“Hospitality is the key to evangelism in the 21st century,” according to Steve Childers, an evangelism trainer for North America. He was speaking in the context of North America, where people no longer gather in stadiums and street corners to listen to preaching.
He may well be right. Hospitality as a strategic approach actually reaches beyond the shores of the western world. It is at least one of the keys to effective sharing of the gospel for tentmakers everywhere.
Hospitality refers to the friendly and generous treatment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Scripture has a lot to say about hospitality. It is not a peripheral theme in the New Testament. In fact, it’s a qualification for being an elder:
- An elder “must be…hospitable” 1Ti 3.2
- An elder “as God’s steward, must be… hospitable.” Tit 1.8
- An elder “must be well thought of by outsiders” 1Ti 3.7
We are taught that it is not an option, but is commanded as lifestyle for followers of Christ. Heb 13.1-2 commands, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…” You say it’s not your thing? Get over it!
It should be a natural outflowing of the love that we experienced from God who, “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We are to love others as Christ loved us.
In Scripture hospitality goes well beyond the “fellowship-type-thing” and reaches out to show love to strangers and those outside our inner circle.
Strategic hospitality asks:
How can I draw the most people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality through the use of my home and relationships? Hospitality is often seen in the context of visiting in a home, or over a meal. Certainly, that is a part of it. But it should not be limited to the home. Our whole life should be characterized by a spirit of caring and generosity, whether at home, or the office, or on the street.
Here are some simple steps to take to begin building the habit of hospitality:
1. Be intentional in pursuing relationships, including with non-believers
2. Put it on your calendar
3. Build relationships with people in places where you spend a lot of time and have natural contacts -neighbors and co-workers
4. Build relationships through connections in your children’s activities
5. Take up a hobby that opens up relationships with non-believers
6. Pray for unbelievers in your life by name
One does not have to go overseas to start practicing strategic hospitality. Start developing the skill now and it will serve you well in the future.