CRAIG KRAFT BLOG

Hospitality in the Early Church

Craig Kraft / Monday, June 1, 2020

 

This is the second blog in the series "Understanding Hospitality in a Western Context". The purpose of this series is to help us develop a better understanding of the theology of hospitality. The first blog looked at hospitality in the Bible.  Part two in this series takes a brief look at the importance of hospitality in the early church.Hospitality was one of the factors that led to the discipleship and rapid expansion of the early church.

Hospitality in the Early Church

There are several observable ways in which hospitality contributed to the birth and health of the early church.  A survey of the book of Acts and the epistles provides insights into the role of hospitality in early Christianity.

  • Early missionaries and church planters, like Paul and Peter, were welcomed as guests into people’s homes (Acts 21:1-16).  People’s homes were places of ministry and provided ministry hubs for missionaries and evangelists to be able to reach out to new communities (Acts 28:30).  Hospitality toward strangers provided a practical provision for the advance of the Gospel.
  • The early church met in people’s homes.  This was a demonstration of hospitality that extended to outsiders.  People opened their homes as places of prayer, worship and discipleship.  The Christian church was born in this intimate setting of love and openness to others (Acts 2:46, 12:12, 16:3-5, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1-2).
  • Personal hospitality toward strangers provided opportunities for the gospel to be displayed and shared with people outside of the faith (1 Cor. 16:19, Acts 18:24-28).

Consider that Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Iulianus (Julian the Apostate), in 361-363, referred to Christian charity as a model for the Roman philanthropic system.  “These impious Galileans [Christians] not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes.”[1]  Julian further confirms the practice of Christian hospitality.

Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors.  See their love-feasts, and their tables spread for the indigent.  Such practice is common among them, and causes a contempt for our gods.[2]

Faith based hospitality was slowly replaced by institutional hospitality in the 4th Century with the advent of state funded hostels and hospitals to care for the needy.  Amy Oden traced the development of an institutionalized approach toward hospitality, which ultimately lead to a dereliction of personal hospitality.[3]  This continues to be the case through much of the western world today.

Andrew Arterbury identifies three significant ways in which Christian hospitality was distinct from other pagan forms of hospitality. 

  • First, he demonstrates from Acts that when Christians traveled, instead of seeking family and kinsmen to provide hospitality, they would seek out local believers, a recognition of the family of God aspect of the church. 
  • Second, he recognizes that it is primarily the poor, widows, and traveling missionaries who receive hospitality, people without the means of repaying the host.
  • Third, Arterbury recognizes that it is frequently women, widows, and bishops who are the hospitable hosts in the New Testament which seems unique to the Christian movement.[4]

Does Hospitality Matter Today?

In September 2019 I conducted a survey of 176 churches across Canada.  This research will be provided in its entirety in my doctoral dissertation but to summarize, yes, hospitality makes a significant and measurable difference in churches today.

Churches were asked to describe their practice of hospitality over the past five years.  Those who described their hospitality in terms of welcoming visitors and guests at the church were contrasted with those who were intentional about extending hospitality (love for strangers) to people outside of the church. 

When compared in this way, the churches with a more biblical understanding and practice of hospitality consistently described their churches as being healthier than those who were identified as less hospitable. 

Churches were asked to describe various attributes including leadership, spiritual vitality, use of spiritual gifts, outreach, community, growth, and engagement with “others.”  In each attribute, hospitable churches identified themselves significantly higher and stronger than churches that were less hospitable.  

Hospitality is Making a Difference.

A second part of my research included interviews with churches that had extended hospitality to refugee families. 

Again, every church interviewed indicated that their practice of hospitality toward strangers has had a significant impact on the spiritual vitality of their church.  Churches engaged in a variety of ways but, regardless of what they did, the act of extending love toward strangers had a profound impact on them.  They described their experiences as a lot of work and sometimes exhausting, but at the same time it was life giving and inspiring.  They recognized that by serving refugees they were participating in the mission of God and it was a blessing to them.

We are living in a time when Christianity is in decline in North America.  The percentage of people attending church is in decline and the number of individuals who identify as having no religion is on the rise. 

One way that the church can find new relevance in western society is to rediscover the ancient art of biblical hospitality. 

By extending love to strangers and reaching out to care for the needy in our communities, we are extending the hospitality of God. This is his mission and we are blessed to be able to participate in it. 

