Turns out, God knows what he's talking about, and he calls his people, Old Testament and New Testament, to be hospitable, that part of a life well lived and part of being his people is where you love the stranger, love the alien, be hospitable.
The New Testament word, the Greek word for show hospitality is philozenia, which means love of the stranger. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson, and I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.
So over the years, we've probably had quite a few people live with us in and out. How's that been for you? You had to bring that up.
You're laughing because, tell the listener why you're laughing. Go ahead. I'll just let you express this. I wanted you to express it. Well, it was always a wonderful thing to invite somebody. They usually lived in our basement that we finished and had their own living space, but after a period of time, I got a little frustrated. Let's just say that.
Why is that? It cramped my life. I remember going- You think it's so funny, don't you? No, I felt bad for you because what would happen, generally speaking, sometimes we had young women, young men that kind of needed a place for a time to be, and what would happen is I'd find you up in the bedroom- Hiding. And you were also jealous because you said, man, I come home and I want to talk to you, and you're sitting there. I lost my wife. That's what it felt like.
She was so concerned about the person living with us, feeling welcome and loved. She didn't care about me anymore. But that was on me. I did not do a great job.
I would put all my attention on them, and you did feel kind of lost. Yeah, and it's a bad way to introduce a topic that we're going to encourage listeners to do, but we've got Don Evertz back with us. Don, you're a pastor. You're a dad. You've written this book on research, and we're going to get into what we're talking about right now. One of 20 books.
I mean, how to develop spiritually vibrant homes. Yes. So first of all, let me say, we've loved the last two days having you on here. Welcome back to Family Life Today. Great to be with you, likewise. It's fun to think about these things together. It is. One of the reasons, obviously, we're bringing this up, and you can remind our listeners, but as you studied spiritually vibrant homes and homes that say what were the commonalities that made them spiritually vibrant, you found three things.
Yep. Messy prayers, you call them. Loud tables. We've already talked about those two, and if you don't know what those words mean, then we're not going to tell you. You go listen.
And trust me, those two conversations are going to change your life. But then the third one I didn't see coming. You know, open doors is what you call it. Yep. It's sort of a little bit what we're talking about, but explain what that means. Yeah, we didn't see it coming either. You know, when you do research like this, you go in with some hypotheses.
We think we're going to find this. You know, we did not think we would find that one of the commonalities that corresponds with more vibrant faith is that households extend hospitality. That there are people in and out of their household on a regular basis every month. Some people just said, oh no.
I know, I know, I know. And there are going to be some people, you know, because I'm about to get like crazy excited about hospitality, so let me just qualify it by saying sometimes a household is not in a place, a healthy enough place, to like throw open the door. Sometimes there's dysfunction in a home, and you got to, that's what you need to focus on and all that. And it also doesn't mean you have to come and live in our basement. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And there are levels of how wide you can crack the door, you can open a little wider, you can just take the door off the hinges.
So there's different ways people can do it. So I just want to qualify that. And at the same time, we're saying your house doesn't have to be perfect. Like it doesn't have to be the perfect house with the perfect decor with the perfect meal. That's right.
That's right. This was the surprising one, friends. This was surprising. Now, it made us go back into the scriptures, and then we repented and said we should not have been surprised about this. Because it turns out God knows what he's talking about, and he calls his people, Old Testament and New Testament, to be hospitable. That part of a life well lived and part of being his people is where you extend hospitality. So we shouldn't have been surprised.
We were. And what the research told us is that the more you have people in and out of your household, the more vibrant the faith is of the people living there. And it's not necessarily that you have Christians coming in and out of your household. It could be non-Christians who are coming in. It could be people who are coming in because they're a tutor, right? You could be paying them to come in and tutor a kid, or it could be grandparents coming in. It could be boyfriends and girlfriends.
The more open your doors, the more hospitality there is, the more vibrant the faith is. And what shocked me in this, because the researchers at Barna, they never talk about causality. They'll never say A causes B. They just say there's a correlation between A and B. This one, they talk different. This one, because they said it causes it.
There's something about having more people in and out of your household that actually doesn't just correspond with, but it affects and increases faith formation. Okay, so what is it? I mean, what is it about having people in and out? They don't know. They don't know. Well, you know.
What would you say? Well, I have my thoughts. I have my theories about it.
