The following is an excerpt from Jen Schmidts’s new study, Just Open the Door. Order your copy or see a free sample today at LifeWay.com/JustOpenTheDoor. You can also pick up a copy at your local LifeWay Store. We’ve also included some fun, free downloads at the end of this post to celebrate this new study!
My Norman Rockwell image of cozy, home-based hospitality was dropkicked into the end zone when I first realized that Jesus, the One we model hospitality after, never had a permanent address.
If I peeked at how you define hospitality, you most likely mention something having to do with hosting people in our homes, right? Yet our Lord who embodied the ultimate lifestyle of hospitality—the style guide, the living portrait of all things welcome—never owned a house, but He still initiated hospitality everywhere He went.
Throughout Scripture, this amazing Host teaches what it means to invite others into a new way of life, yet He never stayed in one place for long. He always traveled where needed, and met people where they were at in the most unlikely places, creating a safe place of belonging as He walked.
First John 2:6 shows us that Jesus walked the road of welcome and offered the gift of invitation whenever, wherever, and with whomever He came into contact. He is still the embodiment of all things Home.
If your schedule looks anything like mine, this could be an aha moment like it was for me. While Scripture is clear about its mandate to welcome others into our homes, this gives such freedom to proactively choose an enlarged vision of hospitality that looks different from what we originally imagined. The essence of hospitality stems from our spiritual hearts, not our physical homes.
Paul reminds us that, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8, NIV). I can share my life. Anything I know about gathering people I learned from Him anyhow, so if Jesus walked the road of welcome, so can I.
This doesn’t mean it comes easy. I remember stewing with resentment for weeks after our kids signed up for football. Our schedule was already crazy and then we added practices that I’d unknowingly agreed to. Personal time was nonexistent and the “real” ministry opportunities I wanted to be a part of fell by the wayside.
One day, it was as though the Lord tackled me (it was football after all), saying something like, “Jen, quit complaining and wasting time. You signed up for this and agreed to this schedule, so choose to bring Me glory in the midst of it.” That’s when my aha moment hit. I couldn’t quite contain my newfound excitement. When I thought I didn’t have time to add one more thing to my plate, I saw how the Greatest Commandment, Christ’s Great Commission, and sharing my life with others could intertwine on the sidelines.
I laced up my shoes and got walking right to the sidelines of our kids’ sports field. I embraced my new motto, “Hospitality Will Travel” and added it to my manifesto, and it completely shifted how I did life with others. I looked at how Jesus modeled His Father’s love in tangible ways as He walked the road of welcome by extending simple, intentional invitations. Often, He connected meeting a physical need with a spiritual need.
We learn to make room for one more because He first made room for one more. We invite others to the table because He demonstrated the beauty of life done together. We initiate, invite, and gather because He did it first. He is the model of all things welcome and His invitations are simple.
With footballs flying around me, I made a conscious choice right then and there to alter my attitude. I released my previous plans for those free practice hours and instead of viewing them as something I had to endure, I offered them to the Lord and reminded myself, Jen, you don’t have to; you get to.
For the next few months, the sidelines became my new home, and the families involved became my people. I packed up my love of hospitality and brought it with me to the football field, while the Lord and I exchanged a few high fives over the idea that this is where He’d placed me for this season. Different nationalities, different social and economic backgrounds, varying political affiliations—He’d brought them all to this field and put them right in front of me. “Look what you get to do,” I could almost hear Him saying, “go have fun!”
That year was revolutionary. I approached practice time with an elevated vision. I’d sit on the bleachers, on the sidelines, or behind the concession stands, wondering those earlier questions, Who can I love on today? Who needs encouragement? Nothing fancy. No special skills needed. No agenda. I started paying attention. I started observing. (If I’d had a phone at that time, it would have meant turning it off and looking around.) I brought blankets, snacks, and toys for our babies and asked other moms to join me. The blanket became our table and the two-hour practice a bridge for new community. Even on those days when this mama arrived worn and weary, I had no special expectation except, I’m here to share life with you. Come sit if you want.
We’ve all probably heard plenty of sermons on the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). It can seem daunting, overwhelming, and even scary. We might feel guilty because we don’t have the time or resources to fly overseas and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We may wonder if we’re capable of clearly articulating the good news so that we do the gospel justice, yet in this context, it all changes.
On those football sidelines, as I looked to my right and left, God had brought the nations to me. Women sitting beside me needed the love of Jesus, and I knew how to share it because I needed it myself. And let me tell you, He started showing up in that place, right there over the kids’ Goldfish® crackers and applesauce.
It’s a pretty radical concept. Hospitality as an on-the-go lifestyle. Hospitality: will travel. But since when has anything Jesus modeled turned out to be anything less than radical?
Please don’t underestimate this. Living on mission is a powerful force. God has called, equipped, and appointed you to do amazing things right where you are—in whatever role you work or serve. Look for those opportunities. Pay attention and seize those moments. At school, at the grocery store, with neighbors, or wherever, you have the opportunity to be the difference in someone’s seemingly ordinary day. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship” (Rom. 12:1).
It’s hard to say no to hospitality on the go when God’s asking you to offer whatever is already on your schedule to Him.
As I type this, our football player is getting ready to play his final collegiate game. It’s been fourteen years since I first offered my makeshift blanket table to others. If you’d have told me then that the launching pad for our family’s greatest area of spiritual significance would occur by pitching ourselves on the sidelines of a sports field and taking our hospitality on the go, I’d have stated, “That’s not possible.” I would have been wrong.
The power of your faithful presence, showing up over and over right where you’re planted, can change a generation as you welcome others and point them to the Ultimate Inviter.
Want to learn more about this new study? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at LifeWay.com/JustOpenTheDoor.
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