Memories of my family home linger in the child part of my mind—comfortable clutter, the dining room table a collection center for books and mail and jackets, the rooms decorated with children’s toys. Visitors never seemed offended, but visibly relaxed in the face of all this informality. Ties were loosened, jackets removed, shoes discarded, and feet propped up on the coffee table. My childhood pastor was one visitor who symbolized all who crossed our doorway. He invariably fell asleep on the second-hand mohair sofa murmuring, “This is the only place I can get away to relax…”
True hospitality comes before pride. Mother and Dad knew it had nothing to do with impressing people, but everything to do with making them feel welcome and wanted.
This primary lesson was hard-won for me. Because so many of our church activities are conducted in our homes, for many years it seemed as though I did nothing but clean up after people. One group would leave. I would vacuum. Another group would come and go. I would straighten. Another would eat. I would wash dishes.
Since I am not a housekeeper by nature, it was only natural that my inclination against such work would dominate me on occasion. One morning I picked up a neglected book and began to pursue the world between its pages with delight. By mid-afternoon, couch cushions were tilted crazily, surrounded by my son’s armada of miniature cars. Newspapers tiled the carpet helter-skelter, and dishes stood from last night’s supper, mixed with the remains of the day’s cereal and peanut butter. Then the doorbell rang. it was someone from the church.
Hospitality before pride… I reminded myself dismally. Determined, I welcomed the woman with warmth, invited her into the unsightly rooms and refused to embarrass her with apologies. I consciously let go of my pride and was rewarded with her amazing words, “I used to think you were perfect, but now I think we can be friends!”
From that point I began to apply the precepts learned in my parents’ home and, just in time, for I had been well on my way to becoming so involved in taking care of things that I would have found no time to be a caretaker of people.
Please come back to this blog for the next installment. I will continue to share my thoughts on the contrast between “entertaining” and “hospitality.”
For decades, Karen Mains and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. The are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and churches at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Karen has long had an interest in Christian hospitality and is the author of the best-selling book, Open Heart, Open Home.
An award-winning author of several other books, Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
In addition, pastors will find special resources to help them create effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.