“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the Word as taught faithfully, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
We have now concluded the negative side of the qualifications and return once again to things that an Elder must be. The first of this section is that an Elder must be hospitable. Literally, the word we translate as “hospitable” is the word, φιλόξενος (philoxenos). Etymologically, the word breaks down into meaning “a lover of outsiders” or even “a lover of foreigners.” In other words, an Elder’s character must not be one of prejudice or hatred toward those who happen to be of a different ethnic or national group or even of those who are of a different socio-economic strata.
In many ways, the American church is often quite deficient in this realm. People often worship in churches made up of a pretty narrow ethnic population and those who are from other ethnic backgrounds are not readily welcomed. This does not mean that every congregation needs to be ethnically diverse, but it surely ought to reflect the ethnic diversity of the community around it for there is neither Jew nor Greek in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28).
This also does not mean that the Elder must be the type who always opens his home to everyone. This is typically how we understand the term in English. Of course, being hospitable is oftentimes reflected in the use of one’s home and resources to make people feel welcome. Too many people, though, burn themselves out (or burn their wives out) by always seeking to host others, thinking that this is what hospitality means. In the strict sense of the word, it doesn’t. So, while an Elder ought not be stingy with the use of his home, one need not feel compelled to always have a revolving door for strangers. Some people thrive on this kind of ministry, and for them, we give God praise, but such will not necessarily reflect the character of all Christian leaders.
The key is to create a context in the church family where visitors, regardless of their ethnic or socio-economic background, feel welcomed in the house of God. Achieve that and you have achieved hospitality.