Missional Hospitality

Vivo 2018
Workshop: Let’s Have a Carne Asada!
Rev. Marq Toombs
7 October 2018

Missional Hospitality
is loving others
with the gospel of grace
around a table
with food and drink
and conversation.


It started one Easter morning with a sunrise service and a desayuno. It was raining cats and dogs, but los hermanos llegaron bien temprano. After the service we gathered for desayuno and feasted on chilaquilles and sweet breads and cafecito. We did it again the following Easter, except the Anglos were invited. By the third year, we were worshiping and fellowshiping together.

Next thing you know we organized a carne asada and met after worship at the park. We had three grills full of meats. The whole church came out, along with many friends. Strangers and curiosity seekers were invited to join us for tacos.

When our congregation became cross-cultural we made every effort to gather the church for meals. We have done carne asadas, fish fries, Tex-Mex fellowship meals, and more. Not only at the church, but in parks, yards, and homes.

When we formed missional communities to gather during the week, our Spanish-speaking MC proved to be the most missional. Hardly a week goes by that some unbeliever or seeker is not present for Bible Study, prayer, and cena.

All this grows out of our understanding of the meaning and purpose of tables and meals in the life and ministry of Jesus.


[Texts and stories from the Gospel of Luke]

In his wonderful book, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table, Tim Chester poses a thought question.

How would you complete the sentence: “ The Son of Man came . . .”?

There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came . . .”

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many ” ( Mark 10: 45 ); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” ( Luke 19: 10 ); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . . ” ( Luke 7: 34).

He ate and drank (with outsiders / sinners) so often that his critics called him a glutton and a drunkard.

A careful reading of Luke reveals that Jesus treated all meals as if they were “sacramental” — as if they were little signs and symbols of grace that pointed to the big sign and symbol of the grace of God in the eucharist. Why?

In Jesus’ view, ordinary tables were extensions and reflections of the extraordinary table of the Lord. They bridge the gap between the lost world and the Lord’s table. They are stepping stones to the eucharist.

Ordinary tables are missional, the extraordinary table is liturgical / ecclesial — both are “sacramental”.

As Tim Chester observes,

Jesus spent his time eating and drinking — a lot of his time. He was a party animal. His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine. Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people:

  • In Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi.
  • In Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal.
  • In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the five thousand.
  • In Luke 10 Jesus eats in the home of Martha and Mary.
  • In Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law at a meal.
  • In Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends.
  • In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus.
  • In Luke 22 we have the account of the Last Supper.
  • In Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem.

Chester, Tim. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (p. 13). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Note how all the little (missional) tables lead to the big (liturgical) Table.


Robert Karris concludes: “In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal or coming from a meal.”

Peter Leithart says: For Jesus “ feast ” was not just a “ metaphor ” for the kingdom. As Jesus announced the feast of the kingdom, He also brought it into reality through His own feasting. Unlike many theologians, He did not come preaching an ideology, promoting ideas, or teaching moral maxims. He came teaching about the feast of the kingdom, and He came feasting in the kingdom. Jesus did not go around merely talking about eating and drinking; he went around eating and drinking. A lot.

Chester, Tim. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (pp. 14-15). Crossway. Kindle Edition.


As Christ is the Gracious Host at the Lord’s Supper where he receives sinners and eats with them, so we must become gracious hosts and receive our neighbors and friends at our tables, whether at

+ McDonald’s, Starbucks, Parks

+ Home

+ MCs / small groups

+ Church / agapes and communion

Some youth ministries and RUF do this quite well. Church planters and missionaries do this as well.

Not talking about social hospitality but missional hospitality. Explain differences.


What it all boils down to is hospitality. Not cultural / social hospitality, but missional hospitality.

Hospitality is (literally) brotherly love for strangers, love for the Other, for your fellow man and neighbor. Not just hanging out with friends and family, but helping strangers and aliens and others connect with one other in Christ.

Missional Hospitality is loving others with the gospel of grace around a table with food and drink.

As Tim Chester and others warn:

Hospitality will lead to “collateral damage.” Food will be spilled on your carpet. You’ll be left with clearing up. Your pantry may be decimated. But remember that God is welcoming you into his home through the blood of his own Son. The hospitality of God embodied in the table fellowship of Jesus is a celebration and sign of his grace and generosity. And we’re to imitate that generosity.

Long before Chester, Edith Schaeffer was telling stories about this kind of “collateral damage” in her book on L’Abri (an evangelistic and apologetic ministry that was built on missional hospitality before missional was even a word).

After all that, you may or may not get the results you hoped for and wanted. But take heart — Jesus showed missional hospitality to thousands upon thousands of people. After all was said and done, he ascended to heaven with a relatively small congregation of 120.

That congregation picked up where he left off and the rest is history. See Acts 2:41-48 where the church practiced missional hospitality.

Here we are because the early church — and the medieval church and the Reformation church and the American evangelical church — imitated Christ. We must go and do likewise.

Rosaria Butterfield: Counterfeit hospitality comes with strings; Christian hospitality comes with strangers becoming neighbors becoming family of God.

Examine your motives and expect mixed results.

The first goal of missional hospitality is the glory of God.

The second goal is the good of others (neighbors, strangers, friends).

The third goal is the gladness of yourself and your family. It just feels good to do the right thing.

The fourth and final goal of missional hospitality is the growth of your congregation.


The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester

The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak