Surprised by Hospitality

Without hospitality, discipleship cannot flourish.

Hospitality: What is the first thing that comes to your mind? If you are like me, I think of the person who hosts a small group meeting. She—almost always a she, right?—is warm and welcoming, has the spiritual gift of cooking apple pie, and greets each group member with a big hug and a big smile.

Perhaps this notion comes from the definition of this term in Network, the course on spiritual gifts from Willow Creek which I have taught often: "The gift of hospitality is the divine enablement to care for people by providing fellowship, food, and shelter." They further define it by saying that people with this gift:

  • Provide an environment where people feel valued and cared for
  • Meet new people and help them feel welcomed
  • Create a safe and comfortable setting where relationships can develop
  • Seek ways to connect people together into meaningful relationships
  • Set people at ease in unfamiliar surroundings

For this article, I was assigned the why of hospitality. Easy I thought. Everyone knows what hospitality is and why it is important in small groups.

I started with some research, a word study.

Wow, was I surprised! I learned something, starting with the fact that I had totally misunderstood hospitality. There is a lot more to hospitality than meeting a group member at the door!

I started with a couple of the more standard Bible verses on hospitality, the ones mentioned in Network and some other studies.

Romans 12:13 commands Christians to "practice hospitality." Pretty simple, it appears at first, until you learn that practice is more rightly translated pursue, seek, or run after. So hospitality is not just something we should practice; we should seek it with all diligence.

1 Peter 4:9 tells us to "offer hospitality to one another ...

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