April 12, 2023
In this second of three Podcasts on the subject of Christian Hospitality, David and Karen Mains discuss a critically important aspect of planning for your time of extending hospitality.
In your preparation to extend Christian hospitality, along with what is served, think about questions you might ask that will result in your guests feeling they have been listened to and understood.
David: The Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, chapter 3, begins, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer or a bishop, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer or bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-control, respectable, and…” What’s next, Karen?
Karen: “Given to hospitality.”
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go podcast, featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife, noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: Okay, Karen, we’re kind of in the middle between some bigger topics. We’ll have one topic that we’ll deal with a number of podcasts but we’re splicing these in on a topic that’s very close to you which is hospitality. And we’re spending a couple of visits on this. When people hear that word, hospitality, what comes to mind?
Karen: Well, I think for many people, it’s the concept of entertaining which is actually different from hospitality and the guru on this in our country is Martha Stewart. She’s done a beautiful job making a brand name for herself. I went through all of her magazines and looked for the word hospitality. As far as I could tell, it was not used in her output in any way. So, her concept of entertaining says you have beautiful rooms, you have well-prepared food, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But the scriptural concept of hospitality is totally different. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit we’re taught. So, it should be doing spiritual work as well as just making people feel welcome.
David: Okay, I’m going to put into a sentence where I want to head this visit, okay? In your preparation to extend Christian hospitality, along with what is served, think about questions you might ask that will result in your guests feeling they have been listened to and understood. That’s the bottom line. And I would like to go to this last week in our lives, okay? We had several times that I could relate to where we extended Christian hospitality. Let’s talk about the one that was last Sunday, okay?
Karen: We are in a small church, and we live in a small community outside of Chicago. And so, we’ve decided in the last part of our lives to concentrate on this community and see if we can be a part of the Lord working in it. And so, we visited 18 churches. This was the last church we visited and if there were more than 30 people in that congregation, I don’t know where they are. So, it’s been easy to just say, “Well, come for dinner after church.” And we have lined people up so we get to know them. But what we’re really interested in is not so much to exercise entertaining, but to use the spiritual gift of hospitality to really get to know these people. We want them to feel heard. We want them to feel understood.
David: And we want to enter into their Christian experience and let them enter into ours. So, part of what we did, we said, “Pop up. Come into the house and just have brunch and talk about our backgrounds.” And these people are in their 70s. We’re in our 80s.
Karen: They’ve been married, I think they said 20 years or so. And they were not Christians when they got married either. So, there’s that past history.
David: Yeah, they brought the dessert. You usually say, you know, if they say, “Can I do anything? Yeah, I say “Yes.
Karen: Yeah, take the dessert off of me.” I’m not good at doing desserts.
David: But we asked them, we sat down, you do all the niceties, then we sat down and said, “Tell us a little bit about your faith journey.” And then we entered into just an absolutely wonderful time. In fact, there were different people back then.
Karen: How they met as a couple, and they got their history pre-salvation which was absolutely fascinating. They were truck drivers who had their own rig, right?
David: Well, he was not a teamster but he’s been a truck driver for a long time. I mean they’re telling these big, big rigs. Finally gave up because they were coming back over the mountains when it was a snowstorm and if you hit the brakes the truck just keeps sliding. “We probably need to get out of this.” And so they’re processing their lives. Where they are and everything. But we laugh together. And then they talked about how Christ was a part of their lives. But because, Karen, as you said, “Okay we have guests coming.” Part of the preparation is not only the food but it’s also saying, “How do we guide a conversation”? And that was the easiest thing in the world because the conversation just took off and it was all about what Christ had done in their lives. It was a wonderful time. In fact at a certain point, they said “Well, we’ve been here a long time. We’ve been here for about three hours. But it went by so quickly. It felt like three hours, and we bonded. It became a wonderful time of becoming beautiful friends. They were the kind of people you say “Hi” on a Sunday morning. You don’t know anything about them at all.
Karen: Maybe not get to know them very well.
David: And they were also good at reciprocating and say “Tell us about your experience.” It just was a wonderful, wonderful experience.
Karen: They had one wonderful story where they had become Christians and they became a part of a local ministry and wanted to jump in and help. The ministry was raised up to serve the underprivileged and so feeling like the Lord had asked them to, they sold all of their possessions. Did they sell their house, too?
Karen: Everything and they donated all that money to this ministry and only to find out that the leader of the ministry, he wasn’t a pastor, took all that money and spent it.
David: It was a scam.
Karen: It was a scam. So instead of letting that turn them off from following the Lord, somehow God was so present in their lives that they just kept on. I think these are people who keep on keeping on. It’s part of their DNA. It was wonderful.
David: And it could have been the whole time was spent and we’d never gotten to that. But we’ve learned how to get to the substantive conversation and realize how much we share together in the Lord.
Karen: And that’s by asking questions.
David: Interesting Karen. The next morning, on Monday morning, I had breakfast with a gentleman who’s kind of processing what it means to be a Christian. We’ve had different conversations, but the same kind of thing happened. It’s harder when you’re in a restaurant because you can’t sit there for three and a half hours. But it was again that same kind of conversation. And I’m very aware that I can steer that conversation to spiritual things and a lot was accomplished in that encounter as well. I don’t know that a lot of people understand how to do this. However, and that’s kind of where we are in say, “asking questions.” It’s not as though you’re prying into people’s lives. It’s a “Talk about your faith journey. I’m kind of interested in how that happened.”
Karen: They open up and begin to share. So, what we want to do in this podcast is kind of do an anatomy of question asking. And I remember this started in my life.
David: Asking questions. You’re talking.
Karen: Yes, asking questions. When I was in high school there was a whole dormitory of Wheaton College freshman student boys who lived just half a block down the hill from my parents’ house. And so, they decided…
David: You were a fair game.
Karen: I was fair game. I was in senior and high school. So, they started to date me. In order to avoid those awkward conversations, I even then hated superficial conversations where you hadn’t had some sort of really substantive discussion. I began to say “Okay. the conversation lags, what are some questions I can ask that will take us to another level”? So, I began to write those questions out and I didn’t pull the questions out from my pocketbook or whatever I had because they were written on the little card. I just kept them in my head and that changed that entire environment. Everything.
David: I had to fight some of those guys off when I discovered who you were.
Karen: It made my relationship with those young men very deep and tender and caring. And so that’s a practice I took on when I met you. But you also have adapted it. You’re just wonderful at asking those questions. Can be the seat partner on an airplane, you begin to ask them questions and things open up and they go deeper and what we found that we’re doing is filling the deep, deep need in every human heart to be heard and understood. All of us want to be heard and understood and when we feel heard and understood we also feel at least for that brief, shiny moment.
David: Yeah, you’ve said it before but say it again what that is like.
Karen: It’s to be known. To be known.
David: But it sets off this happy dance.
Karen: Okay. So, our friend Roger Vieth is a neurosurgeon and he told me, “Do you know what happens when people feel heard and understood”? Well, I knew something happened but I certainly didn’t know what happened according to his field of scientific study. Well, the body, it seems, is created to want to be known and when it feels known the neurological system in the body begins to react positively and when I ask people to describe me what they feel like in their bodies, “What is your body feel like right now”? They’ll use words like “I feel warm, I feel like I’m held, I feel like I’m safe.” And it’s just an extraordinary experience to hear people say that. All you have done is ask questions and listen. So, something else is going on here and I think it’s because it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s not just a neurological response. I think the Holy Spirit is innervating whatever parts of the body innervate after that.
David: No question about that. Here in the last podcast, I referred to this quotation from your book, Open Heart, Open Home. It says, in this inhospitable world a Christian home is a miracle to be shared. Years ago, how long ago did you write that book?
Karen: Oh, it was early in our marriage. We were still at Circle Church. But it was the first book I wrote. I could go back to the copyright date. But it’s been decades.
David: Decades is a fair statement. The publisher of that book had a poster made with those words on it. It’s a simple poster, but it looks nice. It’s three-color and they sent that to us. I don’t know why, but they did.
Karen: It was a gift.
David: The very large one, which still hangs in one of our basement rooms. But now we have decided, just as a reminder to people to have those printed up there in the process of actually being printed, they’ll fit into a 9×12 frame. In this inhospitable world, a Christian home is a miracle to be shared. That’s not only a miracle for the other guys. It’s a miracle for the people who are sharing their home and learning how to bring the presence of Christ into those conversations. And so that everyone, when they leave, that there’s incredible love for one another. It’s unbelievable how good you feel when that’s happened.
Karen: I don’t believe we’ve ever had anyone in our home who left, or I thought, “Oh, thank goodness, they’re gone.” Because we have done this questioning procedure and because the Holy Spirit activates through that kind of gift of hospitality. You just come away feeling so bonded, so tender, so privileged to have had this time to spend with those folk and to get to know them.
David: And that sentence kind of encapsulates what we’re doing. saying. So, we’re in the process of getting those ready as people have begun to say, “I’d like to have a copy of that.” If a listener wants one of those, we’re not saying “Send a gift to such and such.” We’re just saying, let us know what your address is, and we will get around to it when we have all the different materials we need and we’ll send it to you. All you have to do is say, “I’d like to have one of those.”
Karen: And Dean will provide that contact information. Let me summarize just a bit. Okay, we’re saying that this hospitality is a gift of the Holy Spirit. So, there’s something supernatural that goes on and that scripture teaches that. Particularly when we exercise it in the name of Christ. We’re saying you want to be more concerned about the environment of getting to know one another that you helped to create. You can do food and you can do, you know, the traditional entertaining ideas. That’s fine. But this is more important than all of those things. If you have to abandon the concept of getting to know one another on this deep level because you have so many things you have to do to create an environment of inviting people, then make that environment simple and we’ll give you some ideas on that in the next podcast. How do you make it easy? How to make hospitality easy?
David: I have a feeling that the next podcast is going to make it harder for people because we’re going to push this even more. When we say, “In this inhospitable world”, that’s what our country has become. People with tremendous pain in their lives and no one to listen to what they’re experiencing, but we’re going to go that direction next time.
Karen: The statistics on loneliness alone in America are just horrendous. The suicide rate is up among older men and younger college age and of high school girls. I mean, we are in a sad place and this gift of hospitality, as we’ve described it, can make a huge difference in assuaging that kind of pain in our country. society.
David: We will not complete all of our thoughts regarding hospitality but we kind of continue to poke at it because it’s something the Lord has laid on our hearts that we feel very keenly about. And it’s something that is so much easier to do in the home than it is in a church situation. I mean you can have a potluck at the church but that tends to not get in any heavy conversation as to where people are in terms of heartbreak. But Christian people are very good at it once they pick up the knack and they say all I need to do is kind of give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to move in and people become believers. Terrible hurts are resolved. Bitterness that has been for years and years in people’s lives. It’s like the Holy Spirit just moves in in a phenomenal way and that’s what we’re talking about. It’s not something that is intellectual, it’s something that is highly emotional and good.
Karen: And deeply spiritual.
David: Yeah, that’s very good. So those are not just clever words. In this inhospitable world a Christian home is a miracle to be shared.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s all lower-case letters: email@example.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
Get your copy of Open Heart Open Home.
November 22, 2023
November 15, 2023