Hospitality & Living Missionally

by Mary Schaller

hospitality, Christian hospitality, Mary Schaller, Pricilla and AquillaWhen Evan was getting ready to graduate summa cum laude from Stanford University with an electrical engineering degree, he already had several fantastic offers in his field from Silicon Valley companies. However, he was seriously considering a radically different career path.

Back in his sophomore year, Evan had been invited to volunteer his time with Young Life, a ministry that introduces adolescents to Jesus and helps them grow in their faith. Helping high school students know the love and forgiveness of Jesus was his favorite volunteer activity. As a result of this profound experience and a growing personal love for Jesus, Evan sensed that when he graduated, God was calling him into full-time ministry with Young Life.

Young Life staff members are required to raise their own financial support and find a place in the community to live (ideally without cost) to keep their expenses as low as possible. After Evan made his life-altering decision to join the Young Life staff, the south peninsula director asked my husband, Paul, and me if we could give Evan a place to stay in our home.

For a couple of years, Evan would join our family at most meals, watch our television, use our washer, take up space in the driveway, and of course, use a bedroom and bathroom in our home. That seemed like a big ask!

However, Paul and I considered this: Here’s a young man with amazing Silicon Valley earning potential, and he’s essentially choosing to become a local missionary with no guaranteed income or housing. We personally weren’t able to reach the youth of our community given our ages, jobs, and other commitments. The least we could do was to welcome him into our home and support him as best we could to see the gospel spread in our Portola Valley community.

So we did.

When we welcomed Evan into our home, it felt like we were a modern-day Priscilla and Aquila.

In Acts 18, it seems that as soon as Priscilla and Aquila meet the Apostle Paul, they invite him to stay and work with them. Giving Paul the hospitality of their home and sharing their livelihood as tentmakers enables Paul to spread the gospel in Corinth, reasoning and persuading Jews and Greeks in the synagogue every Sabbath (see Acts 18:1-4).

This couple’s generosity in sharing their work provides what Paul needs until Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia, bringing a gift which enables Paul to devote his time exclusively to preaching. Paul continues teaching the word of God in Corinth for another year and a half, most likely hosted by Aquila and Priscilla in their home all through that time.

They must have been a constant encouragement and support for him during the strong opposition that he experienced, because when he moved on to Ephesus, he took them with him!

We learn later in Acts 18 that in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila invite another noteworthy New Testament figure, Apollos, into their community and equip him with the full gospel for his future calling. There are other mentions of Priscilla and Aquila in three New Testament letters from Paul (Rom. 16:3, 1 Cor. 16:19 and 2 Tim. 4:19) where he says that a church met in their house. Paul called them “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”

Extending hospitality to Evan for two years was a turning point in my faith. We saw so many young people in our community come to know Jesus personally as a result of Evan’s work with Young Life. Walking alongside Evan and giving sacrificially of our home, meals, time, and finances strengthened and grew my relationship with Jesus (and my entire family’s faith).

Observing Evan’s obedience, dedication to spreading the gospel, and single-minded service to God inspired me to live more like that as well. Since that time, we’ve hosted several others to stay or live with us who are committed to serving God with their lives.

Each experience has reminded me of the value of extending hospitality to others as a profound gospel witness to the love of Christ and how he welcomes us. We see that same mutuality of welcoming in Acts 18. Paul, as the recipient of Priscilla’s and Aquila’s hospitality, was welcoming them into a new life of mission that changed the trajectory of their lives.

Evan, Priscilla, and Aquila have inspired me. I am now in full-time ministry focused on welcoming people to a growing relationship with Jesus. Trying to conserve on expenses, I often need places to stay as I travel. It’s encouraging when people welcome me into their homes, providing a shower and a bed for the night, and saving the ministry hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars a year.

My prayer is that I will inspire others who practice hospitality to live missionally, and that they will continue to welcome others into their homes so we can continue to do what God has called us to do.

Mary SchallerMary Schaller (@MarySchaller1) is president of Q Place, a ministry that empowers Christians to engage in meaningful conversations about God with people who believe differently through small groups. She was an entrepreneurial marketer and founder of three technology-related business ventures and then minister of small groups at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. She has an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. She is the author of How to Start a Q Place, and the co-author of The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations.