by Joel Comiskey, summer 2019
We’ve lived in Moreno Valley long enough to see myriads of houses constructed. As I’ve passed by the new tracks of homes, I’ve often dreamed of the day when those homes are used for a dual purpose: for normal living and to reach a lost world for Jesus Christ. Traditionally, people leave their home to go to church and then go back to their homes to live. I long for the day when the church is in the home, and the planting of new churches primarily involves the use of existing homes. The early church movement flowed along those lines.
The gospel initially spread through believers who traveled widely and depended on the hospitality of others. The travel of church members and their ministry involvement would not have been possible without the assistance from believers. Paul asked Philemon to prepare quarters for him in his own house because he, like other traveling missionaries, depended on the homes of the early Christian believers (Philemon 22).
Such hospitality was not only practical, but was seen as actually participating in the gospel ministry. John the apostle says, “You are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. . . . It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth” (3 John 1:5-8).
Today we have private homes with security fences to keep people out. We often have small group meetings and no one knows about it except for other small group members. So how can we bridge the gap between the house church meetings in the first century and meeting in homes today?
One of the principal ways to imitate the early church success is found in the practice of hospitality. Cell ministry often fails to expand because of the lack of hospitality among church members. Instead of seeing their homes as God’s possessions, people view them as their own castles.
Hospitality begins with leadership. If those with key leadership positions do not open their homes, most likely others will not either. Sharing meals with other leaders, with other group members, and with neighbors will elevate the experience of community throughout the church. It will also redeem the home and provide practical ways of making it a center for ministry.
I just returned from ministry in Salta, Argentina. I ate lunch at the home of Daniel and Anika, the lead pastors, along with Felipe and Ester, the associate pastors. I felt the power of Christian hospitality during the meal and then discovered that both couples open their own homes to a cell group each week. They are exemplifying the hospitality that they want the other members and leaders to follow.