Many of us around the world have been quarantined in our homes due to Covid-19. We are craving relationship, getting together with family and friends, sharing meals—hospitality. Now is the time to prepare to share this gift with others.
By Bob Regazzoli, Pastor, Australia
During the recent bushfires in Australia, we heard that some people who lost their homes were being invited into the homes of people they didn’t know. This is the gift of hospitality – love and friendliness to guests and visitors. This is something many of us have missed during this ongoing pandemic.
One common theme from conversations with church members over the years has been their memory of being not only welcomed at our services, but then being invited to a meal by one of our members. The gift of hospitality is vital for healthy churches.
In this age where many people are time pressured, we can easily overlook one of the most common and needful Christian practices – to be hospitable and inclusive of those who visit our congregations, or to those who may express an interest in Christianity. Hospitality has been one of the dominant characteristics of the Christian church down through the centuries.
During his ministry on earth, there are a number of accounts of Jesus sharing meals, either in providing the meal, or accepting the hospitality of others. Remember his feeding the crowds with loaves and fishes, or cooking breakfast for his disciples on the beach after his resurrection. He asked Zacchaeus if he could stay at his house. He accepted invitations to eat with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1). It’s in sitting or reclining around the meal table, sharing food, drink, and telling stories, where we really get to know another person and commune with them.
One of the best ways to get to know visitors and new members is to extend an invitation to spend more time with them. Not only do we welcome people at church—which includes chatting over a cup of coffee or a snack during hospitality time, but we should also offer to meet outside the walls of the church—in a coffee shop or restaurant, or invite them to our home, or to meet for a shared meal at a park.
It’s important to put our discomfort and/or fears aside. While we are wise to be mindful of cultural variations, and what will best serve the needs of the church visitor, we should not let our fear of the unknown or our concern about causing offense prevent us from extending an invitation. We all have different gifts and ways of reaching out to others. Notice Peter’s words: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:9-10).
The early church had a strong spirit of hospitality and communion. I can’t help but wonder if there will be a strong desire for hospitality and building of relationships following this pandemic. Just as the early church was hungry for like-minded relationship, people being stuck in their homes for weeks or months will also be craving communion—whether they understand what that means or not. What a blessing it would be if this were said of us after this pandemic: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts [homes, parks, restaurants and churches]. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47).