Reframing Hospitality in the Church

“My greatest discovery of the last 10 years has been hospitality—the call to an open life, an open home and an open table.”

My friends Seth and Angela have had eclectic people orbiting their lives as long as I’ve known them. They are always bringing relationally needy folks along and adding dignity to their lives. They have met physical needs of food, clothes, and showers, but they also have sought to meet their relational needs.

Angela also invites kids into discipleship opportunities, providing rides to and from school. She has provided holiday meals for a home full of eclectic friends who would not normally convene. Seth and Angela take their physical neighbors as seriously as they have taken those on the fringes. They are hospitality geniuses.

We need to reframe hospitality with a greater eye for those on the fringes. Hospitality is not cooking exquisite food and vacuuming your carpet so Christians can study the Bible in your living room. This is great, but it’s not the aim of biblical hospitality.

If there is one genius we have misunderstood and under-understood, it’s biblical hospitality. Biblical hospitality is a readiness to accept all outsiders into your life and home.

The point is not to impress but to love. If hospitality is alive in our personal environment (life, home, schedule), we will eventually develop a culture of this in our collective environments (churches, businesses, teams, meetings). There are outsiders in close proximity to us all the time, we just don’t see them.

Jesus was the most hospitable person who ever lived. He was always focused on outsiders and outcasts on the fringes who had no real clout or position.
Parties, meals, and social spaces were bridges into personal relationship. Social outcasts entered His space just to sense His presence and power.

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Jesus gave them priority over the socially respected and dignified. If you find yourself completely insulated from people on the fringe, you aren’t living in Jesus.

That Time God Punched Me in the Gut

I remember a moment when I realized my life had become insulated. I was reading about how to reach out to others and build bridges to the lost. I could explain a life of mission to you, I just wasn’t living one. Beyond those I interacted with in my pastoral role, I had no ongoing, meaningful relationships with those who didn’t know Jesus.

In a long line in a grocery store, God whispered to me, Stop reading about it, and start doing it. It was a gut punch, and I needed it. I was embarrassed. It was time to shift my priorities and the priorities of my family. During that season, I put down the book, picked up the phone, and reengaged relationships with people who didn’t know Jesus.

Our family began investing differently. We rediscovered hospitality. Over time, our home shifted from a refuge from mission to a hub for mission. My greatest discovery of the last ten years of ministry has been hospitality—reclaiming the call to an open life, an open home, and an open table.

Celebrate those who understand how to include those on the fringes. Celebrate those around you who are embedded in meaningful relationships with friends and neighbors. Take every opportunity to resist the urge to solely invite Christians into your home or around your table. Follow the example of Jesus, whose ministry strategy was incarnation.

Taken from Everyone’s a Genius: Unleashing Creativity for the Sake of the World by Alan Briggs. Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

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Alan Briggs is the director of Frontline Church Planting, a network and equipping hub in Colorado; the multiplying pastor at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs; and the author of several books, including Staying Is the New Going and Guardrails.