The greatest cost is our time.  Are we able to carve out some time in out lives for others? Perhaps one of the greatest sins of western society is our busyness. 

Spiritual revitalization will come when we apply God’s priorities to our schedules and create space in out lives to reach out in love to a stranger.

More Hospitality Resources

1. Hospitality in Scriptures: The first blog post in the series "Understanding Hospitality in a Western Context". Hospitality is a powerful practice with the potential to bring restoration and revitalization to souls in need.  It is a virtue, espoused in scripture, through God’s earliest interactions with the patriarchs right through the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Often misunderstood in our modern western context, hospitality rediscovered allows hosts and guests to experience a taste of God’s love and grace through their interactions with each other. 

2. Welcoming Strangers: Find all our hospitality articles & resources in one place.


Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada.  Craig and his wife Heather have four adult sons.  They were involved in pastoral ministry in western Canada for fifteen years before becoming missionaries with OC.  Craig served with OC in southern Africa and now leads the ministry in Canada. After returning from Africa, Craig assisted with the formation of the OC Global Alliance, a partnership of over one thousand missionaries working around the world.  Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and has recently completed his Doctor of Intercultural Studies degree at the Asia Graduate School of Theology.  His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada.  His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants.

 

 


[1] “Julian the Apostate - New World Encyclopedia,” accessed June 15, 2017, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Julian_the_Apostate. - Quoted from Schmidt, Charles. The Social Results of Early Christianity. (London: Wm. Isbister, 1998), 328

[2] Ibid. – Quoted from Baluffi Gaetano and Denis Gargan.  The Charity of the Church, a Proof of Her Divinity. (Dublin: M.H. Gill and Son, 1885), 16

[3] Amy Oden, And You Welcomed Me: A Sourcebook on Hospitality in Early Christianity (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 215–275.

[4] Andrew E Arterbury, Entertaining Angels: Early Christian Hospitality in Its Mediterranean Setting, New Testament monographs (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005), 96–97.





Stretching out Christmas Stretching out Christmas

If you are like me, you are wishing that we could hold on to Christmas a little bit longer.  I...
Read More..

An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice LOVE An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice LOVE

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of God’s love. Here are 3 suggestions to pract...
Read More..

An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice JOY An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice JOY

If you are like me, then you have days when it is hard to be joyful.  The pandemic has not made me ...
Read More..

An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice PEACE An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice PEACE

Peace. It can be hard to feel peace when the world around us is in such turmoil and uncertainty, bu...
Read More..

An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice HOPE An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice HOPE

Christmas will look different this year, but our Christmas celebrations can still be filled with ho...
Read More..

What will Christmas look like in 2020? What will Christmas look like in 2020?

Christmas is going to look different this year. But our Christmas celebrations can still be filled ...
Read More..

