Q: I just read your post on hospitality and the outline of your talk. I can certainly see the importance and the clear Biblical call to hospitality. But what do you do when you're an introvert, and your husband is an introvert, and you DEFINITELY do not feel you have the gift of hospitality??
This is something I'm totally struggling with right now. We're in a new town and both of us have a hard time making conversation with strangers. We feel awkward and uncomfortable around groups of new people. We'd love to be the kind of people who can draw others out and make them feel totally at ease and welcome...but we aren't! We both love to talk when we're around people we know well, but reaching out to strangers? We're at a total loss.
I've made cookies for all our neighbors at Christmas, trying to do something small to reach out, but there aren't really any natural opportunities to build relationships. So although this hospitality thing is something I feel guilty for not doing, I'm just not sure what to do.
I'm not sure I even have a specific question I'm asking...just lamenting and hoping for some advice, I guess. Any thoughts??
A: I hope it encourages you to know this, but some of the best people I know at drawing others out are actually introverts. They've submitted themselves to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, so there is a Spirit-controlled aspect to their natural personality, if you will. Extroverts need to talk less about themselves and introverts need to make the effort to reach out to others. Both temperaments are concerned about themselves, but it is expressed in different ways. I think it's only the work of the Holy Spirit to teach us to get beyond our self-interests to consider the interests of others as being more important than ourselves.
But there are practical things we can do to submit ourselves to the "stretching" of the Holy Spirit. I think first we have to recognize that the hospitality commands in Scripture are not limited by natural temperament or besetting sin patterns. Extrovert or introvert, we are all called to be hospitable. We are also called to go into all the world to preach the gospel and make disciples. So the first step, I would think, would be to study these portions of Scripture and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to change our natural inclinations to match God's heart on this subject. And then pray for the people we would like to reach out to. The Lord has promised that the fields are ripe for harvest, but He wants us to pray for the laborers. Why? Well, obviously we need His help to get motivated to go out to the lost (again, irrespective of temperament).
Then there are practical steps we can take. One is to practice our skills at getting to know other people. It takes creative listening skills to hear what someone is saying and make the leap to an inspired question for follow-up. I'm learning to do this myself. An extrovert's fallback tendency during any lull in the conversation is to link back to a personal anecdote. It seems to keep the conversation lively, but it is not helpful in getting to know someone else. So I need to practice the art of asking good, insightful questions as much as anyone else. There are books out there about asking good questions, so I would recommend browsing through a few of those and squirreling away a few good questions for the lull.
Ultimately, we want to understand how we came to connect with the people around us. What led them to study for the field they are in? What led them to move to this area? What do they most look forward to on the weekends? What kind of travel do they enjoy? What books would they recommend to someone else? And so on. Pundits say that the people we consider the most fascinating are the ones who get us to talk about ourselves.
So as we take a real interest in others, the "events" will fall in line. If we're praying for others, I think the Lord will inspire us to consider inviting them to dinner, for a cup of coffee, to go to a sports game, to attend a party, to meet for brunch, whatever.
Finally, for those who get anxious thinking about reaching out to others, or for those who immediately start considering how they can impress with their entertaining skills, I would recommend Ed Welch's book When People Are Big and God Is Small, listed at right. That book addresses what the Bible calls "fear of man" or what is commonly termed as approval-addiction, co-dependency, anxiety disorder, and so on. If we are threatened by opening up to others or if we unduly strive to impress them or earn their approval, we are caught in the fear of man. If we are more concerned with what other fellow-sinners think of us, rather than what the Lord thinks of us, we won't make much headway in offering genuine hospitality.
So those are some of my suggestions off the top of my head. Does anyone else have a God-centered testimony to share about cultivating a heart of hospitality?