The Disappearance of Hospitality

This is a continuation of a series of blog posts exploring some of the underlying reasons behind the diminishing of faith in our culture. You can read the previous posts here:
The Diminishing of Faith
The Loss of Imagination
The Failure of Hope

I like food. Perhaps I need to be more specific. I like events where people gather and there is food. Banquets, potlucks, bbq’s, meetings, etc. The list can go on. I think food makes things better. So it’s not lost on me that one of the core practices of the church, the Lord’s Supper, was started by Jesus and involves… you guessed it! … food.

Something happens when we gather together as people and we share in a meal together. We are changed by others, our presence impacts other, and we grow closer together and realize we are journeying together on this adventure called faith and life. We bond. We build relationships. Existing relationships grow deeper. We share our lives together. In all this we also grow in faith and become more of who Christ calls us to be.

These aren’t insignificant things… though perhaps our culture would see them as such. There’s a reason hospitality was so instrumental in the life of the early church and for centuries that followed. Yet it somehow is disappearing. The amount I’ve heard from people that they’ve never been in the home of a pastor before. I’ve even been asked if I’m allowed to have people over! I feel we are missing something – and this something is undermining our faith and our discipleship. Here are four reasons why I believe hospitality is waning, if not in fact disappearing:

Everything has to be perfect mentality
We have this perception that our houses need to exude the perception we want people to have of us. Neat. Tidy. Together. Organized. Perfect. No problems. That isn’t real life. When we hold onto that perception we undermine the reality that faith is rooted in real life, not something we fabricate. Hospitality is about engaging people in the midst of everyday life. Hospitality is about inconvenience. I remember wanting to host an event and someone telling us that they should because their house was better. Was it? Yup. It was a better location. Yet what was lost in the conversation was any sense of value for our hospitality. We need to counter our cultural perception of what a house represents, and recognize that our house can reflect the reality of our lives. The reality is we live in the midst of mess, chaos, brokenness. It doesn’t mean we leave our house a catastrophe, but it does mean not everything needs to be perfect. In fact- I would argue not having perfection leads to better hospitality as people get to know the real you.

My suggestion – keep it simple. Nothing fancy. In our house things are rarely in perfect order so when we host we tidy up a tiny bit and make sure our bathrooms are clean. If our house isn’t good enough for someone – that is not our concern – we’re sharing who we are as we are.

I can do it alone mentality
Independence is a value that people uphold in our culture. Independence is hurting us. No one can do it all alone. Faith is about putting our trust in God and recognizing that we need Him! Not only do we need God, but scripture tells us that we need each other. Hospitality counters our culgture by recognizing we need others. Sometimes we have something to offer to people, and other times we need to humble ourselves and accept hospitality. When we live a hospitable life we counter this ‘I can do it alone mentality’.

I only need those I trust, not others mentality.
In faith we make ourselves vulnerable by opening ourselves up to others who share faith us. It means moving beyond our tiny circle of close trustworthy people. When we have hospitality – true hospitality – we are looking for people outside our circle and showing love through hospitality. It restores faith by having us put faith in God that He is in the midst of all situations.

I only need Jesus mentality.
I love this one. It’s the strangest reading of scripture I can imagine. Jesus was all about relationships and connecting with people. Jesus got hospitality. If we say we only need Jesus we begin to separate faith from the reality of everyday life creating a spiritual realm and an ‘everything else’ realm in our lives. Jesus calls us not to just to love God but also our neighbour. When we say our faith is between Jesus and me, we’re not talking faith that impacts all of live – we’re talking about trying to control God by not letting Him impact all areas of life. Hospitality forces our faith into action and us into loving others.

Hospitality is needed. It was central in the early church, and still is in many parts of the world. In North America I believe the restoration of hospitality as a way for us all to live out faith is key to our witness to the world around us. It should not be lost on us that one of the key things Jesus called us too -the Lord’s Supper – is an act of hospitality – sharing a meal! Try it. You’ll be amazed to see God work in new and wonderful ways. You’ll see your faith in action. You’ll see your faith in God bear fruit. I pray you will also be blessed by sharing the gift of hospitality with others.

Hospitality has disappeared in so many ways in our culture. Thankfully there are still pockets of it. Churches hosting potlucks. People inviting new friends into their homes. Indiividuals inviting others to celebrate holidays with them so they are not alone. People living out faith and deepening faith by loving the other. It builds faith. It nurtures faith. It encourages faith as we show our love by sharing our lives, our homes and our resources with those around us.

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