m thinking of—Chick-fil-A. What is amazing to me is that, although they are known for their signature chicken sandwich and fun cow advertisements, they are just as known for their employees’ gracious in-store responses of “My pleasure” each time they are thanked.
Whether it really is every Chick-fil-A employee’s true pleasure to serve, I can’t say. But I do know that there is real personal benefit—even beyond a standard statement—in serving others. In fact, I have found that when I serve others, God often blesses me through it, so that the pleasure really is mine.
Gracious hospitality offers comfort, encouragement, and forgiveness in generous helpings. It is allowing the Spirit of God to flow through you by putting others before yourself. Although we should not be hospitable in order to gain something from it, God does bless us in many ways with the benefits that come from a hospitable spirit.Gracious hospitality offers comfort, encouragement, and forgiveness in generous helpings. It is allowing the Spirit of God to flow through you by putting others before yourself. Click To Tweet
Over the years, I’ve noticed a few significant blessings in my life that have come through hospitality.
Influencing Others for Christ
Sitting across the table from someone, listening to blessings and burdens, and sharing Scripture together—these little moments in your home give opportunities to share fellowship and influence others for Christ. As you give of your time and energy to share your home and your heart, God will allow your opportunities to impact others for Him to grow.
In Acts 18, Paul met Priscilla and Aquila, a couple who worked side-by-side with Paul during his missionary work in Corinth. When Paul left Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla went with him, traveling throughout Syria helping Paul in the ministry. Eventually, Paul left this couple in Ephesus to help a new church. Later in Acts 18:24–28, we find this couple mentoring an eloquent but untrained young man named Apollos, apparently bringing Apollos to their home for discipleship. In the years to come Apollos would be greatly used of God and have much influence in the Achaia region of Greece.
Does God have an “Apollos” that he wants you to influence? Is there someone around you who needs you to expound the Word of God “more perfectly” for them? Is there time in your schedule and space at your table to disciple and mentor those whom God places in your path? Just think of the many people who would not have been reached if not for a faithful and willing couple who influenced a young man for Christ.Is there time in your schedule and space at your table to disciple and mentor those whom God places in your path? Click To Tweet
Over the years, our family has had many people visit our home—neighbors, new converts, teenagers, girls from my fourth grade Sunday school class, deacons, church members, West Coast Baptist College students, pastors, news reporters, governors, and congressmen and other elected officials. God-appointed relationships have been cultivated or nurtured through having these guests into our home. Many of these friendships would not exist today if we had not opened our home and extended an invitation.
I think of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. On the day Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to two disciples while they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus. During this approximately seven-mile walk, Jesus conversed with these men without disclosing His identity. But as they reached Emmaus, the men extended an invitation to Jesus to spend the night with them. Notice what happens: “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them” (Luke 24:28–29).
It was only after they shared a meal together—as Jesus broke the bread—that the disciples recognized who He was. Can you imagine, though, how differently this evening would have ended for those men if they had not invited Jesus in and insisted that He accept their invitation?
I wonder how many blessings we miss because we make excuses instead of doing what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do. After Jesus’ big reveal and subsequent disappearance, the disciples commented, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”(Luke 24:32). They would have missed this spiritual fellowship with Jesus Himself had they not offered hospitality.I wonder how many blessings we miss because we make excuses instead of doing what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do.—Terrie Chappell Click To Tweet
Fellowship, Laughter, and Encouragement
The benefits of hospitality can involve great fellowship and joyous laughter with others. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). I have enjoyed many moments of laughter and joy from the children and families who have come to visit over the years. Children are unpredictable, and they can say or do things that allow the ice to break and defuse a tense situation with laughter. Many times my heart has been encouraged by other families and friends; ones that we intended to bless but in turn became a blessing to us.
One of the biblical examples that I think of within this context is the relationship and friendship that Jesus had with the family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Not only did they become close friends with Jesus, but they also used their home for fellowship and encouragement. Can you imagine the stories shared around the table and the laughter this group enjoyed while sitting with Jesus? What a blessed time!
Don’t miss out on the benefit of fellowship, encouragement, and joy that comes with inviting Christian friends over for fellowship.
There are definitely times when we extend hospitality to others and do not see immediate benefits. In fact, I’ve had many times of serving that, from my perspective, felt like a failure. I remember one time when our children were still pretty young. We had recently moved, and we decided to invite all of our neighbors over for grilled hamburgers. Several said they were coming, and we purchased food for an army. But on the scheduled evening, not one person showed up. Apparently even the wafting smells of grilling meat didn’t call them over.
We were, of course, disappointed. But my husband and I refused to be discouraged. Although nobody came, it actually did break the ice with several of our neighbors who felt badly they had forgotten or had double scheduled the evening, and it led to future opportunities to express hospitality that we could not have orchestrated ourselves. This experience taught my husband and I to be adaptable and faithful even when the outcome is not what we expected.
I share that story—one of many in which I felt like my efforts were for nothing—to remind you that we can’t always know the full extent of how the Lord uses our service. Although there are great benefits for us in giving hospitality, we ultimately extend service to others as unto the Lord.
And even if we don’t see the other benefits right away, the blessings will come. We will reap a harvest of blessings when we sow the seeds of obedience to the Lord.We will reap a harvest of blessings when we sow the seeds of obedience to the Lord. Click To Tweet
This guest post by Terrie is from her book Heartfelt Hospitality: A Practical Approach and Proven Recipes for Hosting in Your Home. For more information about the book or to order your copy, visit strivingtogether.com.