The Hospitality Commands
Building Loving Christian Community, Building Bridges to Friends and Neighbors
Publisher: Lewis & Roth
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
It goes without saying that the Western world rat-race has infected the church. Our perennial busyness militates against ministry of time and presence. The ancient Christian practice of hospitality has suffered as a result, to the detriment of Christian community in general. In his booklet The Hospitality Commands, Alexander Strauch estimates that each church may have only one or two couples known for hospitality, which he sees as a tragedy.
Strauch’s lament is neither guilt-inducing nor shrill, however. Calling hospitality a “missing crown jewel” in the church, he grounds the necessity of hospitality in God’s command to the church to carry out His mission in the world:
As Bible believing Christians…We need to rediscover the New Testament’s dynamic teaching on hospitality. We need to awaken Christians to their scriptural duty to practice hospitality. We need to show the rich blessings that await all who practice hospitality. We need a fresh vision of hospitality’s potential for strengthening our churches and for reaching our neighbors and friends with the gospel.
Hospitality engenders Christian community (Strauch uses the older yet fresher term “brotherhood”), launches gospel outreach to unchurched friends and neighbors, and welcomes those we might not normally invite into our home: the marginalized, the grief-stricken, the unstable, those of a different social class or race. It also helps to mortify our own selfishness. Ironically, “[f]or many people, hospitality is practiced only to meet their own social needs.”
This book can be read quickly, but I would advise against doing so. I recall when my church spent six weeks studying it (I should mention the study guide is three sessions long and tracks sequentially with the book’s chapters although it is not subdivided in the same way), and even then we did not exhaust its contents. I would encourage you to read it with open Bible, to look up and study all Strauch’s references, and to consider each hint and tip (of which there are many) with a view to personal assessment of and immediate application to your own hospitality habits – of the lack thereof.
Strauch’s booklet on hospitality deserves the epithet ‘short and sweet’ ‘ it is obviously brief at 64 pages inclusive of a study guide; it is ‘sweet’ because Strauch’s writing is both artful and straightforward. While there are many longer treatments of this often-neglected Christian discipline, the brevity of Strauch’s book means that its readers can get right down to brass tacks: hosting people for meals and visits in their home. In two words, doing hospitality!