By Jim Tune
Twelve people sat in silence. They had traveled from Minnesota to Orlando for a weeklong course on evangelism with Steve Childers, one of the country’s top church-planting strategists. “You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st century will be, don’t you?” Childers asked them. He had them captivated. He waited an uncomfortably long time. Finally he answered: “Hospitality.”
In a progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage the unbelieving with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of your own homes.
When people don’t gather in droves for stadium crusades, or tarry long enough on the sidewalk to hear your gospel spiel, what will you do? Where will you interact with the unbelieving about the things that matter most?
Invite them to dinner.
We live in the post-Christian West. Approaches that used to work are becoming less effective. It’s time to rediscover an ancient practice that’s more important now than it has been in years. It’s time to rediscover hospitality.
In their new book The Simplest Way to Change the World, Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements argue for hospitality as a way of life. “The secret weapon for gospel advancement is hospitality, and you can practice it whether you live in a house, an apartment, a dorm, or a high-rise.”
We like to overcomplicate things, and inviting people into our homes seems so deceptively simple. But simple works. Willis and Clements write, “The world could use more ordinary Christians opening their ordinary lives so others can see what life in light of the gospel looks like. And what better place to watch Christians than in their homes?”
Inviting people into our homes is simply a way of loving our neighbors. It is opening our messy, imperfect lives to serve others, including those who are different from us. It is slow, unassuming, unglamorous, and just what’s needed today.
Rosaria Butterfield wrote an angry letter about a Christian organization to a newspaper. A local preacher reached out to her in a surprising way: he invited her over for dinner.
“Ken and Floy invited the stranger in—not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to learn and to dialogue,” Butterfield writes in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.
During our meal, they did not share the gospel with me. After our meal, they did not invite me to church. Because of these glaring omissions to the Christian script as I had come to know it, when the evening ended and Pastor Ken said he wanted to stay in touch, I knew that it was truly safe to accept his open hand.
It took years, but Butterfield became a Christian.
Want to change the world? Love your neighbors and have them over for dinner. It just might be the key to evangelism in today’s post-Christian culture.