During this time of COVID-19 lockdowns we have a unique opportunity to refocus and learn what’s really important. When the world gets back to a sense of normalcy, hopefully we’ll all be looking to make some changes as a result of those lessons. Hospitality and the fellowship it brings are two things I hope we’ll re-emphasize when we return. With that in mind, here’s an excerpt from our new book, Church Reset.

We live in an era where the house is totally closed off to the outside world. It is our escape, our sanctuary. All you have to do is contrast the design of houses built today and houses built 50 years ago. Not only do we not have front porches anymore, but the design has gone in the opposite direction. We live in fortresses where the living areas are being built downstairs or to the back of the house, walling us off from the world outside our front door. We then retreat inside these fortresses and connect with the outside world through social media, a terribly fake substitute for real life interaction. To love one another as Christ loved and to take the church outside of the building we’re going to have to tear down those walls. (Um, metaphorically, of course.)

It’s not just that “be hospitable to one another” is a command (1 Peter 4:9), but it’s also one of the ways we’re expected to be devoted to one another in honor (Romans 12:10-13). It’s so important to God that He doesn’t want men to rise to leadership positions in the church if this practice isn’t part of their lives (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8). Why is it so important?

Because, when it comes to helping people grow in Christ, the kitchen table can be just as effective as the pulpit—possibly even more. It’s in the informal setting of the home that we can share questions, help people learn at their own level and pace, and pray specific prayers together. It’s where Jesus did much of His teaching. It’s where discipleship has a chance to take off. And, it’s a fantastic tool for evangelism. It gives us the opportunity to introduce people to the church as Jesus’ people rather than as an organization for them to either like or dislike. 

However, a few concerns arise whenever this topic is discussed.

“My house is never clean enough to have people over,” some have said. It doesn’t matter if your house is sparkling clean or if you’re having one of those weeks where the laundry and dishes just won’t ever end. Letting people in our imperfect houses is actually a great metaphor for how church life should work. We’re letting each other see that our lives aren’t Instagram perfect. By doing this we’re showing that our fellowship isn’t defined by preserving a perfect facade. We’re saying instead that loving each other and building each other up are more important than making everyone think our lives are flawless. 

If you want to host others for meals, cost can also become an issue. Rest assured, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It doesn’t matter if you can provide prime rib or peanut butter and jellies. What matters is that the family has a chance to be with each other and build the kind of relationships where the one anothers can be fulfilled. But even feeding people inexpensive meals with any regularity can be a strain if the budget is tight. So get creative with it. Cut out a trip to a restaurant once a month with the faith that God will bless what we give up for Him and His work.

Plenty of folks don’t even have that kind of expense to cut, though. An option in that case: plan a shared meal where each person or family brings their own. Once again, the message is being sent that what matters is being together and not showing off. Another option might be to take $5 or so off your weekly contribution and put it toward having some brothers and sisters over for a meal and a time of devotional and prayer once a month. Some church leaders probably aren’t terribly happy with that suggestion, but it gets at the heart of thinking of the church as a family rather than an organization. Doing such isn’t “taking away from the work of the church.” It’s doing the work of the church as an active participant.

If you want to feel truly blessed and truly bless others, make time for hospitality and table fellowship. To grow and to help others grow, work on developing relationships that go beyond the building. Use the resources God has given you to model Jesus, teach Jesus, and show others how to do the work of Jesus.