by Scott Mehl
Whenever someone reaches out to meet with you, whether it’s a friend who sends you a text, or a church member who has asked the church staff for someone to talk to, there are all sorts of initial questions you might have. You’ll probably want to have a general idea of what they’d like to talk about. (There’s nothing I hate more than someone asking, “Can we talk?” and then having to wait days to find out why!) You’ll probably have to look at your calendar to figure out when you could meet. But one of the most basic questions, that we sometimes have a hard time with is: “Where should we meet?”
One reason this can be such a difficult question is that Scripture is essentially silent on it. In addition, the culture we live in is so different than the biblical culture, it’s even hard to glean much from the examples we find in God’s word. Public parks, coffee shops, and church offices simply don’t appear on the pages of Scripture. So where do we start?
I’d like to suggest that, while there are lots of good places to meet with and counsel one another (which we’ll look at in future posts), our homes ought to be our default location for interpersonal ministry. Now, when I say “our homes” I mean that, regardless of the size, shape, or condition of your home. Whether you have a large palace or a tiny studio apartment, I believe God desires to use the place he has given you to live as a gift to show love and generosity to others.
The call for followers of Jesus to be a fundamentally hospitable people is repeated all over the New Testament, and is simply unavoidable. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9) “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:12–13) In fact, being hospitable is even a baseline character requirement for any man who would be a pastor/elder in the church (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:8).
But the case for inviting those you’re counseling into your home extends beyond, “Because God said so.” As you minister to people in your home you’ll come to see some of the practical benefits that reveal to us the reason God desires for us all to be regularly inviting people into our homes.
First, when people are in our homes we have an opportunity to communicate to them that we desire to share more than simply an hour of time with them; we desire to share with them our lives as well (1 Thess. 2:8). They have the opportunity to feel welcomed, cared for and loved, not just by our words but also by our actions, and even the sharing of our space. “Come into my home” is a welcoming and vulnerable act that helps to break down walls that might otherwise exist.
Second, when we meet with people in our homes we provide an example of godly living. Of course this only works if you are actually living a godly, contented, kingdom-focused life, but if you’re not, maybe you should start there before trying to help others! When people are in our homes they can learn not just from our words but also from the way we respond to our spouses, kids, or roommates. They can learn from the faithfulness that is represented by a messy desk or a sink full of dishes we’ve put on hold to given them our attention.
And, finally, we set an example for the other members of our household (especially kids and roommates) when we invite people into our homes. Our kids have grown up seeing people crying, laughing, embracing, and being prayed for on our couches and on our back porch. At times we’ve explained why we do what we do, but the picture is worth a thousand words. Many nights I’d rather my kids feel the pressure of reading quietly (or going to bed early when they’re younger) so my wife and I can meet with someone they can see than me simply disappearing night after night for another “meeting.”
And, ultimately, if we were looking for a biblical example of where ministry most often takes place, there would be no doubt that it would be in peoples’ homes. The idea that counseling belongs in an office is a format we’ve adopted from the world’s system. Even though counseling in an office can sometimes be the best option (which we’ll look at in my next post), meeting in your home should probably be the default place to begin. Of course this won’t work at all times or for all people, but for most of us, it’s the best place to start.