I live on a street where the men have a habit of watering the front lawn by hand with a garden hose. I’m sure their wives are asking, “Why can’t you use a sprinkler?” The men probably argue that a sprinkler wastes water. But, deep down, the real reason is that it gives the men an excuse to get out of their messy house full of hungry, screaming kids at 5:00 p.m.
One afternoon, I was watering my front lawn by hand when I noticed that every other neighbor was doing the same thing. Suddenly, one of the neighbors ran inside and came back out with a six-pack of beer to share with the other men. So now all of us men are standing in front of our houses, watering our lawns, drinking beer, and making small talk.
After a while, our wives start coming out to investigate what’s taking us so long. When they see us drinking beer, they go inside and come back out with a bottle of wine. After some more time, the children start coming out of the houses to see what’s going on and beg for food. So I order some pizza and invite the neighbors and their children into our backyard to eat. The neighbors and their children keep hanging out in our backyard and living room after dinner.
What happened here? We did our own creative version of coffee, dinner, gospel—except that it was beer, pizza, gospel. We were able to move from front yard conversations to backyard conversations—from public-space conversations to private-space conversations.
We need to look for our own creative ways to do hospitality. For many of us, the traditional forms of hospitality are impossible. Maybe we’re still living at home with our parents. Or maybe we’re living in the back of a car. Who knows? But that’s where we can find work-arounds. We can order coffee for them and then pay for it—our treat! Or we can turn up at someone’s place with a pizza. Or we can bake a cake and share it. In all of these examples, we still end up creating a space where we eat and drink together. And, ultimately, sharing food allows us to connect, relate, and talk.
Hospitality is costly. It costs time, effort, and money. It’s a form of generosity. But hospitality gives us social capital. It allows us to earn our friends’ trust so we can talk about things that matter. And if we’ve been generous to them, then they will most likely reciprocate by listening to our views, even if they don’t agree with what we’re saying. Hospitality also makes the host vulnerable—we’re opening up our private homes to our guests. But in doing so, hospitality invites the guests to be vulnerable in return. This is a safe space where they can talk about private matters that are weighing on their hearts.
Chan, Sam, and Ed Stetzer. 2020. How to Talk about Jesus (without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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