So here's an interesting thing. One of the things that they found is there's something about the dynamics of a household that has people in and out of it all the time, right? Where sometimes the effect is like, say you have a strong Christian from church who's coming over and they're having a great influence on your family. But maybe you have someone needy or non-Christian who's coming in, but you're still navigating them as a household. Like you're living out your faith and your relationships in a way that your whole household is seeing that and being a part of that together. And so like what I expected in the research, I'm going to be really honest with you. So this will just show my bias and we'll all be embarrassed. My thought was when it came to household types that having a nuclear household to parents and kids in the household, they'd be getting high scores.
It turns out multigenerational households and single parent households do better in this regard because they have more people in and out of their household. You may have people coming over because you need help. Right? Well, I need help on this.
I need my neighbor to come over and help me with my plumbing or whatever. There's something about that interaction. There's something about the world coming in and hanging out and you as a household navigating that and your kids watching you do that. That grows your faith. It's so interesting because we can feel like in this culture, we need to protect our family. We need to have us under the roof, put up the walls, protect us, especially with non-Christians. This doesn't even mean Christians. This means just your doors open and people are coming in.
It's interesting. So in the New Testament, it turns out we're called again and again and in the Old Testament, love the stranger, love the alien, be hospitable. The New Testament word, the Greek word for show hospitality is philozenia, which means love of the stranger. And I would say xenophobia, fear of the stranger, is more what we can be tempted by. And I'm going to close off my kids.
I'm going to close off my household from the evil world out there. And I'm not saying, like, don't be mindful, obviously, about how you interact with culture. That's not what I'm saying. But what the research says is that the more insular a household is, the more there's a risk factor for not having vibrant faith. That's amazing.
I mean, everyone was shocked at this. And again, it's why we went back to scripture to see what they were saying. If you break it down, it's interesting. So some household types struggle with this more. So the ones who are doing well with this are like households with kids are doing way better. This is another thing we found. The presence of kids in a household increases spiritual activity. Isn't that fascinating?
Yeah. Because we tend to think like when you're having kids, you're like, man, my kingdom for a quiet time. You know, my house is crazy.
I don't feel. But actually having kids present, it increases. Get this, the research says that houses without kids in and out of them, 68% of those households interact in the Bible together. But if you have kids in a household, it goes up to 87% of them.
Really? If you have a household without kids, 83% of those are doing some kind of prayer together. If you have kids present, it goes up to 95%.
And then talking about your faith, those households without kids, 88%, do it, 95% with kids. Because kids get people in and out of your household. You're interacting, you're doing things with each other. So there's something about just kind of going live as a household and having other people in.
I can tell you, so Bosetti was a dear friend of ours where we lived when I was writing this book. And she's from Nigeria and she's a single woman in our church. And we just, we love her. And she was in and out of our house all the time.
And I loved having meals with her because she had such a different life experience. And my kids were hearing about that. And we had my mom and stepdad move in with us eight years ago. And so we were raising our kids with grandparents in the home. And my stepdad was weird. And yet to be able to dinner table and to be able to say, hey, Buzz, will you pray for our dinner tonight? Here's the deal.
That was risky because you never knew what he was going to say. But the kids, they're getting to interact with someone else's faith other than just their parents. I can see examples from my own life of how other people have influenced my household. Because of my wife, she's just an evangelist and she's a magnet and everyone wants to be with her. We have lots of non-Christians in our household.
Where we live right now, it's regular that we have Muslims and Hindus in our house on a regular basis. Because we're right on the campus, there's all these international students. My son, who's a high schooler, is getting to see us interact with people from different contexts. And he's getting to see us just be really open and build trust and build bridges of trust to gain a hearing. And then when they're curious, he's seeing us how we talk about our faith and how we don't talk about our faith. That makes me think of 1 Thessalonians 2, 8, which says, So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. And that is exactly what we're talking about.
That's it. It's our lives. Well, I remember even when our kids were little, we'd have the neighbor kids lived at our house, basically. But at night, we knew what was going on with them, like what they were struggling with, and we would be praying for them. And then as they got older, I remember our son saying, You really need to talk to my friend, this girl, she's really struggling.
This is going on and she doesn't have anybody. So they were even intentional to bring people into our home so that we could pray for them, that we could hear them, that we could help them in any way possible. But you're right, I haven't really thought much about that. Like, that ignited their own faith of thinking, we can love these people.
