More than we realize, the effectiveness of off-site ministry is dependent on a thorough understanding of Christian Hospitality and how it affects the individual guest and their openness to God's work. Through a seven part series we will take a look at Christian Hospitality and how it relates to Conference and Retreat Ministry.
Hospitality (Guest Service) is Biblical.
Christian Hospitality is one of the leading gifts in the New Testament. Peter (1 Peter 4:8-10) admonishes his audience: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. Paul (Romans 12:13) tells us how Christian love is to be expressed: Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Again, to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:1-2) the same expression of love is encouraged with: Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
In addition to the general sense in which hospitality is a key expression of God's love in us, it is also the ONLY gift required of church leaders. Paul tells young Titus (Titus 1:8) that Elders, among other things, ...must be hospitable, one who loves what is good... Timothy (1 Timothy 3:2) is also told: Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach...
Beyond simply being a practical way to show kindness to others, it seems that the scriptures view hospitality as an opportunity to "win" over the heart of a person to the love of Christ. Knowing the number of times in which Jesus ministered in the context of the home environment and the fact that the early church was made up of home churches, it's clear that hospitality was viewed as being central to Christian ministry and evangelism.
Authentic Hospitality says: Welcome! And this "welcome" was the attraction of Jesus' ministry. The warmth and acceptance that Jesus showed people made Him irresistible. People long for acceptance from others. The "welcoming" Jesus is clearly seen in (Matthew 11:28) Come to me...weary and weighted down... (John 7:37) If you are thirsty...come to me and drink. (John 6:37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. The last chapter of the Bible contains one of the greatest, open-armed invitations of all time, (Revelations 22:17) The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Many times in scripture, hospitality is connected with God's miraculous work. When Abraham shows hospitality to the two messengers from God, Sarah is blessed with the promised child. The Shunammite woman that showed hospitality to Elisha gets her son restored back to life. Acts of hospitality release God's potential! It brings God into the environment and THAT changes everything.
In a similar way, denying hospitality limits God's work. Remember what happened at Nazareth, where Jesus was not treated hospitably? "He could not do any miracles there..." (Mark 6:5)