Making Yourself Available
About the Guest
Do you find it difficult to have a spiritual conversation with someone? Nan McCullough testifies to the power of hospitality and its ability to make people feel welcomed and cared for, and oftentimes open to the gospel message.
Do you find it difficult to have a spiritual conversation with someone?
Making Yourself Available
Nan: You know the Scriptures tell us we are just supposed to be salt and light. What does salt do? It makes you thirsty. What does it also do? It preserves the environment. As you are moving about whatever walk of life you have—you could be a single woman in an office—people are watching you. They know there is something different about you. They are already thirsty; just have them over. God will show you; He will give you the words to say.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. I am going to be honest with you. We are hoping that what we talk about today can maybe provide a little motivation for you to open up your home and your heart for someone you know.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Before we dive into what we want to talk about today, you wanted to speak to some of our listeners, some of our friends.
Dennis: First, I just want to thank our current donors to FamilyLife Today who make this ministry possible. There are some legacy partners who give monthly, some long-term friends who stood with us for years, and some brand new donors who I just want to turn to and say, “You know what, I really appreciate you.”
A second thing I would like to do is I’d like to challenge you to join with us by making a donation to FamilyLife Today now; and to encourage you to do that now, some friends have offered to match your gift dollar for dollar. I would like to encourage you to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com. There is a little button up in the right-hand corner. Click on that; it says, “Donate.” Then give as God has enabled you to give.
Bob: As you said, if you make a donation this month, it is going to be doubled, dollar for dollar, up to a total of now more than $300,000 that has been given to us in a matching-gift fund from friends of FamilyLife. Take advantage of the matching-gift opportunity. Make your donation today at FamilyLifeToday.com or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and you can make your donation over the phone. Again, we appreciate your support of the ministry and your partnership here with us on FamilyLifeToday.
Now, can I give just a word of testimony related to what we are talking about this week here on FamilyLife Today?
Dennis: You have given several testimonies about food.
Bob: This really doesn’t have anything to do about food. This goes all the way back to when I was a college student. I’ll tell two stories, okay?
First story was: I had just come to faith and was thinking about going to graduate school in southern California. I was thinking about going to law school. I wanted to check out Pepperdine Law School. I had never been to southern California—didn’t know anyone in southern California—but I had a friend who said, “Over spring break, let’s road trip out there. I know these people we can stay with. You can check out Pepperdine, and we’ll just stay out there.” So, college—road trip—free accommodations—I’m all about that, right?
Bob: Well, we pulled into Pasadena—into this neighborhood, into these folks’ driveway. I remember I had been in their house for ten minutes and I felt comfortable—and I felt like they didn’t know me from anywhere—but they were so warm and acted like they were just thrilled to have me stay there.
Dennis: Had they given you access to their refrigerator?
Bob: (laughter) Not yet. (laughter) But the thing was—I remember lying in bed that night and going, “These are just the nicest people.” I remember thinking, “Are all Christians this nice? Can you just go stay at anybody’s house, and it’s this nice?” It was one of those testimonies to the power of hospitality, which reminded me of another story.
That was when we got an invitation to come hear about a church that was getting started in our community. It was going to be on a Saturday night at somebody’s home. They said, “We’re making homemade ice cream.” I said, “I’m there for that. The church-thing, maybe; but the ice cream, I’m all about that.” (laughter)
Dennis: But the point you are making, Bob, is that our homes can really have an open door.
Dennis: A sense of welcoming people, whether they are on a journey—traveling across the country or a journey in life—they feel at-home in your place.
Bob: The open door makes a statement. It is a powerful statement about what is important to you. That opens another door for you to have all kinds of conversations.
Dennis: That is what our guest has been doing for the past—well more than 30 years—using her home. Nan McCullough joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Nan welcome back.
Nan: Thank you. Glad to be back.
Dennis: She has written a book called Entertaining for Eternity with Heavenly Hospitality. You are actually entertaining with a purpose. You do want people to feel welcomed and safe; but you also have an ulterior motive. Do you not?
Nan: Well, I wouldn’t go that far.
Nan: You don’t want people to feel like they are a “project” and you are getting notches on your Bible for having them in. You want people to feel like you really care about them.
Bob: And you really do care about them.
Nan: I really do. I really do. I’m passionate about what Jesus has done in my life, and I want to share it with other people.
Bob: When you invite people over to the house, in the back of your mind, there is this thought that at some point, at the right point, you’d love to engage in a spiritual conversation, right?