And I would add this. I think it's important that our kids don't see us judging. Like, the Hindu or Muslims that are coming in, like, why would they believe that?
Of course, they were raised in that. And so to look at them, to pray for them, to want them to know Jesus, but to respect and honor them as well. And we did a whole other research project on spiritual conversations with non-Christians and how that goes and what's helpful and what non-Christians like and all that. And one of the things that it shows us is that, I mean, the first key is gaining a hearing. You have to build trust. So our kids are seeing us not just, you know, why do you pray to thousands of gods as a Hindu? And what makes you think they're real?
Why are cows holy? You know, they get to see us go, hey, you know, it's good to see you and to love them and talk about life. And so we're like modeling that sort of thing. One of the tools we have in this chapter on hospitality, on our open doors, is a household map. And we encourage people to, like, map out their household, their core household, like, who lives with you in your household, and then the extended household. So, like, my kids' friends who are over all the time, they're actually a part of my household, as the Bible understands households. The average household size in the Old Testament was 50 to 100 people. What?
Yeah. Because household for them, they didn't have this idea of a nuclear household. It was us and then my uncles and then the cousins and the grandparents and then the other tradesmen and then the traveler who's coming through town who's staying with us. In Genesis, where you have Jacob's household is actually listed, 70 people are in his household.
Now, that doesn't mean we need to, like, live in communes and all that sort of thing. But, like, to understand, like, a whole household includes your nuclear or your core household, people you live with and all these other people. And when you start thinking about that, so when I was doing the research, I started thinking about it and I was like, well, Bosetti, she's a part of my extended household.
And just thinking about that made me more mindful of that relationship. My kids, same thing, you know, because my wife is a great cook. All their friends are coming over, right? They're a part of my extended household.
What's my role to try to influence them and try to love on them and be an encouragement for them? It changes the game of how you're thinking about things to, like, map out. And we even created a cool little cartoon video to help people, like, figure out, like, well, if the grandparents live really far away but they Zoom every week, are they a part of our household? Like, there's ways of thinking about that.
But the more mindful we are of kind of this larger orbit, the more active we're going to be with that and the research tells us it causes our faith to grow. Well, what do you say to the parent that is hearing this and they're gripped with fear? Because often we think, and you use the analogy of the submarine versus the rescue ship, we think submarine, I want to lock our family down, I want to lock all the doors.
Put a bubble around us. You know, I got to protect my kids. There's bad influences out there and they may have to be exposed to them at school or in the public square, but in my home I can control.
So I'm not letting any of that in my home. You're saying almost the opposite. Well, I mean, again, there may be occasions and there may be contexts and situations where that is the right thing to do.
And I really want to acknowledge that. And we're not saying too, like, we're protecting our kids, I'm thinking. Exactly. Totally. In terms of, like, any kind of abuse or they're not alone. Exactly.
But I will say this, the default assumption that insulating our kids or our households from the world around us will necessarily grow our faith is false. It's kind of like cul-de-sacs. Cul-de-sacs are great, right?
And they're really fun. But the image that we have is that they're safer because it's our little pocket right here, my kids, you know. Well, it turns out traffic-wise, cul-de-sacs are statistically more dangerous than regular streets. That doesn't mean don't live on a cul-de-sac, right? I mean, you just have to be wise. They're different.
That's why they're not quite as safe because people aren't used to navigating them and all that. So it's kind of similar in the sense of we just assume if you circle the wagons, my kids' faith will grow or will be stronger. It's just not necessarily true.
There's something about hospitality that if your family has occasion, I'm trying to get to an answer to your question because I'm qualifying my way to it. Right. So if people have fear of that, if there's something real to fear, then fear it.
Yeah. But if the fear is this like general xenophobic, like I need to protect my kids' purity above all else, default thought that that's what it means to be a faithful believer, then I would challenge that. Both through what the scripture calls us to and what the research tells us that actually there's a way.
I did campus ministry for 18 years. OK. And some of the people who struggled most to launch as believers. Right. And to own their faith and to know how to navigate the world and be salt and light. Some of the people who had the hardest time with that were the ones who they grew up in a little Christian bubble.
And they had been so protected that their muscles didn't develop. And so we want more for our kids. You know, what do we want for our kids? Do we want more for them, for them to be safe and happy? We were talking about, you know, like your goals for your kids.