$25 $25

Consider the purchasing power of $25 dollars here in Canada: A movie at the theater with popcorn an...
Read More..
Welcoming Strangers: 4 Opportunities for Hospitality
Welcoming strangers has become one of our greatest needs and significant challenges as Christians in Canada. Here are 4 opportunities, for individuals & churches, to demonstrate hospitality to immigrants and other 'stra...
Read more...
Sharing the Gospel through Social Media
Young Canadians need to hear the gospel message, but where will they hear it? Jesus Cares Canada recognizes that social media provides a great opportunity for fresh, unencumbered access to the Gospel.
Read more...
Visitors or Guests? How Warm is our Welcome?
One day our churches will reopen. As we prepare for that eventuality, churches would do well to discern the difference between treating newcomers as visitors or guests.
Read more...
Stretching out Christmas
If you are like me, you are wishing that we could hold on to Christmas a little bit longer.  I don’t want to take the tree down or put away the decorations.  Is it ok to sing Christmas carols and eat cookies for a ...
Read more...
An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice LOVE
The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of God’s love. Here are 3 suggestions to practice Love during the advent season. 
Read more...
An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice JOY
If you are like me, then you have days when it is hard to be joyful.  The pandemic has not made me feel joyful. Like hope and peace, we can choose to be joyful despite circumstances that are outside of our control. ...
Read more...
An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice PEACE
Peace. It can be hard to feel peace when the world around us is in such turmoil and uncertainty, but God wants us to experience his peace. Here are 3 suggestions to practice Peace during the advent season. 
Read more...
An Advent List: 3 Ways to Practice HOPE
Christmas will look different this year, but our Christmas celebrations can still be filled with hope, peace, joy, love.  Here are 3 suggestions to practice Hope during the advent season. 
Read more...
What will Christmas look like in 2020?
Christmas is going to look different this year. But our Christmas celebrations can still be filled with hope, peace, joy and love. 
Read more...
$25
Consider the purchasing power of $25 dollars here in Canada: A movie at the theater with popcorn and pop. Four or five large specialty coffees. Two months of Netflix. Dinner for two at McDonalds. Today, in India, $...
Read more...
A Canadian Prayer for our American Neighbours on Election Day
A written prayer from Canada for our American Neighbours on Election Day 2020.  
Read more...
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
Join us in praying this Sunday, November 1st, on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. 
Read more...
What is The Church when it is not Meeting Publicly?
What does the church look like when no one is attending? Do we identify the church by the location, facility, staff, programs, and services?  If our understanding of the church is tied to these things, then the church m...
Read more...
Why Canada Needs Biblical Hospitality
Jesus demonstrated how one can balance the tension between pursuing holiness and being a friend of sinners, and he did it through hospitality. 
Read more...
Hospitality in the Early Church
Hospitality was one of the factors that led to the discipleship and rapid expansion of the early church. The second blog in the series "Understanding Hospitality in a Western Context", this blog takes a brief look at th...
Read more...
Hospitality in Scripture
Hospitality is a powerful practice with the potential to bring restoration and revitalization to souls in need.  It is a virtue, espoused in scripture, through God’s earliest interactions with the patriarchs right throu...
Read more...
Welcoming Strangers
A biblical understanding of how Christians should welcome strangers is imperative for our day.  How do we demonstrate love toward people who are very different from us?  We must learn how to see others the way God sees ...
Read more...
15 Suggestions for Today: A Response to COVID 19
Our world is changing by the minute. We are familiar with the stories of fear and panic, but I am encouraged to see people sharing positive stories about how people are helping each other in times of crisis. Here are 15...
Read more...
The Search for Meaning 2.0: Multiple Confirmations
Part 2.0 of The Search for Meaning. How should we pray when considering major life-changing opportunities? This is Craig's story of how God provided multiple confirmations to his family as they contemplated a move to Af...
Read more...
The Search for Meaning: 5 Simple Steps
5 Simple Steps to Search for God's Unique Purpose for your Life. How do we invite or search for a unique and life-changing opportunity to serve God? Finding our purpose in a changing world need not be complicated.
Read more...
A Season for Peace
We view Christmas as a season of peace, but does December really feel peaceful?  Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace. What does His peace look like in the midst of regular life, including the difficult time...
Read more...
What does Christmas Look Like?
I know the ideal Christmas looks different to each one of us. I wonder if God has an ideal image of Christmas that he wants to develop in our minds. For many, thoughts of Christmas involve family gatherings, f...
Read more...
Giving Thanks when Life Sucks
There are so many things that happen in our lives that just suck.  How can we give thanks when times are tough? Is it really God’s will that all these bad things happen in our lives? A simple understanding of how we can...
Read more...
Diaspora. Diaspor...what?
What is Diaspora? And how should this word affect our lives & ministry? Find out more about Diaspora, what it means, and what's new at Outreach Canada with what we believe is a very important area of ministry. 
Read more...
A Prayer for the Day After the Election
A Prayer for Canada after the Election... Our gracious and almighty Father, we praise you for your powerful presence in our lives and in our world.  We praise you for your faithfulness through all of time.  We prai...
Read more...
5 People You Might Want to Thank
We all have so much to be grateful for, but sometimes we get stuck in a routine of being thankful for the same things over and over. I would like to encourage you today to share your gratitude with these five people. Yo...
Read more...
This is my Story: Fisherman to Fisher of Men
Meet Craig Kraft. The Executive Director of Outreach Canada. This is his story... Growing up as a pastor’s kid seemed like a special privilege to me. I became a follower of Jesus at a very young age, and literally ...
Read more...
Our Big Thing
I am often asked to describe what OC is or what we do. It can be hard to describe, like the engine of a car. Our team is made up of a lot of different parts that work together to accomplish one big thing.
Read more...
From Risky Experiment to Great Success
In 2009, in response to its growing opportunites and challenges, One Challenge (OC) International took a big risk to respond to its growing international ministries. One Challenge International was founded in 1952 ...
Read more...
 

 

2 - 7201 72 Street Delta BC V4G 1M5