You know that feeling when God wrangles your heart and though you may try to wriggle free, He’s persistent? That’s where I’m living these days. He keeps putting the word ‘hospitality’ in my thoughts.
I need to invite my neighbors into my home.
And while this may excite some of you, this is not my gifting. I do not currently possess the gift of hospitality. I long to – but of course only when my house is clean and my schedule is empty, which is honestly not often. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt this need before. It’s bothering me because this whole idea is outside of my comfort zone. Which, usually means it’s a ‘God thing’.
So now the question is, am I going to be obedient?
Your neighbors, as mine, may not understand about the Biblical Jesus, or the concept of Biblical Grace. I need to tell them. I need to show them. The easiest way is to just open our home and our lives to them so they can see for themselves.
And just so you know, we’re not hermits. We actually do have people over, weekly in fact. Our church small group meets here every week. We have other friends over pretty frequently. But, we know and love them all already. It’s a little bit more scary to invite people over who we don’t know well and may not share our interests or beliefs.
That’s precisely why the story of Jesus and His Grace is so amazing. It’s about inclusion. I think, as Biblical Christians, that we make sharing our faith waaaaayyy more complicated than it is. It’s just about sharing our lives. That’s it. Simple.
Isn’t it interesting that in this age of earth shattering internet ‘connectedness’ we may be the LEAST connected to our neighbors than we ever have before. We raise the automatic garage door when we come home at night and lower it when we are safely inside the castle. It’s like we’ve crossed a moat or something.
I’ve found a wonderful book to help me with this. Written by two pastors, Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements, the book gives an interesting perspective. Along with their wives, they document stories and mistakes along the path of creating community with their neighbors. I outline below some ideas they provide.
They suggest, and wisely advise, that hospitality doesn’t happen unless its planned, both on a calendar, and in the budget. It just won’t. We have to make it happen.
So, let’s schedule hospitality. Schedule a ‘neighbor night’ on your calendar, and build in some extra funds into your monthly budget. (Look, we just pounded out excuse #1.)
Hospitality models God’s heart to both the churched and unchurched. From the beginning of time, God opened His home, in the Garden of Eden, for his new human creations. And, He has quite the history of turning meager offerings into significance. (See the Wedding at Cana in John 2:1-11 where Jesus turned water into wine. And in John 6:1-14 Jesus fed 5,000 + women and children, with 5 loaves and 2 fish.)
We learn through these truths that nothing about our lives is insignificant. All He asks for is our willingness. He takes our meager offerings and transforms them into satisfying moments. He never asks us to be perfect. That goes for our homes as well. He just asks us to be available.
Willingness = Vulnerability
Yep. This is the scary part. Inviting people into your imperfect home does indeed seem to put you ‘out there’ in a scary, vulnerable place. Jesus knows you’re not perfect, and He loves you anyway. He also doesn’t care about your messy house. (And neither will your neighbors.) Our homes or lives or meals do not have to be perfect!
The Biblical Gospel is not about our performance. It’s simply about Jesus swinging the door being wide open for us by His own sacrifice on the cross. Our willingness to open our own door of welcome helps our neighbors to see God. Jesus came to earth to forge a relationship with us. We as His followers show this by initiating relationships too. The stage is set when we set our table and show friends the love of Jesus by welcoming them into our lives.
And, you got it, our lives are messy. But He loves in spite of all our ‘junk’. Teens with crazy schedules, dust from living in the country, and dog hair that I can never make disappear completely are all usual dwellers in my home. Interestingly, my sweetest memories of hospitality come from my imperfection. Here’s a doozy!
Hospitality ≠ Entertaining
Dustin and Brandon say that, “Hospitality is not about entertaining, it’s about engaging. “
There’s no reason to jump through hoops to impress anyone. “The gospel has freed you from any semblance of performance as a Christian, so you don’t win cool points through the favor of your guests.”
Engaging your guests simply entails asking questions and listening. Help them to feel comfortable and important. If you are new to a neighborhood like we are, there’s plenty of history to learn.
Simplify = No excuses
Simple meals are wonderful. Get out your crock pot or start the grill. Make it easy! They also say that, “the important thing to remember is that the purpose for having people over is relationship — not the food.”
It’s easy to blow off connecting with neighbors because we impose unreasonable expectations on ourselves. Do you expect perfection when you may be invited to a friend’s home? Of course not. Why would you put those standards on yourself? New friends can sense love in a home, whether they realize it or not. And isn’t that what we’re really offering?
If preparing a whole meal intimidates you, why not start out with desert? Pick up a frozen pound cake and some fresh strawberries (or frozen) at the store. Top with some whipped cream and you’ve got a dessert ready at a moment’s notice. No one says you must cook something yourself at all!
Who should I invite?
Start with who you know. Is there a few people at church you’d like to invite to your home for a meal? Beyond that, how about people you work with? From there, broaden your scope. What about people from the gym or your kids’ school(s)?
We are relatively new to our neighborhood. Just this morning, I met several neighbors along my dog walking route. Spring is finally here and hooray for all of us coming out of our cocoons. We have recently joined a new church, so there’s tons of friends there that I’m getting to know but don’t know well. I also have a list of families with teens the ages of my kids that I’d like to get to know.
Keep a running list of folks you’d like to welcome in for a meal. When you happened to see them, perhaps at the grocery store, invite them right then. Make the connection. In the words of Nike, just do it!
What if you don’t yet know your neighbors?
If you see people around your neighborhood and have not met them, ALWAYS, always meet them. Initiate the meeting. Always. Here’s a hint: Go outside. You won’t meet your neighbors if you never leave your house. Stroll with your spouse. Walk your dog. Use the time you may have with other parents at sports games or practices of your kids. Or, you can decide on a theme night like those below, and then make the invitations.
What about Taco Tuesday or Game Night? TV Shows? Watching sports?
If you have young children, drag your baby pool in the front yard and just wait for the kiddos to show up!
Monthly cookouts? Book clubs? Supper clubs? Movie nights?
We’ve been looking into doing an outdoor moving night. We have a large driveway with big garage doors and we thought we’d figure out a projection system. Sounds so fun!
Holiday parties? Super Bowl party? July 4th party?
Since we live somewhere with a snowy winter, holiday parties are key to seeing your neighbors in the wintertime. And summer events are only limited to your own imagination.
My neighbor hosts a informal ‘Donut Party’ the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. They fry up a TON of donuts and have plenty of milk and chocolate milk on hand.
Step out of your comfort zone.
I know. I know. It’s always scary to put yourself out there and make the first step to get to know your neighbors. But this world is screaming for connection. We crave it. We long for deep meaningful relationship, like what Jesus gives. He’s the author of it.
It doesn’t happen on social media or in texts. It happens when we engage each other, face to face. It happens when we welcome each other into our homes and lives. It happens when we accept ourselves and what we have to offer in order to give that to new friends.
Who knows what could happen? God loves to surprise us with wonderful moments and sweet memories. When we model His welcome with our own, He is always right there in the middle of it. The ultimate purpose of hospitality is to share Him with the world. That happens not only with words, but also with a welcome. If Jesus is a part of our homes, it shows. Actions speak louder than words.
So let’s do this! With summer quickly approaching, let’s make some plans! Let’s be out and about our neighborhoods!
Come on! Let’s make come new connections!
“Above all, keep loving each other earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:8-9