When a Christian extends their gift of hospitality, they do so without expecting anything in return. There is no need for a reciprocal favor. They serve others without expecting anything in return, and they do so gladly. They are able to do so because they possess a spiritual gift.
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What God says about hospitality?
God also broadens the definition of hospitality to encompass more than just food. It became a defining feature of what it meant to be the People of God. “Treat the alien as if he were one of your own people,” Leviticus 19 states. “Love them as if they were your own, for you were outsiders in Egypt.” “I am the LORD, your God,” says the LORD (translations are my own). “You shall love the alien because you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” Deuteronomy 10 says. Later in the Old Testament, God's prophets remind Israel and Judah that God will judge them based on how they treat widows, orphans, and strangersin other words, how well they care for them.
What are the six spiritual gifts?
A spiritual gift or charism (plural: charisms or charismata; in Greek singular: charisma, plural: charismata) is an idea in which the Holy Spirit bestows remarkable power. Followers think that these are supernatural graces that individual Christians require (and that were required in the days of the Apostles) in order to fulfill the Church's mission. In the strictest sense, it is a theological word for the special graces bestowed on individual Christians for the benefit of others, as opposed to personal sanctification graces such as the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The word of knowledge, enhanced faith, healing gifts, miraculous gifts, prophecy, spirit discernment, various kinds of tongues, and tongue interpretation are examples of these skills, which are often referred to as “charismatic gifts.” The gifts of apostles, prophets, teachers, aids (associated with service to the destitute and sick), and governments (or leadership abilities) are also associated with various Church ministries. Individuals are given these gifts by the Holy Spirit, but their mission is to build up the entire Church. They're mentioned in the New Testament, namely in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. Spiritual gifts are also mentioned in 1 Peter 4.
The gifts are tied to both “natural” and “miraculous” abilities, both of which are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The two primary theological viewpoints on their nature are that they have long since ceased or that they continue (Cessationism versus Continuationism).
What is the highest spiritual gift?
Wisdom is regarded as the earliest and most important of the gifts. It affects the intellect as well as the will. It both illumines the mind and instills an inclination to the divine, according to St. Bernard. “The latter is a view taken by the mind, while the former is an experience undergone by the heart; one is light, the other love, and so they connect and complete one another,” Adolphe Tanquerey OP defined the distinction between wisdom and understanding. The theological virtue of charity is perfected by a wise and compassionate heart.
What is the meaning of hospitality in the church?
In church, the word “hospitality” is frequently used. Many United Methodist churches have a specialized hospitality committee or team to ensure that visitors are pleasantly welcomed on Sunday. Christian hospitality, on the other hand, cannot be reduced to a well-stocked coffee bar, professional-looking greeter nametags, or first-time visitor welcome hampers. All of these are examples of how a church might demonstrate a welcoming atmosphere, but whence does that spirit originate?
Hospitality is love
The attitude of hospitality is not motivated by concern for a congregation's image, and it does not guarantee that the congregation will be popular or successful in the traditional sense. Genuine testimony and invitation to those outside the church's walls are the seeds of hospitality. It entails showing the community around the church Christ-like love.
In addition, “Bishop Robert Schnase of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, in his book “Radical Hospitality: The First Practice of Fruitful Congregations,” defines hospitality as “how a church displays love for Christ and its neighbor through intentional acts of invitation and service.”
“Jesus' pattern of hospitality demands that we maintain a constant welcoming posture in our job and leisure, as well as in our neighborliness and community involvement. It entails viewing ourselves as Christ's ambassadors and going out of our way to draw others into some area of the church's ministry, even if it means being awkward and inconvenient,” wrote Schnase.
While hospitality occurs within the walls of a church, it does not begin at the front entrance. It all begins in the hearts of congregants who are devoted to reaching out to new individuals for Christ and sharing God's love with the rest of the world. Some of the most beautiful examples of Christian hospitality can be seen in the homes and personal spaces of the very individuals the church is trying to help.
Wayne Worth, a member of Clarksburg, West Virginia's United Methodist Temple, noticed many persons and families in his neighborhood suffering from opiate addictions. Worth and his friends started their own door-to-door ministry, passing out information such as a hotline number for emergencies and other useful resources, motivated by their love for their neighbors. Worth has knocked on the door of people who have broken down and cried because of the unprompted compassion and concern exhibited. Despite the fact that Worth and his other volunteers are guests on their neighbors' doorsteps, they continue to show true Christian hospitality, extending love and acceptance.
Hospitality is relational
Hospitality that begins with giving love and invitation to individuals who are not members of the church will manifest itself in the development of relationships. In his lecture “On Visiting the Sick,” John Wesley emphasized the need of Christians visiting and getting to know those who are sick.
“One of the major reasons why the wealthy have so little sympathy for the poor is that they rarely visit them,” Wesley stated. “As a result, one section of the world does not know what the other endures,” says the frequent comment.
Members will develop empathy and affection for the people they serve as they get to know them personally. As the congregation interacts directly with the community, it will be better able to meet the needs of those it serves. Good intentions will be turned into fruitful actions of mercy as a result of these relationships. Congregants at Shades of Grace United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, learned that one of the most pressing needs of the homeless in their neighborhood was assistance in acquiring state-issued identification cards. While food, clothing, and other acts of kindness were appreciated by the homeless in Kingsport, obtaining a state ID allowed them to access additional local programs that could lead to work and permanent housing.
Hospitality is adaptable
Hospitality also necessitates an openness to outside influence and change. Many churches are delighted to welcome anyone, but they demand the ethos of the church to remain unchanged. Allowing people to leave their stamp on the congregation involves welcoming them as they are. To make new disciples, a welcoming church must be willing to adapt its ministries and practices. When it comes to Christ-like hospitality, many congregations fall short here. Jesus was not afraid to defy customs and cultural norms in order to reach out to all people with the gospel, and he expected his followers to do the same.
This spirit of hospitality may inspire a church to hold services in unusual locations like coffee shops, pubs, eateries, or public parks. Jesus didn't force people to come to the synagogue to see him; instead, he delivered his message to them in the streets and public places. Through his field preaching, Wesley accomplished the same goal. Hope United Methodist Church in Bedford, Ohio, conducted a tailgate worship session before a Cleveland Browns game in order to reach out to football fans.
Small groups/Sunday school classes may be organized on specific challenges or life experiences, such as addiction or special needs as well as age or life phases. The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Houston began inviting special-needs families by establishing a Sunday school for disabled children. The church now features special needs youth and adult confirmation classes, as well as a special needs family worship service four times a year.
Hospitality can take many forms, including creatively opening up church facilities or spaces to outsiders. The kitchen at University City United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, provides hospitality. Every Wednesday, the church serves a free dinner to the neighborhood, and every week, the church bakes bread for Sunday morning guests. The congregation also lets outside parties use the kitchen for special events.
Hospitality will take on many forms depending on the church that is providing it and the community it serves. Regardless, authentic Christian hospitality stems from a heart of love for one's neighbor that is based on Christ's teachings. Hospitality entails not only being a gracious host, but also completely opening the church and ministry to anyone in need of God's love.
Philip J. Brooks works for United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, as a writer/content developer on the leader communications team.
More helpful resources
- Bishop Robert Schnase's book Radical Hospitality: The First Practice of Fruitful Congregations. Circuit Rider magazine published an article about me in the November/December/January issue. Ministry Matters has republished this article with their permission.
- Northwest Nazarene University, John Wesley's Sermons – Sermon 98: On Visiting the Sick
What are the 12 gifts of the spirit?
“Charity, joy, peace, patience, compassion, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity,” according to Church tradition.