Monday, June 3, 2013

HOSPITALITY EVANGELISM

...reaching the least, the last and the lost...

My three Ls in the title were first spoken by one of the world's greatest evangelists, Gen William Booth. (Great because he not only had success but tens of thousands of successors!). The same spiritual giant was once asked to send a message to a Christian Conference. He sent one word..."others"!

I believe simple churches are doing a great job helping and healing wounded Christians. Giving permission for people to live a Christian lifestyle that is both uncluttered, uncomplicated and free. But what about those 'others'?

At the beginning of 2011 I felt a sense of Holy Spirit pressure to do something about the Booth's three Ls. I don't profess to be an evangelist, but I have heard through experienced simple church practitioners that if we aren't missional in our actions, we're doomed to the same boring same old, same old. In other words, evangelise or fossilise!

Let me tell you about our journey. I'm telling this not to boast, nor to suggest this is a marketable pattern of success. No, I just want to encourage you to obey the Holy Spirit's direction for you regarding these lost family members, neighbours and friends whom God is calling us to reach.

My wife Averil and I made a decision to have a weekly "Open House". We knew of some who would come but we decided to hold it every week for the many or the few. We started with the few - six of us to be exact. Our plan was to provide a full, no not elaborate bring-and-share meal, (even if there wasn't much 'bring' in the meal). We would take our time over the meal and allow free-flowing, spontaneous conversations. Then to have a relaxed sharing time, singing, watching a section of a DVD, asking people to tell their stories, Bible discussion, teaching (not preaching) the Good News. And loving on needy people. 

There's an unplanned colour at Open House. A Filipino, Fijian, Kiribati, Vietnamese and Samoan among the group. Also a lady who has spent the last 20 years in France, who travels a 30 kms round trip for what she calls the highlight of her week. Most from varied or no church background. The table-talk is boisterous, the shared food delicious and the singing and discussions fully participatory. The latest event, a request from two Catholic folk to be water baptised. Also one who has no church background joins Averil and me for a 45 minute daily walk and cuppa. After lots of no-strings-attached hospitality this person has now made a genuine choice to become a follower of Jesus.

This is certainly not rocket science or needing theologically trained people to conduct it. But it does require commitment and generous hospitality that comes from the heart . I guess we could call this hospitality-evangelism, both terms being strongly Biblical, Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:16; 1Pet.4:9. There is a hospitality that has ulterior motives - but that will be soon exposed for what it is. We seek to demonstrate heartfelt hospitality; not like the lady who invited the pastor for lunch. She asked her daughter to say grace. "I don't know what to say," said the five-year-old. "Just say what Mummy says," was her reply. The daughter's prayer, "Dear Lord, why did I have to invite the pastor for lunch today?!"

 
My prayer: "May God give you the gift of heaps of happy, heartfelt hospitality..."

Jack


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