Like, I want you to be used and to be a warrior for God and to thrive in this world and all that. That protection alone actually will not result in that, probably. So to someone with fear, I would say just crack your door a little bit. Even a way of doing that, just in the prayer life of your household, start praying for people that are outside of your household. Like that's even safe. You don't even have to really open the door to do that. You're just praying. You're just praying for others. But you're inviting those in your household to be more mindful of people who aren't in your orbit. I would add this too, Don. I was thinking about this when we wrote our parenting book, to know who you are, to know what your passions are, to know what you enjoy. Because I'm thinking of Dave.
He may not like have some person come in and have this face to face really deep conversation immediately. But what Dave is a genius of is playing. He is so good at, hey, let's play a game. Let's make up this game. Let's play basketball, football. So he's in our front yard and I would say too, he's the only dad outside. Yeah, there you go. And these kids, he is a magnet.
When the kids were little, even like 10 year old, 12 year old boys, they would knock on the door and they would say, can Mr. Wilson come out and play? Every time. And he's fun. He's funny. And so maybe if you're a dad or a mom and you're thinking, I don't feel as comfortable of just going to this deep spiritual conversation. Just who are you? Maybe you're a gamer. Yeah.
You know, so I think, Dave. Use your gifts as a magnet. Use your gifts.
And here's the reality. The research told us, you know, the three things, messy prayers, loud tables, open doors. The research also told us there are two catalysts that make all three of those happen more, food and fun.
Those are the two catalysts. Oh, that's good. And so having fun, interacting with people, doing things creates an atmosphere, draws people in, which makes those other three things more likely to happen. So start there. Yeah. One of the things you say under this part of your book, you know, crack the door a little bit, open a little wider is start a small group.
Yeah, that's it. You know, maybe even have a Bible study in your home. We did that. And so our kids, and we weren't even thinking about it when they were seven, eight years old. They're watching our neighbors walk in our door, sit around, open a Bible and have spiritual conversations and arguments. Yeah.
You know, disagreements about these topics. That's a really good thing. They didn't even realize it, right? But they're seeing it's not just, well, my parents go to church. Yeah. They must care about the Bible because they even do it at home. Yeah.
They even have friends who are overdoing it. You know, for those who are listening and who are like, I'm no good at any of these things and I'm a new Christian or, you know, how do I do this? Here's a real cheater.
You guys want to pro tip here? Someone at your church that you're just like, man, I want to be like them or like, I'm a parent. I want my kids. Man, invite them over.
Yeah. Have them over. Have your kids at the table with them and just tell them, hey, tell us your testimony or, you know, tell us something about your faith. Let them influence you. You know what I mean? Let them rub off on your kids. That's just a little cheater. And guess what?
They're going to rub off on you too. Hey, here's a question that I didn't see directly addressed in the book. What about your marriage? Yeah. How important is a good marriage for your kids in a spiritually vibrant home? Yeah. I mean, it wasn't the, you know, the focus of the research.
So we don't have research on that. But I've been married 25 years and I've been doing ministry for 30 years. I mean, something's so key because, I mean, that's the furnace of everything in the household for a married, for a couple household. So for a household where you do have a husband and wife, the health of that.
And by health, I don't just mean like it's pristine and it's always hello, honey, and things are perfect. But like, so we have a saying in our marriage and in our household that my wife made up, mess up, fess up. So one of our like rules as a household, one of our like kind of virtues is you mess up, you fess up. And so for our kids to see Wendy and I reconcile with each other is just huge. So like the health of the marriage, but that doesn't mean like that we're perfect, but that they see us communicating, that they see us mess up, fess up with each other is huge, is key for all the reasons. Right.
I mean, you're just smiling because you're like, yeah, I mean it, it's so key to all of this. And so that's why, you know, if someone's marriage is on the rocks and all that, like maybe don't start with hospitality. You got to focus on that. Like that's the next right thing.
Get good there. Yeah. So it feels like in some ways, when I hear you say that, Don, it's like I can't really lead or model for my family a spiritually vibrant home. All the things we talk about, messy prayers, loud tables, open doors, unless it's an overflow, my own personal walk with God. It's the same thing with the marriage. It's like, man, if we're not working on our marriage first, we don't have a lot to give to our kids because you're frustrated and you're angry.
