Friday, May 30, 2008

Church Newsletter Article

Recently, I was asked to write an article for my church's monthly newsletter that would touch on the issue of evangelism. The following is the article I prepared that appears in our June newsletter. It is titled 'Evangelism and Hospitality', and contains some excerpts from my recently completed hospitality course:

When I was at seminary, I befriended a college student from Korea who was here in America studying at a nearby college. During one of our lunches, he said something to me I've never forgotten. There were a large number of international students at his college, and periodically, these students would get together and compare notes on their experience in America. Virtually all of them had a common regret. They bemoaned the fact that they had spent years in America studying at college, and yet during that time, almost none of them had been invited into an American home to fellowship with an American family. They truly felt like strangers in a strange land, and their perception was that Americans were superficially nice but mostly inhospitable.

Many lifelong Americans can probably resonate with this sentiment too, including many churchgoers. What makes it worse is that no serious discussion of the New Testament's presentation of the spread of the Gospel can ignore the issue of hospitality. As just one example, the book of Acts is an extended historical account of the growth of Christ's church, and episode after episode shows hospitality as integral to this evangelistic growth. From the visitation of the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 to the island-wide healing of disease on Malta in Acts 28 while Paul was staying at the home of a prominent local leader, it is clear that hospitality enabled the transmission of the Gospel in the early church. Nothing has changed. Is our own loss of understanding and practicing hospitality as a means to spread the Gospel a reason behind the Gospel not spreading in our culture the way it did in Acts? Are we even asking this question?

The Christian life, including evangelism, can be seen through the complementary grids of Incarnation and Hospitality. Following the example of Jesus, Incarnation is the act of entering into the world of others to better understand them and minister to them with the Gospel. Hospitality is the act of inviting others into our world for the same reasons. I have found that while there are exceptions, many people relish the opportunity to learn about our faith and our God when both are modeled for them through hospitality in the home and church.

May we be a church that vibrantly recovers Paul’s simple command to ‘practice hospitality’ (Rom 12.13). I am convinced that doing so will change our surrounding community by revitalizing the spread of the Gospel in our midst