My wife and I came across a neat book on hospitality a while back. We were searching for something that dealt with practical issues - kind of like a how-to manual. It's called The Warm Wonderful World of Hospitality by Robin Mercer. Robin Mercer is a wife and mother with a heart for hospitality. This book is grounded in Scripture, and practical throughout. Reading this book really does make you want to meet the neighbors and have a dinner party. And then Robin lays out step by step how to do it.
If our marriage is going to be missional, then we're going to have to be deliberately hospitable. Numerous surveys have shown that most people come to Christ, or a church, through someone they know. What's more, most people stay faithful to Christ, or in a church, because of relationships with people in the church. This is really just common sense. So the need for hospitality should be self-evident.
However, this is not the case. I think there are a couple reasons for this. First, we as Americans are very independent, private and selfish. This doesn't mean that we don't like the idea of getting together. It just means we rarely accomplish the idea. Maybe you've caught yourself saying something like, "Oh, I was going to ask them over, and I just got busy." "Maybe when the kids are done with soccer we can think about playing cards with the Jones's." "I'm sure the Smith's wouldn't want to come over for a barbecue. They're kind of uppity." So if we're going to be hospitable, we have to overcome our desire for privacy and comfort.
The other reason I think people aren't more hospitable is because they're afraid of people. Either they're afraid of rejection. "Do you want to come over for pizza Friday night?" "No, we're going to be out of town." We leave thinking I should have known they wouldn't want to hang out with us. Really, they were probably just going to be out of town, and would have gotten together another night. But the rejection has already happened, and we're twice shy the next time.
Another fear is that our lifestyle doesn't match up with those around us. This is probably true if we strive to be godly with our money, and set proper priorities. We're embarrassed of our house, car, carpet, dishes, cooking, children, pets, spouse. You name it. "I don't want to invite the Johnson's into this mess!" "I'll have the Jackson's over after the new carpet is in." "They're probably used to steak, and all I can afford is sloppy Joe's."
Robin Mercer deals with this kind of stuff in her book. I'll just give a short quote. "I felt very sad in the early days of my marriage because we lived in a very small trailer. It was also old, dumpy and ugly. We lived in the nastiest part of town. I was embarrassed about my home. . . . Using our trailer for hospitality was very hard for me at first because we attended a wealthy church and most of the couples our age were well off." I bet this is more common than we'd like to admit.
Mrs. Mercer goes on to explain that Matthew 25:21 inspired her to just be faithful with the trailer she was given. Thank God for it, and use it to minister. (That is wonderful counsel!) She goes on to write, "God was faithful to his Word. After a few years in the trailer, we obtained a small house with a great big yard. A few years after that, he provided a larger house with a sizable dining area, enormous front and back yards, and an adjoining piece of property. It has been wonderful to express hospitality in so many ways: to have enough room to entertain small groups and large crowds, to have kids camp in tents around the yard, and to enjoy bon fires throughout the year, to name a few." Lest someone read this and think I have no room to host small groups or large crowds; remember she started in a trailer! She was thankful and faithfully ministered with what she had.
I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to be hospitable. God commands that we do it, and the missional fruit from such labor is abundant. I pray that lots of Christian Hedonist couples across our nation would open up their homes to the neighbors, co-workers, church members, family members, school-mates and anyone else they can minister to. "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality without grumbling" (1 Pet. 4:8-9). What's your excuse? How's your hospitality?