The refugee crisis in the UK has been in and out of the press, but many continue to risk everything in the hope that by coming to the UK they would have a better life.

In April, the Evangelical Alliance wrote about the Government’s new plan for immigration and urged members to fill in a consultation opposing the two-tiered system which will grade people based on how they entered the UK, regardless of the complex experiences of people seeking asylum. 

These proposals are now being discussed in parliament in the Nationality and Borders Bill, and I hope the outcome is favourable for those seeking asylum. But as conversations develop, how can we use the tools available to us to care for the stranger’ and show the love of God? As churches re-open and restrictions are lifted, what does it mean to have a truly welcoming church that practices hospitality, to strangers as well as our friends?

Many of us have missed hospitality since March 2020. We are out of practice, rusty, or perhaps we’ve lost confidence. As our churches reopen, many will be eager to reconnect with old friends and return to comfortable patterns and familiar social groups. 


As we consider what it would look like to be a church that welcomed refugees, we must abandon our ideas on what hospitality means and look to scripture for what it truly is.

For instance, hospitality is not:

  • only for the most established members of our church.
  • for the extrovert personality types.
  • our responsibility only if the visitor shares our interests and sense of humour.
  • about having the best selection of refreshments. 
  • all about the welcome booklet.

A church could have all the right systems in place, but if we expect hospitality to be communicated solely from the front, or from a great new-comers form, then we will miss the heart of God’s intention for the local church in welcoming the stranger. It is not enough for hospitality to be part of the mission statement; it should be interwoven in the culture of our churches.

In Titus and 1 Timothy, being hospitable is listed in the requirements for leaders of the church. In turn, this means hospitality is a sign of someone after God’s own heart. God places great value and worth in opening our churches up to others, so you should too. 

A picture of God’s grace

Hospitality is designed to be a picture of God’s open, welcoming arms to His people who did not deserve it. Leviticus 19:33 says: The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” As fallen sinners, none of us have any right to be in the company of God, and yet He invites us to call Him Father. To reflect the God who has shown this lavish grace to us, we are to be authentic hosts, and welcome people in as if they are our family. We are to make those who perhaps feel as if they don’t belong, feel as if they are at home. 

A way to serve the Lord

Jesus says that whatever His followers do for His people, we do for Jesus Himself. Matthew 25:35 says: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”. A challenge for the UK church today is that many people understand that true hospitality means adopting a come as you are’ posture, with no agenda to see them become a Christian or hope to persuade them. According to this way of thinking, true hospitality means full acceptance, no questions asked.

But I want to suggest that as followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t embrace this definition, because it is incompatible with the great commission. What if hospitality, properly understood, welcomes people in order to renew them? 

Peter Leithart argues in Traces of the Trinity: We don’t welcome the naked so they can be naked in our presence; we don’t show hospitality to the hungry so they can watch us eat. We welcome the naked and hungry to change their circumstances…Hospitality is not universal approval. It is universal welcome for the sake of renewal.”

In the context of refugees, we welcome with open arms so that they might find an eternal home with King Jesus, which can never be taken away, destroyed or made unsafe. 

The new Nationality and Borders Bill will is being revisited in parliament this week. As we at the Evangelical Alliance seek to influence public policy so Britain would be more hospitable, let’s continue to remember God’s good design for the stranger within our church families. 

"We welcome with open arms so that they might find an eternal home with King Jesus, which can never be taken away, destroyed or made unsafe."