Nan: Well, Jesus is the most important thing in my life. I can’t hide Him. He just leaks out. (laughter) You know.
Bob: What are some of the ways that that door gets opened when you are practicing hospitality? Just think back on times people have been in your home—how is it that the spiritual conversations begin to emerge?
Nan: First of all, you’ve got to get to know them and listen, listen, listen. You can’t scratch a person where they itch if you don’t know where they itch. I do that with questions. You get to know where they are.
Somebody asked me last night, “Well, how do you know what to say? How do you get into the gospel?” Every situation is different because every person is different. That is why we call it a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While you are listening, you are looking for clues about their life—of where they might be hurting, or where they might be mad at God, or what they are struggling with. Then you show them gently how the gospel might be the balm or the salve that they need for that area of their life.
The Scripture tells us. Jesus says in Matthew 10:19, 20, “Don’t worry about what to say or how to say it. At the time, you will be given what to say for it will not be you speaking but it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Then Peter says later in one of his epistles—he says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you—to give you a reason for the hope that is within you.”
Hopefully, you build a relationship to a point where they will want to know, “There is something different about this home. There is something different about this family. I want to know what it is.”
Bob: Do people actually say that to you? “There is something different…”
Nan: Yes. In different ways. Yes.
Bob: How would one of those conversations—just think of one that has happened over the last five years. How would one of those conversations have emerged? What did a friend say to you, and how did you respond? Do you remember?
Nan: I have so many stories in my head. Give me a second here.
Dennis: While you are thinking about that, I just want to reinforce something you said because I think sometimes when we are given the responsibility of sharing our faith, we immediately don’t think of questions, we think of declarations, or statements that we are going to make to somebody. “This is the truth about you. You need to know what the Scriptures say about this, and this, and this.”
Bob: “These are the laws.”
Dennis: Exactly. (laughter) Yes.
Bob: I thought I’d throw that in for my Campus Crusade…
Dennis: The Four Spiritual Laws.
Bob: Yes; right.
Dennis: In all seriousness, to get into that conversation, the questions that you ask really help you determine where you build your bridge to ultimately meet that person where they are.
Nan: Right. And everyone is different.
Dennis: They are. I have used questions for a number of years. I think questions are disarming. People love to talk and tell you about themselves. When you ask a question, you are asking for their opinion. “What do you think about this?”
Nan: It says to them, “Oh, he thinks I am a person of worth. I am valuable in his eyes. He cares about me.” Then, when you remember some of the things they shared with you when you see them on the street or in a coffee shop later; and you say, “How is your grandmother doing? I have been praying for her,” that is the most powerful thing you can do for a non-believer is to pray for them.
Bob: Can you think about one of those times when the door started to crack open and you said, “I think it is time to have this conversation.”
Nan: I remember when these neighbors had moved in. I had taken my welcome gift, and we talked across the fence and so forth, and it got to be the week before Christmas. I thought, “Maybe these guys would like to have some homemade cookies.” I looked around my kitchen; I had been making cookies for my kids. I put them on a plate and went over and knocked on their door. One of them came to the door. I said, “I wanted to give you some homemade Christmas cookies.” He said, “Oh thank you. That is so wonderful,” and all the small talk.
I’m standing there on his front stoop. It hit me. “Invite him to Christmas Eve service.” I thought, “Well, surely, they are not going to want to come.” I knew enough about them that I didn’t think they were interested in spiritual things. I said, “Well, would you like to go to a Christmas Eve carol and candle light service with us on Christmas Eve?” The guy came unglued. He said, “I’d love to!” He says, “Let me ask my partner and get back to you.”
So Christmas Eve, they went with us to church. Of course, the gospel was preached. I said—well you know it was another one of those years when two older kids were off spending Christmas Eve with their in-laws and I just had my younger son—and so I said, “Why don’t you come back to the house and we’ll light a fire in the fireplace and have some more Christmas cookies.” We made hot fudge sundaes. It became a tradition. They came every Christmas Eve. Some Christmas Eves, the whole gang was there, sitting in two pews’ worth. They were right there with us. Other Christmases, it was simpler. As long as they lived next door, they came for Christmas Eve.
Dennis: You are talking about two people that weren’t religious.
Nan: That’s right.
Dennis: They probably weren’t in church any other Sunday during the year.
Dennis: It just was a simple matter of asking if they wanted to go with you.
Nan: That’s right.
