In a post-Christian world, God’s people are called to operate not out of fear but out of courage. And when we live courageously—putting our hope in the reality of who God is and what God has already accomplished—it changes everything. We’re freed up to be the people of God, living out the mission of God despite what new and challenging thing comes our way.
When we talk about what it means to be courageous and faithful in the age of unbelief, we have to talk about the Great Commission. That’s our mission. And though it’s always been true, I think it’s more true than ever to say that evangelism is going to look like hospitality.
You heard me right. As we walk courageously in our cultural climate, evangelism will look like showing hospitality. Don’t hear me say that hospitality is the sum total of courage or evangelism. But don’t miss me saying that living courageously will involve living hospitably.
True Biblical Hospitality
Hospitality might sound unexciting or initially feel confusing. But when the Bible speaks of hospitality, it almost always ties it to aliens and strangers—people who aren’t like us. If I had to come up with a biblical definition for hospitality, I’d say it means to give loving welcome to those outside your normal circle of friends. It’s opening your life and your house to those who believe differently than you do.
Hospitality is all over the Bible. In fact, it’s so important to God that when Paul lists out the traits necessary for a man to be qualified for the office of elder in a local congregation, we find that he must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2 ESV, emphasis added).
“I think it’s more true than ever to say that evangelism is going to look like hospitality. . . . Living courageously will involve living hospitably.”
To be an elder, a man has to be able to open his life and show kindness to those who believe differently than he does? He has to open up his world to those who are outside of what he believes and what he senses? Yes. This is serious. It really is.
Now why would the Bible be so serious about hospitality? If I could just boil it down to its most simple truth, it’s because God has been hospitable to us. Even when we were living as his enemies, God came and saved us. He opened the door and invited us into his presence. We demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received when we extend our own hospitality to those around us.
I’m not suggesting that biblical hospitality is the silver bullet for making evangelism work in the twenty-first century (news flash: there is no silver bullet). But might it not be, in our cynical, polarizing, critical, dumpster-fire culture, that a warm dose of welcoming hospitality will take some folks by surprise and open up the door for opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ?
Four Ways to Show Hospitality
The God of the universe is serious about hospitality. Hospitality can create an entry point for living out the Great Commission and evangelizing our neighbors, especially in the age of unbelief. How do we show hospitality today? It’s not complicated, though that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
1. Welcome Everyone You Meet
Literally, I think the best thing to do is greet everyone you see. That’s an easy thing to do if you’re wired like me—I’m a grade-A extrovert. That’s hard if you’re an introvert, and right now you’re thinking, “Can we just go to number two, please?” But often the best things to do are the hardest things to do.
Pray for grace, ask for strength and, well, greet people.
2. Engage People
Remember that everyone you meet is eternal. You’ve never met a mere mortal, and you have never met someone who doesn’t bear God’s image. So care about and take an interest in those you run across. I don’t think this is overly difficult. It simply means we need to be asking open-ended questions and letting our inner curiosity out.
You may think this is all obvious, but often we hold back from doing it. You need to get to know people, take an interest in them, and listen to them rather than just trying to think about how you can say something memorable or hilarious.
3. Make Dinner a Priority
The Bible, over and over again, talks about the joy of eating together. Long dinners with good food, good drink, good company, and good conversations that center around our beliefs, hopes, fears—that’s a good dinner.
Oh, and I don’t mean dinner with friends. Yes, eat with your church small group, invite over your good friends, but remember that hospitality is to give loving welcome to those outside your normal circle of friends. It’s opening your life and your house to those who believe differently than you do.
4. Love the Outsider
In every work environment and every neighborhood, there are people who, for whatever reason, are kind of outliers. These men and women are all around you, perhaps more so than ever in our globalized world.
Because of the way sin affects us, we tend to run away from differences and from being around people who think and look different than us.
“We love the outsider because we were the outsider.”
But I want to lay this before you: Jesus Christ would have moved toward those people. God extends radical hospitality to me and you. We love the outsider because we were the outsider.
It All Starts with Courage
As dark and dire as the landscape may appear right now, we know that the battle has already been won, and that means we don’t have to fight. This age of unbelief looks big and intimidating for the church, but it’s simply a small subplot in a bigger, better story—the greatest story ever told.
And, in a truly spectacular paradox, there’s a yawning chasm between God’s story and our stories. What I mean is, that while we know there are spiritual realities at work and significant things at play, we’re called to simple, everyday faithfulness that works itself out in lives marked by hospitality.
In some ways, it’s the big, flashy acts—the kind of stuff we photograph, slap a filter on and show all our “friends” online—that go most noticed yet require the least of us. I’m convinced that Christian courage probably looks more like inviting a group of strangers into your home for dinner than the attractive, successful ideas we have dreamed up in our minds.
These sorts of things actually require courage because they force us to rely on the Lord and his strength and not our own. When we open up our homes and build friendships with those who don’t look like us, believe like us, or act like us, we open up our lives and make ourselves vulnerable. We risk getting hurt and making enemies with those who don’t think the way we think or act the way we act. Yet we can do it because of the hope, strength, and, yes, courage we get from the Lord.
Matt Chandler is the pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He is the author of Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief (with David Roark).