It’s there, right in the middle of the character qualifications of eldership:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable… (1 Timothy 3:2)
He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (Titus 1:7-8)
The word hospitable isn’t hard to understand. It means “to be disposed to treat guests and strangers with cordiality and generosity.” You can’t pastor if you’re reclusive. Pastoring involves people. Elders — pastors — are meant to open their home and their lives to others. We’re meant to let people in, to see how we live, to get to know people, and to allow them to get to know us.
But hospitality isn’t just the duty of elders. It’s the responsibility of every Christian (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). And yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard or given a sermon on this topic — although, thankfully, there’s a book on it.
Hospitality would have been indispensable when these letters were written. The reasons may have changed, yet I’m convinced it’s just as necessary today. “You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?” one man asked. “Hospitality.” Hospitality is strategic in our ministry to unbelievers, as well as our ministry to fellow believers. It’s a statement of belief in the value and dignity of every person that we welcome into our homes.
It comes at a cost. It will require changes in our overstuffed lives, and yet it’s absolutely necessary.
“Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary,” writes Max Lucado.
Pastors: Open your home and your life to others. Let people see how you really live. As Mark Dever does, invite people on your milk runs. Learn to cook meals that you can share. Allow people to see how you talk to your wife and kids. Let them see the real you, not just the you behind the pulpit. I write this as an introvert. I’m slowly learning, and I want to get better at this than I am.
Model it, but teach it too. Teach it as a biblical command. Teach it as an opportunity. Ask your leaders to practice it. Look for people in your church who are good at hospitality, and ask them to teach others how to be hospitable too.
If you’re not a pastor, just start. Others will catch on. Your example may be exactly what others need to start practicing hospitality too.
“Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God,” writes Rosaria Butterfield. “It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed.” I can’t think of anything that’s more countercultural. And yet I can’t think of anything that is provides more opportunity for ministry to others and joy to ourselves.
Recapture the biblical priority of radical, ordinary hospitality.