Dennis: Now, I want to talk about how you turn the conversation. Let’s say you’ve asked a few questions; you know where that other person is. How do you ultimately share your own personal journey and how you came to Christ because you came to faith as a child, not as an adult? Talk to our listener right now just as someone that you might have a conversation going in your kitchen and how you might get into your testimony.
Nan: You have to wait for the nudge of the Holy Spirit. There have been times when I have gone in too fast, too hard, and they weren’t ready. But when I sense the nudge of the Holy Spirit, that this person is ready to hear the truth, I’ll say, “You know, I’ve got a little booklet that explains what I did as a young woman. It only takes five minutes for me to read it to you. It is called, ‘Would you like to know God personally?’ Would you mind if I share that booklet with you?” I just turn the thing upside down. A lot of times they’ll say, “Boy, you read well upside down.” (laughter) I just share it.
I remember one time in a Starbucks—I’m sharing Christ and the booklet. The guy is over here—what do you call him?—the barista?
Nan: He is over there making steamed whatever. Kerrrrr! You know. He’s looking and kind of straining his neck. I’m going, “I think he is listening to us,” but I had to say, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I’m just going to do this. I don’t care about this guy.”
There was a break in our conversation and I said, “Let’s see if we can get a refill on our mochas.” I went up, and he gave us free mochas!
Nan: She had just prayed to receive Christ in front of him.
Dennis: One of the things you talk about in your book is reaching out to children. You became a follower of Christ ultimately when you began to place your faith in him as a nine-year-old. You’ve also used a very common tool—the Jesus film—to reach out to children to be able to introduce them to Christ. What is it that you do?
Nan: It is the easiest evangelism anyone can do! You have a video player? You have a popcorn popper? You have some kids in the neighborhood? You can lead them to Christ. Why don’t you just kick the front door open and invite them to watch the movie?
That Jesus film for children is fabulous because what they have done is artfully woven a fiction story into the gospel and the life-story of Jesus. You have these four or five kids who are living in that day and age. They are talking about Jesus. These kids—they see Him out there—and they show a clip of some of what Jesus is doing—and then the kids talk about it. They grapple with all the basic apologetic questions.
They are typical kids; they are having a fight. Then one little boy’s father is a Pharisee; and he says, “We’re Jews, and we don’t believe Jesus is our Messiah,” and all the stuff is in the movie. At the end of the movie, two of the kids come on the screen—a boy and a girl. These kids have now just watched Jesus die on the cross and rise from the dead. The boy—I think it is the boy—turns to them and says to the audience, “Now you’ve seen us make our decision about Jesus. What about you?” The children who were the fictional characters lead the children in your family room to Christ. They have a “Pray with me.” The words go slowly across the screen and the children in your family room can accept Christ. All you had to do is pop popcorn and turn on the TV.
Dennis: So you would pass these invitations out to children all over the neighborhood and maybe, on a Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon, you might have a party for them?
Dennis: You would just invite them into the home?
Nan: Right. You can do it over Christmas and call it a “Birthday party for Jesus.” You can do it over Easter and call it a “Come find out what Easter is all about”; or you can have just a “Celebrate Jesus” party and have them in.
Dennis: It is a great idea.
Bob: You talk about in your book about some of the common fears that keep people from engaging in hospitality and in sharing their faith. What are those?
Nan: Oh, “I don’t have a nice enough house;” “I don’t know how to cook;” I’m not an outgoing person;” you name it. They just keep coming. I had a task force—young women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s all over the country. I emailed back and forth. We had conference calls. I said, “What is it you are afraid of?” Some was, “My mother never did anything. I don’t know how to do it.”
Bob: So if somebody says to you, “I don’t have a nice enough house.” What do you say?
Nan: You just use what God has given you. He is not asking you for a Better Homes and Garden house. He is asking you for availability. Just use the simple home you have.
Bob: “But I’m not a good cook. What do I do?”
Nan: Go to the grocery store and buy store-bought cake.
Dennis: Stouffer’s. She told us earlier, Bob.
Bob: That’s right.
Nan: You go to the grocery store and you say, “Would you put ‘Happy Birthday Jesus’ on this cake? I’m having the neighborhood kids over.” The next thing you know, you are witnessing to the lady in the grocery store.
Bob: “But I’m shy. I’m not an out-going person like Nan McCullough. I mean, she’s all over this thing. I’m not like you.”
