Recently, I read an account of a pastor who was discouraged following a scheduled fellowship he had planned for his church. The pastor had planned the event because he wanted to encourage his church to practice hospitality within the body. By the pastor’s own description, the church was known for its desire for knowledge and instruction but was lacking in the area of fellowship. The church was well-educated and very biblically literate. After the fellowship, several church members expressed their frustration with the activity. They felt that the pastor had wasted their time by having them come together for a time of casual interaction. Clearly, we are called to know the Bible, and to be as biblically literate as possible. But, we cannot ignore God’s commandment for hospitality.
As Paul lists the qualifications of a pastor, he writes in 1 Timothy 3:2 that one who seeks the office of a bishop must be, “given to hospitality.” The word translated “hospitality” comes from the Greek word philoxenos, which means “generous to guests.” This biblical principle, however, does not only apply to pastors. In fact, practicing hospitality was an important part of the early church’s ministry. Acts 2:46 tells us that the early church “continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”
I would argue that hospitality is serious business when it comes to the spiritual well-being of a church and of each individual Christian. Fellowship among believers is important because it provides three benefits:
1. Practicing hospitality makes us less likely to fall prey to the devil. Satan picks off lone sheep because they are vulnerable. Isolation makes a Christian easy prey for the devil’s attacks. Too often we forget that our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is far less likely to attack you in the safety of a group, but the deceiver chomps at the bit to attack the believer who wanders away from the body.
2. Practicing hospitality provides encouragement to the discouraged, comfort to the heartbroken, and strength to the weary. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2 Paul writes concerning Timothy that he was sent “to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith.” In Colossians 4:11, Paul writes concerning his co-laborers, “These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.” When Jesus warned Peter that Satan was going to attempt to sift him like wheat, Jesus told Peter, “When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32).
3. Practicing hospitality makes us stronger spiritually. Productive interaction among believers sharpens our spiritual senses and makes us wise. Without interaction with other Christian people, sin can go unchallenged, our foolishness is left to fester, our spiritual muscles remain under-developed, and our limited perspectives and presuppositions remain unchallenged.
I’m confident we could draw other biblical conclusions about the importance of Christian hospitality and fellowship if space permitted. But, I believe that from these three benefits alone we can arrive at only one conclusion: fellowship in the body of Christ is essential to our spiritual well-being. The connect emphasis during the month of April here at Grace Baptist Church is “Connect through hospitality.” Allow me to encourage you to reach out to others in our body, and spend time getting to know them through the important ministry of hospitality.
- Pastor Jay