A few days ago, David Mathis posted a very interesting and helpful article on the Desiring God blog entitled, Hospitality and the Great Commission. Here is some of what he wrote in that article:
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?
You can read the rest of this article here. While this article mainly addresses a Western Christians (specifically American Christians), I think the general principle of hospitality targeting strangers and unbelievers can be applied in similar contexts in the non-Western world.
But I found it helpful being a missionary and a foreigner in this culture as I have been wrestling with some of the most effective ways of doing evangelism here. It’s so different! As Mathis rightly notes, mass (evangelistic) crusades (rallies) here would not work the same way that they do in Malawi, Africa and other parts of the world. Preaching on a street corner is not as effective as I have seen it have elsewhere. We have tried handing out gospel tracts at our church over the past years. I wouldn’t say it’s been a waste but it certainly hasn’t yielded the results I had hoped for (at least from my perspective). We have been able to make contact with some people who have come to “visit” our local church and worship with us from time to time, but nothing more beyond that (again – all this is from my human which means finite and imperfect perspective).
Over the years that I have been in North America is that much of “church growth” especially in Reformed churches does not happen by conversions but rather by membership transfer (i.e. people leaving one church to join another). Generally what happens is that people (“the chosen few”)move from the broad evangelical churches to the more Reformed churches. While this is not all bad (as they are so many bad, Christless and gospel-less “churches” around), it is does not add to the number of professing Christians overall. As a Reformed pastor, I do not want to content myself with, or build my of hopes seeing our small congregation grow on membership transfers. While I would not want to turn away anyone who was transferring for legitimately biblical grounds, my prayer is that our congregation would mainly grow through conversions! I know that may sound a bit presumptuous especially considering the environment in which the Lord has placed us. But, the Bible says that what is impossible with man is actually possible with the LORD! He is able to do far beyond anything that we could ever ask or imagine according to His power which is at work within us! So, I am still holding on to hope – trusting that the LORD will bless His Word and Work and give the increase if He so pleases!
For those of you serving as missionaries, pastors and/or evangelists here in North America, what have been your experiences? I would love to learn from anyone who has had greater success in evangelism here in North America (in my case, here in Canada). Please share your experiences – who knows? The Lord might be pleased to use that to help a small church in Canada make a great difference for Christ in her local community! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Finally, let me ask each of you who has read this blog post to fervently pray for us here (by that I mean our local congregation) as we seek to bring the Word of God to bear on our lives and on the lives of other people here in New Westminster (where our congregation is), and also in the surrounding areas here in the Greater Vancouver area.
To learn more about our congregation, you can visit our website at: New Westminster Chapel.