Nan: You know, the Scriptures tell us that we are just supposed to be salt and light. What does salt do? It makes you thirsty. What does it also do? It preserves the environment. As you are moving about whatever walk of life you have—you could be a single woman in an office—people are watching you. They know there is something different about you. They are already thirsty.
If you have had a lifestyle that is different than yours, they are curious. Just have them over and order pizza from the local delivery guy. Watch a show on TV or a game, if it is a bunch of guys. Just build that relationship, and God will show you. He will give you the words to say.
Dennis: One of the things I’m concerned about, Nan. You’ve beautifully demonstrated it here—is that people who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ ought to be talking about Him to other people as they walk by the way, as they invite people into their home—not by way of shoving it down their throats…
Dennis: But winsomely from a genuine heart being interested in where the other person really is. A few moments ago you quoted this scripture but I want to read all of it. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said you are the salt of the earth but if salt has lost its taste how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a stand. It gives light to all in the house. In the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Nan McCullough you are doing that. You really are. You are a great exhortation to all of us to be ready to give an account of our faith and be thinking about the eternal destiny of our family, our friends, and our neighbors.
Nan: You bring to mind something that a lot of people are probably thinking right now and I’ve had said to my face. Oh, Nan McCullough you are a professional Christian worker. You’re on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. You can do this. This is easy. You’ve been trained to do this. They want to use the excuse “I don’t have the gift of evangelism or I don’t have the gift of hospitality.”
You know what? I don’t have the gift of mercy. Does that let me off the hook when someone is dying or sick? Am I supposed to be cold and callused?
I was talking to a former Crusade staff worker a number of years ago and we were grappling with this whole spiritual gift issue and discussing who has what kind of gift and you can tell what somebody’s gift is. Dave said to me, “Jesus was the perfect blending of all gifts and we are to become more Christ like.” That means we are supposed to be developing in the areas where we are least gifted. So I have to work on my mercy and maybe you have to work on your evangelism or you have to work on your hospitality but none of us are off the hook.
Nan: Because the goal in the Christian life is becoming more Christ like. I keep going back to God is not looking for ability. He’s looking for availability. He’s looking for a heart that says Lord, I’m no good at this and I get tongue tied but I just want to be used of you.
You know what? He is going to bring people across your path if you pray that.
Dennis: I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of Nan’s book and fire up the home fires to make the house or your apartment more inviting. When you do that pray for Sam and Nan McCullough for their ministry inside the beltway to our nation’s leaders that God would grant them favor and that they might be able to introduce many of them to faith in Jesus Christ. Nan, I want to say thanks for being on the broadcast and coming and sharing your heart and your life and for exhorting all of us.
Nan: Thank you Dennis. I hope I’ve encouraged many people to kick open that front door and offer a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.
Bob: And thanks for putting recipes in the back of the book too.
Dennis: You have Bob’s heart on that.
Bob: When it all comes down to it it’s about food isn’t it? Let’s get right where it belongs. We have copies of Nan’s book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s called Entertaining for Eternity With Heavenly Hospitality.
As far as I know I think we are the only place online where you can get the book. It’s a couple of hundred pages long with full color pictures on every page. You’ve done a great job with this book and I think a lot of women are going to enjoy looking through it. I know Mary Ann has enjoyed reading through your book and she has gotten a lot out of it as well. Again go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for Nan’s book.
Now it may be that some of our listeners were not with us at the beginning of today’s program. You mentioned the matching gift fund that has been established for us here at FamilyLife during the month of May. We had some friends of the ministry who came to us and said they wanted to motivate FamilyLife Today listeners to donate to the ministry and help support us and keep us on the air on this station. They made pledges to this matching gift fund and they have agreed to match every donation we receive on a dollar for dollar basis during the month of May. If we don’t’ get donations from you then these folks are off the hook and they don’t have to fulfill their matching gift donation.
So we hope to hear from as many listeners as possible this month with whatever amount you are able to do—a $25 or $50 or $100 or $1000 or $5000 donation. Whatever you are able to do to help support the ministry that donation is going to be matched on a dollar for dollar during the month of May.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Keep in mind those donations are going to be matched so we do hope to hear from you. We want to say in advance we appreciate your partnership and thanks for listening to FamilyLife Today and thanks for helping to support the ministry.
We want to invite you back tomorrow when Brian Haynes is going to join us. We are going to talk about a shift that is taking place in many churches in terms of the way they do student ministries. A shift that is more family centered. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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