Most pastors and church leaders have probably spent some time studying 1 Tim 3:1-7. This passage outlines the requirements for an elder or overseer. The list of requirements includes such things as marital faithfulness, respectability, and ability to teach. Unfortunately, one of the features of the list seems to get overlooked sometimes. It is the characteristic of hospitality. “An overseer must be…hospital” (1 Tim 3:2). What does a truly hospitable person look like? What do they do? How do they act?

What is Hospitality?

The word that Paul uses for “hospitality” in 1 Tim. 3:2 comes from two different Greek words. The two words are “love,” and “strangers.” That gives us an idea of what the word itself means. It means to “love strangers.” Hospitality is true Christian love toward other people, regardless of the person or of the circumstances. In New Testament times, the concept of opening one’s home to a traveler was absolutely important. With no ‘hospitality industry,’ there were few hotels available. Highway robbers and marauding bands would harm anyone who slept by the roadside. And any public houses were usually brothels. Thus, for Christians, friends, and relatives, exercising hospitality was important.

Hospitality and the Christian Life

Jesus made a big point about hospitality. In fact, in one of his parables (Luke 14:12-14), he stressed the need to exercise hospitality toward everyone, not just friends and relatives. He explained that this includes inviting poverty-stricken people, handicapped people, blind people, disabled people, and people who won’t be able to return the favor someday. Hospitality is about selfless giving, even to people who you may think are beneath your dignity. Hospitality is a key Christian virtue. In addition to the Bible’s constant emphasis upon love, the trait of hospitality is also commanded elsewhere (Rom 12:13; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9).

Pastoral Hospitality is Important for the Pastor’s Flock

Hospitality is not just something for the well-to-do family who has an guest suite for visiting missionaries. The pastor himself should be leading the way in hospitality. The people in his church should be able to look to the pastor as the one setting the example in how to be hospitable. Furthermore, his hospitality will be a means by which he better disciple and teach the people in his church. For a pastor to be aloof and unreachable is damaging to the flock. Rather, he should practice true hospitality towards the people in his congregation. He should invite them into his home, to welcome their company, to be with them. In doing so, he will be able to minister to them in a way that he was unable to before.

Pastoral Hospitality Is Important for Nonbelievers

1 Tim 3:1-7 puts a big emphasis on the pastor’s relationship with nonbelievers. A pastor does not just have a responsibility for an exemplary life before his own church, but also before the world at large. The final verse of the paragraph makes this clear: “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” One of the ways in which the pastor forms a good reputation and testimony is by means of his hospitality. Again, hospitality is not just something we practice toward those who are part of the church. The Bible makes it clear  in various passages (Luke 10:25-37; 14:12-14; Gal. 6:10), that hospitality must be exercised toward nonchristians. Pastors should make an effort to be proactive when it comes to hospitality, inviting neighbors over for meals, helping a neighbor move, pulling over for a stranded motorist, providing relief for the needy or homeless.

Christian hospitality is often thought of as a level of maturity for supersaints and advanced Christians. It’s not. It’s a basic Christian quality that all Christians ought to practice, especially pastors.

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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