Shepherding with Hospitality
This article appears in the July edition of Tabletalk magazine.
All Christians are to practice hospitality (Heb. 13:2). But elders are to be so engaged in this practice that it characterizes them (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). In so many words, Paul told Timothy and Titus that elders not only need to go and seek God’s sheep; they also need to bring them into the fold of the shepherd’s home.
At least three benefits come to the congregation when its pastors and elders open their homes to the flock. First, hospitality supplies experiential love. An elder’s having members of the congregation in his home demonstrates a special care for them. You learn about one another in ways that simply are not possible at Sunday morning worship. Sharing a meal and laughter around a table brings a needed warmth to the gospel that is preached in the church. Shepherds are testifying to their congregants that the true Shepherd loves them so much that He is preparing an eternal home for them (Ps. 23:1, 5).
Second, hospitality provides Christian modeling. In my years of pastoral experience, I am grateful that I have served alongside elders who are hospitable. Many of the people brought into our congregation by the gospel did not come from Christian homes. By hosting them, the elders provided wonderful models of the gospel in many ways. Elder hospitality gave new Christians the opportunity to see how a believing husband and wife treat one another. Guests witnessed how parents are to raise and discipline their children. They not only heard about family worship but participated in it. They witnessed what a home devoted to Christ looks like. Being in the home of a shepherd helped them learn more deeply what following Christ requires.