Welcome back for our chapter 7 discussion on Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others by Pat Ennis & Lisa Tatlock. This is part 7 of an eight week discussion on this book. Past chapter summaries can be viewed here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 , part 5 & part 6.We are so glad you decided to join us! I Even if you are not participating in the study, I encourage you to keep reading. Chapter 7 focused on Hospitality & Culture.
Understanding culture is important to hospitality because Scripture clearly teaches the priority of including the stranger or alien in our hospitality endeavors (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:12-21; Ps. 146:9; Heb. 12:2). The nations of the world are coming to America. In fact, in many cities of America, internationals outnumber Caucasians. You do not need to go to a foreign country to be confronted with different cultures and peoples needy of the gospel. We have immigrants, students, and those who are here on business purposes surrounding us if we simply look around.
When international students come to our country, for example, nearly 90% never enter an American’s door! They are new to our culture, surroundings, and experiences, and need love and compassionate people to befriend them and guide them in the process. Many come from closed countries…most are the brightest and best representing their country. Could we make an impact that could result in the spread of the gospel to the nations?
“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul communicates the importance of adapting our methods of communication to fit our audience in a relevant way for the sake of the gospel!
“Hospitality is missions. Hospitality is a tool you can use to love people and make ‘disciples of all nations’ of the world (Matt. 28:18-20). Consideration of culture is a key element in practicing hospitality as you endeavor to model Christ’s love – so ‘that they may be saved’ (1 Cor. 10:33).” (page 200)
Understanding culture includes studying manners, customs, beliefs, religion, values, morals, language, governmental systems, etc. in order that we might be able to relate in a sensitive and understanding manner in our communication.
- Time orientation -In some countries, the clock does not carry the same importance as it does in the United States, thus it is important to be flexible on your guests final arriving time (prepare a meal that won’t ruin if they are late), to plan for additional unexpected guests, and be prepared for them to stay later than you may think.
- Task/goal focus - Don’t over-emphasis the entertaining aspect of hospitality! Remember that most guests will put a higher importance on meaningful conversation that a perfect meal. Never leave a guest alone and prepare questions in advance to stimulate your dialog. Leave the dishes till your guests depart.
- Etiquette – Always be prepared to take a hostess gift or graciously receive a gift as well. Set aside any desire for observing your table etiquette standards. Your international guests may not be familiar with your manners. Building a relationship is the first priority and not teaching them etiquette. In your conversations, make it a priority to listen attentively, speak slowly and clearly, avoid slang, and be prepared to explain words and phrases.
- Food – It is always wise to ask your guests if they have any religious or dietary food restrictions. Serve food in a style that is easily recognized and identifiable.
Above all, be flexible and gracious! Be willing to carefully explain your actions and words. Be slow to laugh at their mistakes or differences, unless they are first laughing! It is so fun to learn about the cultures of the world, and be sure to include your children in the whole process! This will help teach them to have compassion and kindness for different peoples of the world and expand their horizons.
What an opportunity we have before us to lovingly reach out to foreigners all around us! Consider…what different nationalities are you exposed to in your neighborhood, work environment, church, etc?
If you are unfamiliar with ways to begin connecting with foreigners, I would highly encourage you to check out the ministry of International Students Incorporated. ISI is a Christian ministry (discussed in this chapter) devoted to partnering families and individuals with local international students coming into your area to study. The vision is for families to become Friendship Partners with these students by inviting them into their homes (on a monthly or more frequent basis) to share a meal, build friendship, invite them to events, drive students to activities, etc. Another opportunity includes meeting with a student to work on his or her English.
This is a powerful opportunity to incorporate a student into your lifestyle and minister the love of Christ from your home! Aaron & I have been involved with this ministry since last fall and have had the pleasure of reaching out to a Belgium couple last year and now we are currently getting to know an Iranian student. It has made such a significant impact on our lives and been a blessing to reach out to them at the same time.
We will continue this book next time, Monday, April 6, with the final chapter: Hospitality & Ministry. Order your copy today here!
I am interested in hearing what you took away from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or write your thoughts on your blog (and come back and post the link in the comments). No need to share anything profound, just whatever stood out to you.
1. What ideas can you share for being sensitive in communicating with people from different cultures?
2. How can you be more purposeful in including strangers/foreigners in your hospitality practices?