The Art of a Mutually Encouraging Stay
Christian hospitality is weaved throughout the Scriptures in subtle, often overlooked ways. Much of New Testament writings describe first-century believers opening their home to disciples who passed through while preaching the gospel.
A big motivation for establishing Come & Stay was to open dialogue on what’s suitable and what’s not in the realm of staying with those who have graciously opened their homes to others. It’s a topic we don’t discuss much or have biblical lessons taught about often. We assume etiquette, protocol and knowledge of the commands surrounding hospitality are understood. But are they really?
Shortly after I bought my first house in the Northern Virginia suburbs, it became known as the hospitality haven for single sisters. For many months I had back-to-back guests, weekend after weekend. My guests ranged from sisters who came into town for a blind date to those visiting their boyfriend. Others came to attend a wedding, or another to get a decent night’s rest after her connecting flight through DC was delayed a day. After a short while, it dawned on me that it might be wise to have more than one set of sheets for the guest bed so I didn’t have to constantly do laundry!
Some guests I spent lots of time with, while others I barely saw. Most left a gift or card behind; others, not so much. Some I’ve stayed in touch with and they’ve returned the favor. And still others I never spoke to again.
Most fellowships within our family of churches have several households with a reputation for hosting out of town guests on a regular basis. Some people are naturals at hosting and others have to really work at it. I’ve likewise been hosted by families and sisters, and the experience was always powerful for the most part. I pray to God that I gave as much to them in that moment as they did to me! It’s odd how those moments of me hosting don’t stick out as much as my staying with others.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t hosting with intention or expectation. As I recount the moments I stayed with others and became the recipient of their amazing hospitality, I am convicted by my lack of intentionality in hosting those who came into my home. At times it was like an assembly line, shuffling guests in and out. It’s almost like I didn’t expect to receive anything from my interaction with my guest and in return I didn’t offer much but a warm bed, a clean bathroom and the spare key.
Just knowing that I did something to help sufficed for me. But is that what God intended? I know that I am good at connecting people to other people. But in what ways am I good at connecting with others myself? I acted more like Martha, caught up in the busyness of hosting—but failed to set out to connect from a heart level with those who entered my home. I am convicted by the disciples in the first century church like Lydia and Simon, who understood that by opening their homes to Paul and Peter, they were in turn affecting the eternity of others.
Do we see how encouraging our brothers and sisters through hospitality has an impact on their ability to affect others for God?
In a newly released eBook "Give and Give More: The Art of a Mutually Encouraging Stay" I explore the command in Romans 12:13b to "practice hospitality" from both the guest and host perspective. Though we tend to focus on the practical aspects of connecting, our biblical brothers and sisters provide examples of the heart behind why hospitality is a spiritual discipline that should not be overlooked.