And you're, but if you're working on that, and I'm not saying it's perfect. We've said that very well, but man, that's where my energy is going first. I'm going to meet with God myself and out of that are going to come prayers and conversations and hospitality. But if it's not first real in me and in my marriage, good luck with it ever being extended to your family. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Don Everts on Family Life Today. We'll hear more in just a minute, including encouragement if you have an unbelieving spouse.
But first, what Dave was saying is so true. Your marriage is foundational to the health of your family. And we're excited here at Family Life because we've got Weekend to Remember marriage getaways going on all over the country this fall. And I've got the president of Family Life, David Robbins, with me. David, these events are life changing and we've got an exciting deal going on right now. Yeah, this is an exciting time at Family Life because this is every year around this time we have a half off sale that gives you the best price possible to come to a Weekend to Remember and have a life changing experience as a couple and invest in your marriage very intentionally.
I was recently at a Weekend to Remember and had someone email me afterward. It was a couple that's been married 16 years and in their email they said that friends had invited them to attend a Weekend to Remember and told them it was a game changer for them. And I quote, We came thinking our marriage was in a good place and not sure how it could improve, but we believe that God had a vision for us that was beyond what we could see. We came and God answered our prayer and exceeded our expectations. I'm surprised but grateful and glad that we also can say this has been a game changer for us, too. So wherever you are, if you're married, Meg and I have gone to Weekends to Remember through the years when we have been really struggling and challenging times.
We've also gone to Weekends to Remember during times that have been great and we're on the same page, but we want to tune up. Wherever you are, God will meet you there and it can be a game changer in this season of your life. I want you to go and take advantage of this half off sale.
Yes, please do. Just go to familylifetoday.com to find your getaway and save 50%. That's familylifetoday.com. All right, now back to Dave and Anne with Don Everts and some encouragement if you have an unbelieving spouse.
Here's Don. We did do some qualitative research, some interviews with people. So there are a number of people. I mean, it's not I can't give it a statistic, but you know, where you have one spouse who's a believer and the other who's not.
So that was a part of the research as well. And here's the good news that I want to say is that for the one who is a believer who's sitting there, like maybe they're listening to this and they're like, well, that'd be great if, you know, my husband was a believer, like cared about his faith. The good news is the kind of spiritual coaching, the kind of initiating all that stuff even works. I mean, it can work. Is it more powerful if the two are like lockstep with each other? Absolutely.
Unquestionably. But there are people listening who aren't in that situation for whatever reason. And the good news is like they can be a spiritual coach. They can initiate the things. They can be creating a spiritually vibrant household, even if there's like a holdout in the household. Does that make sense?
They still are having a great impact. Absolutely. And that's why it can be messy.
That's what we found. It doesn't have to be pristine. It doesn't have to be a husband, wife holding hands, leading a devotion. It can be a messy thing that is happening. And even that helps grow the faith. Hey, Don, would you be willing to pray a messy prayer?
Yes. For the family that's listening, mom or dad, that you mentioned earlier, it feels like, wow, we're not vibrant. We're dormant. But we want to get out of that. Would you pray for them? Yeah, let's pray. Father, I thank you for the ways that your word shines a light into every area of life, including in our households. And I just intercede on behalf of those who are listening, Father, who are maybe feeling conviction or shame or guilt or confusion or excitement, but not knowing what to do. And Father, I just pray that you would, that your love would surround them, that they would be uplifted and inspired by the reality that you care about the health of their household and everyone in it even more than they do. And that you are a God who is pursuing all of them. And I pray, Father, that you would use some of the scriptures we've talked about, some of the insights from research to call them to one small step. Would you even right now, as they're listening, bring an image to mind of one little thing that they could do out of faithfulness?
And even if it's out of fear, I'm just bold to ask, Father, that you would even give them one picture right now of a step that they could take and give them the courage to do it, Father. We thank you that you care about households, that one of the agendas of your Holy Spirit is to be moving in our households and helping them grow stronger and heal. So thank you for your activity that precedes our activity, even in the household. We pray in Jesus' name.
Amen. You've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Don Everts on Family Life Today. His book is called The Spiritually Vibrant Home, The Power of Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors. And you can get a copy at familylifetoday.com. Join us tomorrow with the Wilsons and film producers Stephen and Alex Kendrick to hear how they stay in step with the Lord while creating new films. And you'll hear about the latest project they've been working on, a film called Life Mark. It's a true story of a woman who chose life seconds before she was about to get an abortion. It's a story of joy, life, adoption, and hope. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. .
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