Hospitality vs. Entertainment

By Dustin Willis

Hospitality is NOT about entertaining.

What have you historically thought about when you hear the word hospitality? Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, Southern Living, cleaning, cooking, setting the table, coordinating colors, Pinterest, plate arrangements, table decorations?

This perception of hospitality means providing a flawless menu, an unsurpassed environment, and the perfect conversation. It’s like trying to provide the magical experience of Disney within the confines of your home. This ideal carries with it a load of pressure, and when you feel that crushing weight, you are not practicing biblical hospitality—you are entertaining.

Entertaining isn’t about loving people. It’s about impressing people. And trying to impress people isn’t loving them. It’s loving yourself. There is distinct difference in entertaining and hospitality. One falsely builds up self, while the other is drenched in the sincere love of Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection.”

Entertaining vs. practicing hospitality

Author Jen Wilkin, offers clarity between the eerily similar but vastly different practices:

* Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story.
* Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared.
* Entertaining, exhausted, says, “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.
* Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.

The pressure is off

The gospel says the pressure is off. You’re freed to love people because there’s no need to impress them.

You don’t have to give folks Disney World every time you open the doors of your home. Give them you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to make good food. That’s a great way to serve people. If you can’t cook well, order takeout. Don’t poison anyone with your lack of culinary skills—that’s not entertainment or hospitality, that’s just wrong. It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wipe down the table so it’s clean enough to eat on. That’s something you should do regardless of whether or not you understand Jesus-centered hospitality.

No more excuses

But—and this is an important but—the excuse, “We can’t have people over, the house is a mess!” is no longer valid. Can I let you in on a secret? Most people have been in a house before. Many people even live in them, and they know houses get messy. It’s okay for them to see evidence of everyday life. We’re inviting folks into real life in a way that they get to know the real us, and feel comfortable enough to be their real selves, which leads to real community.

Relax and let people see you and how God’s grace meets you in your messy life.

Hospitality is about relational posture and attitude far more than any amount of skill, action, or practice. It’s a heart that says, Yes, there is room in my life for you. This requires that you work to be open and honest, bring your best to the table, and encourage others with the goodness of God. These practices will allow others to feel welcomed through your efforts.

You could have an open house and not have an open life, but it is near impossible to have an open life and not have an open home.

This is one area where you may be at an advantage if you are more introverted. Sure, you may not desire to have thirty people in your home every night, but what about building a relationship with one person? You can talk in greater depth rather than attempt the vast array of relationships that extroverts may desire. You, as an introvert, can go deeper while others, who are extroverts, can go wider. As gospel communities we are called to give up the isolated view of our homes. By pursuing hospitality, we grow from a self-focused, self-centered way of life and use our homes as a tool for displaying the gospel.

Portions of this blog have been taken from Dustin’s book, Life in Community.


Published August 13, 2015

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per week chock full of articles from a variety of Send Network voices.

Dustin Willis

Dustin Willis is the co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God and The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life. He is author of Life in Community. Dustin lives in Atlanta with his wife, Renie, and their two kids, Jack and Piper. You can follow Dustin on twitter at @dustinwillis.