What would happen in your church if new visitors received multiple invitations for a meal after the service?
When my husband and I were first married, I remember one specific comment from our pastor’s sermon, “Just put on a pot of soup before church and then invite someone over you’ve never met before.” The idea had never crossed my mind. In many ways, hospitality seemed most comfortable inviting friends over to well-planned meals. But inviting strangers over?
Over our years in ministry, taking this pastor’s advice has proven to be one of my favorite things about Sundays.
Lonely Hearts, Open Home
I love watching a person’s reaction when they’re invited to share a meal spur-of-the-moment. Most are delighted, whether they are able to come or not. I sometimes wonder how long it’s been since a person has received an invitation for a meal in another’s home? The eager responses we receive, even to last-minute invitations, show me people are just as hungry for fellowship as for lasagna.
In a day when we all seem to be packing our schedules to the brim, hospitality can be a lost art. It’s not always easy for our family to clear a Sunday afternoon or evening in order to host a meal in our home. But when we do, it’s always worth it.
Surprised by Hospitality
I remember being a recipient of such hospitality. When I was in college I spent a semester studying overseas in Spain. I lived with an older widow and a couple other boarders who attended the local university. In a new culture, I struggled to communicate with others (due to my less-than-fluent Spanish), and felt loneliness surround me wherever I went.
“What would happen in your church if new visitors received multiple invitations for a meal after the service?”
But then I met Joy and David. They were missionaries living in my city with their four children. Each Sunday they hosted an American meal in their home, along with a Bible study. They invited me to join them. I remember feeling incredibly comforted by their warm hospitality. The dinner reminded me of home.
Their children became my friends, and every week I looked forward to Sunday meals with them. The loneliness I had felt because I was a stranger in a foreign land began to dissipate as I felt welcomed through food and conversation. Soon I was bringing new friends from the university I attended.
The kitchen table has a way of breaking down barriers between people. As we sip our coffee and eat our pie, we share stories about what led us to live in our city, how we met our spouses, what we studied in college, and how we came to faith in Christ. One conversation leads to another, and by the end of the evening we’ve made new friends.
More Than a Meal
This Sunday, as you greet your friends at church, look around you. Are there singles sitting alone? New faces who need a warm smile and introduction? Are there people you could bless by extending an invitation to lunch?
Here are three reasons to step out of our comfort zones and ask them over to lunch.
1. It demonstrates the love of Christ.
By reaching out to a stranger and offering to share a meal, you’re showing the love and kindness of our Savior. We never know the obstacles a person overcame just to be sitting in the pew next to us, and thus, how our kindness can point to the Savior. A dinner invitation with a smile can be just the thing someone needs to have the courage to come back next Sunday.
2. You become less self-focused.
The generosity of your time and resources takes the focus off of self and puts it on others. Instead of being consumed with our family’s schedule, spending money on our favorites, we lay aside our agenda and concentrate on what others would prefer (Philippians 2:3–4).
Around the holidays there are plenty of reasons to feel we don’t have enough time for hospitality, but the joy we receive when we open our doors pays us back one hundredfold.
3. Your children can serve with you.
Sunday hospitality at our house is a family affair. All our children are given jobs to help get things ready.
“The kitchen table has a way of breaking down barriers between people.”
This past Sunday, my husband had a lengthy meeting after our service, which meant I needed to rely all the more on the help of my kids. My son swept the leaves off the steps, my 4-year-old picked up his toys that were sprawled all over our family room, my 9-year-old daughter set the table, and my 14-year-old worked alongside me in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and chopping up vegetables. “I love having people over,” she said to me as we diced and sliced.
Over the years she’s listened to stories from missionaries, learned about different careers as people share about their jobs, entertained little ones, and made new friends. I hope the joy she’s experienced in our home will spur her on as she launches from our nest and creates a home of her own.
Power in a Bowl of Soup
I love the thought of visitors, both believers and unbelievers, coming to our churches and receiving multiple invitations to a meal after the service. In a world where so many people feel lost and alone, the church should be a place of comfort and care. Hearts might be softened and defenses lowered over a steaming bowl of soup and conversation. And we might just see them back at church next week.