Several years ago, as a missionary in Eastern Europe, I led a Bible study for Iranians in our apartment. Although they were Muslims, these men wanted to learn about Jesus. Once a week, we enjoyed refreshments and conversation before sitting down to study the Gospels. Gradually, our friendships deepened and their understanding about Jesus increased.
Then it happened. One evening, surrounded by his Muslim friends, a young man interrupted the lesson and declared firmly, “I know that this is the truth. This is what I have been searching for all of my life!” I asked if he was ready to become a follower of Jesus. Without prompting, he knelt reverently and listened as I explained the plan of salvation. That night, in our living room, two Muslims from Iran became followers of Jesus. And soon after, they formed the core of a new Iranian church!
This experience illustrates why the Bible commands, “An overseer, therefore, must be . . . hospitable.” (1 Tim. 3:2). Scripture requires pastors to be hospitable because sharing the Gospel in the context of a warm and welcoming home is an incredibly powerful way to introduce others to Jesus. Pastors, when you begin to do this, you may discover that your most effective pulpit is your kitchen table!
The Greek word for hospitality is “philo-xenos,” which means “a love of strangers.” My wife, Deanne, and I love having guests in our home. Over the years, we’ve learned some simple and practical lessons about the important ministry of hospitality:
Be in agreement. Many mission teams come to Greater Boston to help our churches. Having a convenient, comfortable, cost-free place to stay is an enormous help. Deanne and I frequently open our doors to them. But this would be impossible if she and I did not share a common love of strangers. A pastor cannot obey his call to be hospitable unless both he and his wife agree to use their home as a place of ministry.
Prepare your home. There is a wonderful example of this in Scripture: to provide hospitality to the prophet Elisha, a Shunamite woman said to her husband, “Let's make a small room upstairs and put a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp there for him. Whenever he comes, he can stay there." (2 Kings 4:9-10)
To be good at hospitality means we must furnish and arrange our homes to comfortably feed and accommodate guests. For example, when renting or purchasing a home, it is important to choose one with adequate space. Also, you will need a table that can expand to seat 10-12 people. Finally (and this is really important!), purchase comfortable mattresses. Nothing will sabotage your efforts to bless your guests more than a lumpy mattress!
Establish a routine. Hospitality is easier once it becomes routine. Instead of stressing over what to serve guests for dinner, have 2-3 standard “specialty” menus that are easy to prepare and reliably delicious. Instead of hunting through closets for clean linens, reserve special sheets, pillows and towels to be used exclusively for guests. Assign tasks to each family member. Whose job is it to prepare the guest room, to set the table, to remove the dinner dishes and to serve dessert? Make these tasks routine to eliminate the stress of sharing your home with others.
Hospitality is a command for pastors. Hospitality is a powerful way to introduce others to Jesus. And one last thing: hospitality brings a blessing on those who do it. “By showing hospitality some have had angels as their guests without being aware of it.” (Heb. 13:2)
Sam Taylor serves as the Boston Area Regional Coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.