“You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?”
Steve Childers, a trainer of church planters, asked the question to a group of leaders who’d gathered to learn about evangelism. He waited before giving his one-word answer: “Hospitality.”
David Mathis, one of those who’d gathered to hear Childers teach, reflects: “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 our 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 moved into Liberty Village in late 2012. Our goal: to plant a church in this urban condo community where few knew Jesus.
I knew that nobody had cracked the code for planting a church in urban secular cities like Toronto. Some have planted churches, but planting is tough. Many have closed. Even accomplished church planters struggle when they plant daughter churches. We came knowing it would be tough. Some said it was impossible.
I didn’t have the answers, but I knew where to start: hospitality.
Whenever we met people in the community, they asked us where we were from. When we told them we lived 15 minutes away, the conversation froze. We moved into the area and it helped.
We wanted to have people over to our place, but we didn’t know anyone yet. We started by joining them at community events: condo annual general meetings, restaurant openings and closings, street festivals, and more. I dined at any table I could find. I couldn’t tell if I was working or partying. The lines of ministry have never been more blurred.
Slowly, though, we built relationships. We’ve now had many of these new friends over to our house and shared dinner with them. We’ve been able to share the gospel with some of them.
Mathis was right. “Where will you interact with the unbelieving about the things that matter most? Invite them to dinner.” Or join them at theirs, or even at community events if that’s what it takes.
Radical Ordinary Hospitality
Rosaria Butterfield calls this radical ordinary hospitality. “Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbours, and neighbors family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed.”
In many communities, we can use not only our homes but public spaces to build relationships and share the beauty of a relationship with Jesus.
It’s been over seven years since we started our church planting journey, and I’m more convinced than ever: the most strategic opportunity for sharing the gospel is hospitality.
I’m attending something called a paint social this Thursday. Our condo holds its annual general meeting right after. Tomorrow I’m setting up shop in the coffee shop in the middle of the community to do my work.
Not only is it fun, but it may be the most strategic action we can take to share the good news of the gospel.