3 Testimonies of hospitality

Hospitality that led to redemptive austerity was a key to my father's conversion.

A young husband in our community, whom I will call Bill, lost his job and could not find work for several months. When his family's savings were depleted and they were in danger of losing their home, our deacons stepped in and exercised the ministry of hospitality and mercy by taking over the mortgage payments until Bill found a job three months later.

A few years later, Bill left his wife due to marital problems and moved to another state. Our elders took the steps of community discipline to bring him back to his family. He did not want to reconcile with his family and clearly did not want to submit to our discipline. But in a key conversation, he said, "What I want to do now is hang up this phone and never speak to all of you again. But I cannot forget the fact that the parish carried our mortgage for three months when I was unemployed. I cannot cancel you after all you have done to show your love for me."

We finally persuaded him to return home and reconcile with his wife. They are still together today and thank God for a church that not only secured their mortgage, but also helped save their family.

Years ago, as we worked to bring this man home, I shared a general description of the situation with my father, who was not a believer. He was fascinated that our church cared enough about this family to pay their bills and fight for their marriage. When my father finally put his trust in Christ (just three hours before his death), there was no doubt in my mind that part of what drew him to the Savior was the love he had seen in his community.

Donald S. Whitney

From 1981 to 1995, I pastored a church in the Chicago suburbs. In the 1980s, I preached a long series of biblical texts on hospitality. Among those touched by these messages was a couple serving in the welcome ministry. As a result of encountering the biblical truth about hospitality, they began inviting people to their homes for lunch every Sunday after the service.

Typically, they addressed one of the families or singles who visited our parish, especially those who came for the first time. The opportunity to chat extensively during and after the meal – as opposed to a brief conversation at the door – provided many opportunities to talk about our church, the morning's sermon, and/or especially the gospel. Their guests often noted the difference between our church – introduced to them by this one hospitable couple – and other congregations they had visited where few, if any, spoke to them. This couple's hospitality often had a lasting impact on international students, many of whom had never been invited to dine in an American home.

When nothing worked for first-time visitors, the couple first looked for returning visitors, then new members. When none of them were available, they reached out to long-time members who might need encouragement, or to those with whom they had not recently spent time in the community.

These experiences not only touched their guests, but also changed their own lives. In the years since my time in this church, this couple – now in a church in the place where they retired – have continued the practice of hosting guests at their Sunday dinner table whenever possible. Lasting relationships were initiated, the community developed, and the love of Christ was now evident on hundreds of occasions because of a simple commitment to put a few extra plates on the table at one meal a week.

Ryan Townsend

I remember being a young Christian and hearing about the hospitality of the Smiths. This family of nine from our church regularly invited different people from different backgrounds to their home on Sundays. This ministry not only blessed the individuals who enjoyed the Smiths' hospitality, but it became a familiar part of the community fabric of our church, encouraging us in our familial love and modeling to members and visitors alike that we are Christ's disciples because we love one another (John 13:35). Eating out and hanging out with friends were two of my favorite things to do as a non-Christian. Christian hospitality, however, was something I had never experienced where there was an obvious joy and satisfaction in serving others and meeting their needs in their own home and family. This was different and it highlighted the gospel.

As evangelicals, perhaps we should consider both the power of hospitality in spreading the gospel and the joy it brings to all involved. The gift of hospitality is one that Christians and non-Christians alike will quickly notice and appreciate as we serve others in love with an eye toward good and for the glory of God.

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