JAC Online

Inviting Others to the Table - Cultivating an Environment for Evangelism
by Major Deborah Robinson, Eva Burrows College

Evangelism is not my strong point. The idea of ‘witnessing’, handing out tracts, or doing an ‘Open Air’, standing on a street corner, just creates in me this sense of dread, a feeling of awkwardness. Why, I’m the one who quickly rushes by, avoiding eye contact with those on our streets doing the very same thing. Don’t judge me, but I may have even crossed the street on occasions. Anyway, my point is, I’m not real good with evangelism. Now if someone came up to me and said “Hey, tell me about Jesus”, well that’s something I’d get excited about.

Which gets me thinking; what kind of environment creates the space for a more organic conversation?  I’d like to suggest that an environment that cultivates evangelism is one of hospitality, where the people of God are living out an authentic expression of discipleship within community.

Welcoming and Hospitable.

Lyn Edge and Gregory Morgan in Partnering with God: Being A Missional Salvationist, remind us that,
Welcome and hospitality are not optional extras: they are both message and means. Welcome is the message of the Kingdom. Hospitality is the demonstration of that welcome…When we extend welcome and hospitality to those who would not normally be in our orbit, we communicate expansive and inclusive love…True hospitality is a way of life which offers welcome to others. It involves treating strangers as equals and creating space for all to flourish (104).

If we look at the scriptures it is clear that welcome and hospitality matter (Deut 10:18-19; Luke 14:13; Hebrews 13:2).

The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine, states:
The doctrine (of the Trinity) describes a God-in-community who reaches out to create community. It is the very basis of the inclusive gospel. From its beginning, The Salvation Army has consistently proclaimed this gospel…We seek to include and welcome into the family of God those who feel themselves to be excluded from society…The challenge for us today is to retain that genuine inclusiveness, resisting developments in our corps and centres that may lead people to feel alienated (75-76).

It’s All About Food

In Partnering with God Mike Frost says,
Food is presented as a symbol of the inclusiveness of the gospel. Jesus calls a people who had strict dietary standards to “eat whatever is set before you” (Luke 10:8). In this instruction, we hear a call towards inclusiveness and relationships. The sharing of meals and practice of hospitality become places of belonging and of genuine encounter, with each other and with God (105).

In the book of Luke and Acts there are more than one hundred references to food. Here’s just a few from Luke, plus a favourite of mine that is not recorded in Luke, but rather in John J

ˇ                 Dinner with Levi – Luke 5:27-32

ˇ                 Grain with the disciples – 6:1-5

ˇ                 Dinner with the Pharisees and a sinful woman – 7:33-50

ˇ                 Dinner with Five Thousand plus – 9:10-17

ˇ                 Eat and Drink what is given to you – 10:7-8

ˇ                 Dinner with his ‘favourites’ – 10:38-41

ˇ                 Just enough for today – 11:3

ˇ                 Another invite from a Pharisee – 11:37-54

ˇ                 And another – 14:1

ˇ                 Teaching on hospitality and the Great Banquet – 14:7-24

ˇ                 Waring about ignoring the hungry, the poor – 16:19-31

ˇ                 Dinner with Zacchaeus – 19:1-10

ˇ                 Passover/Last Supper – 22:1-38

ˇ                 Dinner at Emmaus – 24:13-32

ˇ                 Breaking bread in Jerusalem – 24:33ff

ˇ                 Breakfast on the beach – John 21ff

The practice of eating together as followers of Jesus continues on as we note in Acts 2:42-47 as well as feeding the poor and the widow (6:1), not to mention Peter’s vision in chapter ten that speaks of inclusion and acceptance of others. Mike Frost says

The table ought to be the primary symbol of the Christian gathering. It represents hospitality, inclusivity, generosity, and grace…The invitation to share a table is a profoundly meaningful one in every culture…The table is the great equalizer in relationships. When we eat together we discover the inherent humanity of all people. We share stories. And hopes. And fears. And disappointment (Frost, 46-47).

When we intentionally create an inclusive space at our table for the other we are an expression of the welcoming inclusive grace of God and we are creating an environment that allows us to share the good news of Jesus.

I may not see myself as a great evangelist and maybe you do or don’t, but I encourage you to create space at your table for another, to set an extra place holder and ask God to show you who to invite to the table. I am praying for you, even now as I type. God, increase in us a desire to be hospitable and an attentiveness to your Spirit's leading. Fill us with your love and lead us into wonderful opportunities to “tell others about Jesus."

Sieger Köder-“Sinners Meal”

 

 

 

 

Edge, Lynette, and Gregory Morgan. Partnering with God: Being a Missional Salvationist. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017

Frost, Michael. Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, a NavPress Resource Published in Alliance with Tyndale House, 2016.

The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine. London: Salvation, 2010.

  

 

 

   

 

 

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