I’m sitting here reveling in the beauty of an October morning in Athens. We came back from a conference yesterday and I piled my laundry into the bathroom, timed myself to put all our things away, and then sat in the bliss of my favorite place to be; our little apartment in Victoria. Almost every time we come home, I tell Eric, “I love our home.” It’s the most set-up space we’ve had since we got married 6 years ago, and we put some heart into it right before the birth of our Rafi. It has a balcony on both sides, and I hang laundry to dry in the morning before I sit on my exercise bike on the front side, and serve dinner and tea on the backside as we watch the sunset.
God put it on our hearts to be nimble for Jesus and not to get too rooted in one place. We’ve lived many places since we got married, and I’ve learned that you can be intent on creating simple beauty everywhere you go. I want to share some tips with you, because I really believe that all of our core community needs can be met in the safe sanctuary of gospel homes for Jesus.
Here are 10 ways to create simple + beautiful spaces that invite communion with your people.
- FIGHT CLUTTER LIKE BED BUGS. The bain of all ministry spaces in my experience is too many things. Visitors will donate their extras and leave their shampoo bottles and feel like they helped save the world. Tell them no or give their things away as soon as they leave. If you have cabinets full of things you don’t use every week or month, consider selling or getting rid of them!
- BUY A FEW LOVELY THINGS. Amazon sells very beautiful wall tapestries that transform a boring space into an inviting one. Invest in a few solid colored throw pillows that match the tapestry!
- BUY CHEAP + BIG PLANTS. Don’t settle for a host of small potted plants that collect dust and die. Find one or two plant kinds that are low maintenance, large, and very green and spend a bit more cash for something that will transform your space and stay alive.
- ARRANGE YOUR SITTING AREAS IN CIRCLES. Avoid a scattered look with your couches and chairs and make sure you’re actually facing your guests when they talk to you. Having a larger coffee table makes for easy access for hot mugs of coffee.
- BUY A BIGGER TABLE. A large, beautiful table with some fresh flowers and a few candles can help all of us cope with life better. Benches in the back help squish the little ones in close. Set the table when possible, and develop a healthy meal time culture of conversation and good manners.
- HAVE EASY ACCESS COFFEE AND TEA SUPPLIES. Someone bought us a latte machine last year and it changed our lives. I often show our most frequent guests how to run the machine so they feel free to grab a coffee when they want one. Loose leaf teas are more delicious. Make sure you have cinnamon to sprinkle on top of lattes, and a healthy hot chocolate mix.
- HAVE SOMETHING HOT + HEALTHY ON THE STOVE. I have a few one pot meals that I love. One is biriani, with that crispy spiced chicken on the bottom, layered with caramelized onions and eggplant. Another is Thai soup, served with a hardboiled egg, cilantro, red pepper, and lime. We really do underestimate the power of a hot bowl of soup for the gospel. Involve your people in the chopping by setting up your kitchen with a few bar stools or chairs so the cooking becomes a lovely time of laughter and talking.
- INCORPORATE HEALTHY SPIRITUAL ROUTINES. Our bibles sit on our coffee table for easy access. I try to be very available for spiritual discussion, especially for those that are living in my home. Often these discussions happen while we’re cooking, so we bought a few bar stools so those conversing can sit and help chop and season food.
- HAVE HEALTHY MARGIN SO YOU CAN SERVE WITH JOY. Sometimes the doorbell rings and my heart sinks. Often this is an indicator that I need some time off, but sometimes it is simply an invitation to tap into His abundance. Don’t invite everyone into your home because they are needy, invite them in because God has crossed your paths and they are a person of peace. He gives grace for what He has called you to, and not more.
- KEEP IT CLEAN. Have daily routines that keep things from getting cluttered and mentally disturbing. Teach those living with you how to make sure the bathrooms stay clean and the kitchen counters are wiped before bed. Even if some don’t seem to care, this DOES affect everyone’s morale. I clean my balconies and windows on Tuesday, clean and restock the fridge for the week on Wednesday, clean bathrooms and kitchen on Thursday, and dust and scrub floors on Friday. I usually don’t clean for more then 1 hour a day, often less.
Three years ago when we moved to Athens we started looking for a large space for the gospel, a center we could host dinners, bible studies and church. COVID hit us in the face and for two years we struggled with all the quarantines and regulations. We used all our small spaces with small groups, AND WE LOVED IT. Ok, most of it. There were definitely days I left the house to run off frustration, and nights I thought we were being crazy. Our friend Shafi often cooked for the larger bible studies, and one night I asked him “How do you know how much to cook every time?”
“The Holy Spirit tells me,” was his simple reply. We sat our guests in the hallway and bedrooms, and cooked out of a tiny kitchen, but everyone got a hot plate of food. We got a few mats for the floor, and a larger tea dispenser. We invited friends to stay with us, and started realizing that discipleship is so accelerated when you do life together closely. We learned how to go deep with a few people. God stripped us of thinking of ministry, church, and missions as something different then a daily life of living in obedience.
Around a year ago, God miraculously provided the funds to buy a space and we were so excited. Eric started searching for properties and we ran around looking at them and dreaming up plans for what we would do with them. Every single property ended up having a dreadful legal problem, and even when we thought we finally had a breakthrough it would FALL through instead. Countless properties later, we ended up pretty surrendered before the Lord, open to whatever He wanted. We also did some warfare, praying in the spirit over the space God had for us.
Three years later we are still working on the paperwork for a larger space. We don’t see fully why He didn’t give us this space three years ago, but one thing I know is that I have seen the power of small gospel spaces for Jesus. They are reproducible, inviting, organic little homes where the Holy Spirit is alive and active. They welcome a lot of laughter and tears. We have been overwhelmed by the fruit of them as people are delivered from demons, accept Jesus as Lord, are baptized in the bathtub, and have the gospel modeled to them every day.
Whatever space God has blessed you with can be used for the gospel. If you have a huge home, Hallelujah! If you have a small apartment, Hallelujah! Use it all for His glory, buy a big tea pot, and settle in for a life of many interruptions. Stop acting on whoever is the most needy and instead getting aligned with what God is doing, and invite His children in.
Most of the world will never own a large house, mega church, or even a community center, but most of the world has a home, a table, or a spare room that can be dedicated to Jesus. I believe God is setting these small homes on fire around the world to be glowing, brilliant spaces of the gospel, and they have the power to change the world. They multiply fast because they are reproducible. They don’t depend on fundraising for big programs but invite living in faith for food cooked with love from small homes.
Want to start? Use what you have in your hands to give, and start giving it. Ask the Lord to expand your heart and you will find sisters and brothers everywhere you go. Answer His promptings. Boil the water for tea and set the table. Stop complicating obedience with the structures that have made it difficult to be a true disciple of Jesus. Light the candles. Don’t trust in the next model to reach people but start actively obeying Jesus by exercising a heart of welcome everywhere you go and dedicating every space He gives you to the work of the gospel. Join me in weeping and laughing and praying for grace over tables laden with dirty soup bowls and cups of loose leaf herbal tea with honey.
“It is meant to offer an experience of hospitality, just as I believe that God extends to human beings a divine and inexhaustible welcome: the door is always open, the table always set, the arms flung wide, outstretched.” Jane Redmont