STUDENT POST: Hospitality & Evangelism

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes. He has served as a missionary in South Asia.

In recent decades, ministry methodologies have emerged that emphasize Luke 10:1-12, where Jesus sent out the 72.[1] Some of these methodologies have regarded Luke 10 as a detailed guide on the steps believers should take while doing evangelism. I’m concerned that such methodologies wrongly regard as prescriptive the imperative commands of the passage, failing to understand its context. A fresh look at Luke 10:1-12 is needed to determine if this passage is descriptive or prescriptive for modern times.

Luke 10:1-12 flows from general to specific. The first three verses are generic statements introducing what Jesus is sending His 72 disciples to do. In verses 4-12, Jesus gets very specific about what their task is and what to expect. The tone of the passage is instruction coupled with warning. The instruction is filled with action. At least 34 verbs are present in these 12 verses. Many of the verbs are active and imperative, noting actions to be carried out by Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus’ main role is appointing, sending out, and telling the disciples what to do (Lk 10:1-2). The remainder of the passage reads like two intertwined sets of instructions for the disciples. Important prohibitions include: carrying a moneybag, a knapsack, or sandals; greeting anyone on the road (v. 4); and going from house to house (v. 7). Important actions to take include: praying (v. 2); remaining in the same house (v. 7); eating what is set before you (v. 8); and healing the sick while saying to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9). If people reject the disciples, they are to wipe the dust of that town off of their feet and remind its residents that the kingdom of God has come near (v. 11).

In many 21st-century contexts, it is impractical and even impossible to carry out these instructions—an indication Jesus did not intend His instructions as imperatives for all believers in all periods of history. The best approach is to draw overarching principles from the passage. One such principle is hospitality, reflected in Luke’s repeated use of the Greek word for house: oikos. More than the building, it refers to the family.[2] Oikos could include a multigenerational family in one home, the people working in the home, and even parts of the community. In verses 5-7, the fivefold repetition of oikos emphasizes balancing relationships in the community with gospel proclamation. Jesus’ disciples were not to go house to house seeking better accommodation, tastier food, or to “make the rounds” in the community, thereby growing their fame (Lk 10:7). Jesus wanted His disciples to be good guests, not picky, and full of contentment for whatever was provided to them as they proclaimed the Good News. One mark of a disciple is receiving and giving hospitality in life and ministry.

Luke 10:1-12 is description and not prescription for many reasons, but it contains timeless ministry principles that can be applied today. Let’s pray earnestly, as Jesus instructed, that the Lord of the harvest will send out more laborers into His harvest fields (v. 2). If He sends us, let’s be prepared to exhibit hospitality as a key fixture of our ministry.

[1] Different Bible translations use 70 or 72 as the number of disciples Jesus sent out. This paper will use the ESV translation and corresponding 72.

[2] “G3624 – oikos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV),” Blue Letter Bible, (accessed May 4, 2020).