Real Life Hosting: When Hospitality Meets Reality

I have a friend who has spent much time in our home.  We would invite him over quite often before he was married.  He always complimented us on the meal and the company.  One day he said to us that he wanted to be invited over sometime for leftovers and without the house being cleaned.  He loves us, and we love him, but he knew the difference between our real life and our acts of planned hospitality.

It was his desire to be “just part of the family”, and that meant the family with all of its messes and “refrigerator leftover buffet”.

It has been hard for Joanne and I to invite people into our home unless we have had the opportunity to make everything ship-shape.  Over the years we have loosened a bit on this, but we struggle with this still.

I recently had someone send my a blog post by Jack King an Anglican Priest from Knoxville, Tennessee.  In this post King quotes one of his earlier sermons on the topic of “Scruffy Hospitality”.  In this message he says:

“Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.”  Jack King-

In the blog post, King goes on to unpack “Scruffy Hospitality” in a more in-depth manner.  I encourage you to click here to go and read his post on the topic.  It is well worth the read.

Discipleship at The Kitchen Sink–The Art of Regular Hospitality

Time to wash up

I have said for a long time that “discipleship happens at the kitchen sink.”  I believe this to be true for our children and for those God has arranged to cross our path on a regular basis.  It is in the rhythm of ordinary everyday life that God brings about extraordinary changes in the lives of those we walk life with.  While we wash dishes and do yard work God provides the opportunity for us to share the fabric of our faith with others.

I learned many years ago as a young youth pastor that it was hard to sit across from a young person and get them to open up to you, but if you were active in some pursuit with them they would open up to you.  This pursuit could have been throwing a football, shooting hoops, washing dishes, setting up for an event, raking leaves for a senior or anything other of a million things we could do together.

I remember when I realized that was true with friends as well as my youth group.  It was while cleaning the kitchen with a friend that I was able to enter easily into a spiritual conversation.  In the flow of an everyday activity I was able to intertwine a discussion on this persons view about God and his involvement, or seemingly lack of  involvement,  in their present situation.  This simple conversation was a springboard for a season of heart to heart discussions that would make us both grow in our understanding of God and his place in our lives.

I know that this information may not be revolutionary to some who read this, but for others, this kind of ordinary life conversation is something yet to be experienced.  For those on either end of the spectrum I think that there is one thing that we need to master to make sure that we don’t miss out on a single opportunity to deepen the spiritual richness of our relationships, and that is the art of hospitality.

I believe that hospitality, while a natural gift for some, needs to become something that we all work towards.  I believe this is a lost art that needs to be restored to and through the Body of Christ.  I feel that Joanne and I have or at least have been able to develop the gift of hospitality.  We love to have people in our home and yet there has been a dry season of entertaining and sharing life with others in our home.  What has caused this season?  Simply being to busy.

I recently read an article by Jeff Vanderstelt an old friend from my youth ministry days.  In the article Jeff addresses the lost art of Gospel Hospitality.  He gives this very unique and interesting definition of Gospel Hospitality:

In light of the Gospel, we might define hospitality as the creation of a space that allows people to BE themselvesto BECOME renewed, and to DO the works God has saved them for. When we properly exercise hospitality, we welcome people to be themselves in the warmth of the light of Christ, to become renewed by being changed by the work of Christ, and to do works we have been created for in Christ.

This definition and the article as a whole has given me much to think about.  I will write more later, but I encourage you to click  here to read the complete article by Jeff on the Gospel Centered Discipleship website.



Freedom To Love People, Not Win People

For many years as a follower of Jesus, as well as many years as a pastor, I was afraid of loving people.  No, that is not correct, I wasn’t afraid, I was simply not called to love people, or so I thought.  The calling I had received from the churches that I was a part of was to WIN people, not to LOVE them.  Every aspect of relational involvement with people was geared at winning them over to the side of Christ.  I was taught an adversarial and competitive stance that lead me to see people as the enemy, or at best those to be conquered.  It was after many years of ministry  that I came to understand the joy of truly just loving people.

One of the freedoms that we need to experience is to be free to love people not see them as opponents to be challenged and conquered.  Now that is much easier to say than to do, because many say that they are going to  change their behaviour, but they don’t change it correctly.  Change is not always correct, sometimes it is just change.

Often people think they are loving when all they have done is changed their perspective on people.  They view them no longer as opponents or competitors and begin to view them as projects.

I always give the example of my daughters as my understanding of the difference between people as projects verses truly loving people.  I never see my 5 daughters as a project, or as people I am trying to “turn into Christians”.  I simply love my girls and as a reflection of that love I desire the best for them, and the best I could hope for them is that they will come to know and to walk intimately with Christ.

It is that kind of love I have had to learn to develop for my neighbours and friends.  To do this means to walk in true community with people, and to walk life with them.  We need to be planted among the people and we need to allow our roots to go deep.  We need to take up residence among the people that God has planted us.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry
and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your
daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.
Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”   Jeremiah 29:4-8