When the wind storm tore up our artificial grass in Tenerife and laid it over the wall, it also took our neighbor’s metal outdoor furniture and threw it onto our driveway. We had not met these neighbors before, but this act of God’s providence gave us an opportunity to help them recover their wind-strewn furniture and begin a friendship. Through this friendship we were able to have them over to our house and they invited us to their house, and multiple gospel conversations opened up as we got to know each other better.
We also enjoyed delicious, Italian gelato in our favorite plaza in Tenerife. One of the workers in the gelato stand was particularly open to conversation while serving us week after week. A friendship developed and he and his wife received our hospitality and we have been able to spend time in each other’s homes multiple times over the last decade. Through this time we have had many deep, meaningful conversations centered on Christ.
This pattern of looking for ways to pursue friendship and then hospitality has continued throughout our life in Spokane as well. We need to have our eyes open to the opportunities God gives us to love people, show Christ and share about Christ.
The good news of the gospel is that God welcomes us into His family through Christ when we were strangers and enemies. How can those living as strangers and enemies of God now see visibly that God is calling them to His family through the gospel? We know that it is the hearing of the gospel proclaimed that the Spirit uses to open blind eyes to the truth of Christ. However, that hearing of the gospel is beautifully adorned and accompanied by hospitality.
We have the privilege of showing people gospel realities as we welcome them into our home and treat them like family. How can we use hospitality as a way to do evangelism?
Each of us have different avenues for pursuing friendships and hospitality. In Spokane culture, having some common starting point for a friendship often is helpful and even necessary for hospitality to be received. “Out of the blue” hospitality is received sometimes, but is also often rebuffed for lack of context and friendship in the Northwest. So, as followers of Christ, we need to prioritize pursuing friendships with those who are not yet following Christ in our regular contexts and rhythms of life. What are some of those contexts and rhythms of life?
Do you have co-workers? While you are on the clock deeper conversation and friendship may or may not be possible. However, could you pursue friendship with co-workers outside of work?
Do you or your kids play sports? Do you have any hobbies that you regularly do? If you are going to play basketball or ride mountain bikes, don’t just do that with other believers. Join clubs or play on teams with people who do not yet know Christ. Go to the places where people do your hobby and pursue friendship. Some of you play musical instruments and you pursue that in contexts where you are around others who do not know Christ. Your kids might be on a serious sports team or in a band. These can be great contexts for pursuing friendships with those who are still strangers to God.
What are the rhythms of life in your neighborhood? Is there a group of snowblowers who work together? Are their lots of kids who like to play in the summer together? Do people walk their dogs together? Is there a neighborhood association that is active? How can you do life together with your neighbors so that there is more friendship and context for hospitality? Is there a way for your to volunteer in your community doing something with others who might not be Christians yet?
God has a way of placing us in circumstances where you can make friends with people and pursue hospitality. You get stuck doing chemotherapy every week with the same nurses and patients. Your kid needs therapy at the same clinic for a year. You end up in the same grocery store with the same clerk month after month for years. You frequent a restaurant and see the same server often. All of these are potential opportunities for friendship and hospitality!
So, what opportunities do you have to pursue friendship with people who are living as strangers to God? If you don’t have any, pray that God would open up doors for you to speak the gospel to others!
Once you have some friendship beginning, you are poised to show hospitality by welcoming them into your home and treating them like family. Here are some ideas for how to do that:
Hospitality does not require fancy food, but it is nice to be able to love your guests by providing them with some kind of food that they will enjoy. Find a kind of food that your family enjoys eating and sharing with others. Maybe you like to grill meat or make a certain kind of lasagna or eat walking tacos. Develop your family’s favorite foods and then share them with those you are welcoming into your home. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.
When friendships are beginning and you are welcoming people into your home, it helps to have ways to have fun together. Maybe you like to play pinochle or some board game. Maybe you like to watch your kids run around. Develop your family’s fun and then invite others into that fun and try to have fun with them.
Within your hospitality, seek to get to know your guests. Find out about their experiences growing up, about their significant relationships, about their career, about their family experiences, about their fears, about their doubts and much more. Ask questions like, do you have any spiritual beliefs or what do you think about Jesus? Time together in your home eating and having fun is a great context for deepening your friendship with conversation about the things in life that matter the most. Lots of good questions will be valuable in helping you to get to know your guests and your guests to get to know you.
Your guests might be strangers to God, but you can still fellowship with your family as you spend time together. It’s okay to pray together before a meal or to read a passage in the Bible if that is what you normally do with your family. You can always say something like, “Would it be okay with you if we pray together/ read the Bible together/ or whatever other family fellowship activity?” You may not be able to actually fellowship with your guests yet as brothers and sisters in Christ, but you can fellowship with your family with them there and give them a chance to taste and see Christian fellowship in action. Let your guests see what your life is like and seek to find out what their lives are like.
If through hospitality your guests begin to want to explore further the hospitality that God offers them, be ready to invite them to be part of our Sunday gathering or your growth group or a Bible study you could do with them!