Eating, drinking and evangelizing

Over the last year or so, my husband Dave and I have been thinking about the connection between evangelism and hospitality. We’ve become more convinced that while evangelistic events and other strategies have their place, they can’t be a substitute for real relationships with non-Christian friends. And hospitality seems to us to be a key part of creating and maintaining those relationships.

So we decided that we needed to learn how to cultivate a lifestyle where we give and receive hospitality as part of our relationships with our non-Christian neighbours and friends (especially in this phase of our lives when so many of our networks are local ones within the suburb where we live). With three young children, most of the hospitality has happened between me and the non-Christian mums of our children’s friends from school, play group and preschool. It’s nothing groundbreaking; just afternoon tea after school, or morning tea with the little ones, or a catch up during school holidays.

And while we have been invited back in some cases, and we’ve gladly accepted the invitation, I think my bias has been towards having people in my home. With all my thinking about how to do hospitality better, I think I’ve ignored the benefits of being a guest.

A recent post by Tim Chester made me think about this:

… [E]ven our homes can be safe places for us and alien for others. After all, we follow a Saviour who had no home. I still believe in homes. Homes can become places where people feel they belong. Moreover, it does not have to be my home. We should look to plant churches in the homes of new converts. That way contextualis[ation] will happen more naturally. But we also need to move mission outside of church buildings and outside of Christian homes.

He makes a good point. As Chester writes, “Jesus had no home, but he came eating and drinking!” He welcomed sinners to his table, and he accepted their invitations to eat with them: tax collectors, Pharisees and everyone in between (Luke 5:29, 11:37-8).

In the New Testament letters, the assumption is that Christians will be eating and drinking with their non-Christian neighbours. While Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that they need to separate themselves from people who claim to be fellow believers, but who are living in blatant, unrepentant sin, he quickly adds the clarification that he does not mean that they should separate themselves from ‘the people of this world’ (1 Cor 5:9-11). There are tables that they should not eat at (e.g. the table of the god at the local pagan temple—1 Cor 10:14-22), but their next door neighbour’s table is definitely not a place to stay away from (1 Cor 10:25-27).

So how do we become good at being guests? Do we need to build a few more ‘third places’ into the pattern of our lifestyle, or can you skip that step and just keep inviting people ’round, and wait till they begin to reciprocate? What have you found to be the best contexts for cultivating the kind of serious friendships in which the gospel is shared and people come to know Christ?

2 thoughts on “Eating, drinking and evangelizing

  1. It is really thought provoking article, i really liked the way it was laid out. I ‘m a student of David Starling, man of humbleness. I admire at his knowledge and i praise God for his humbleness. I think, it is good to remember that we as Christians Glorify God in our ordinary, day-to-day life.

    May God Bless You,

  2. Great post.  We have been talking about the same thing around here.  My wife and I, along with our two young daughters live in a Christian household with other like minded believers.  We have often gone out street witnessing, but are beginning to realize that we aren’t really making disciples, so we are currently in the midst of shifting our approach.  Tonight is our first community hospitality night.  We are all inviting people over from work and various other venues, over to our house for food, conversation, and a word from the Scriptures.  I’ll update you on how it goes!

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