Holy Conversation

May 1st, 2015


Are evangelism and hospitality the same thing? If not, how do the terms establish priorities? Which is most critical? Here are some select responses.

"Where we have failed in many of our churches is to faithfully proclaim the gospel and the transforming grace of Jesus Christ to all who enter. Sin is no longer called sin. The need for repentance and conversion is no longer emphasized. The gospel has been watered down so as to make everyone feel welcome without defining the need for salvation or offering the opportunity for genuine transformation."
Dan Casselberry
Retired Pastor in the Florida Annual Conference

"Hospitality is the way we treat people when they come onto our property, but evangelism is the way we invite them to come. Both are critically important, but they are not the same. Hospitality prepares the dinner, but invitation (AKA evangelism) is the way we obey the master’s command: “Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled” (Luke 14:23 CEB)."
James A. Harnish
Author and Retired Pastor from Winter Haven, FL

"In marketing for nonprofit organizations, I call it “community relations,” emphasizing two-way communication: researching what a community needs, then developing and promoting a program in response, according to the gifts and mission of the organization (church)."
Don R. Francis
Professor of Sociology and Nonprofit Organization Management at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, WI

"Which hand is more important, your right or your left? It’s a litmus test for you and your congregation: If you (and they) can’t do hospitality, there isn’t much hope for you (or them) doing evangelism—real reaching-out evangelism. Most of our churches characterize themselves as friendly, without realizing they are friendly with just themselves."
Nancy Hollingsworth
Pastor of Victoria UMC in De Soto, MO

"We provide comprehensive Christian hospitality to our homeless and marginalized neighbors in downtown San Antonio, featuring food, clothing, showers, a free medical clinic, and much more. Evangelism happens when our guests show that they want to grow spiritually, beginning or resuming their discipleship. Our challenge is providing spiritual formation opportunities in varied formats."
Dale G. Tremper
Associate Pastor of Travis Park UMC in San Antonio, TX

"After seventy years of ministry, I conclude that God does the evangelizing and it’s up to us to do the hospitality. Walk or stand next to people and begin to speak hospitably. In case they respond, listen. Say what seems right. The Spirit will take it from there."
Delton Krueger
Retired Elder in the Minnesota Annual Conference

"Hospitality is the heart of evangelism. If we focus on hospitality, we embody the good news and maximize the possibilities for people we interact with (inside and outside of the church) to experience the love that Jesus lived. Hospitality avoids the behaviors and attitudes that some have experienced under the guise of evangelism."
Janet S. Everhart
Associate Professor of Religion at Simpson College in Indianola, IA

"We need for the old-time Anglo members (in a small, rural community) to feel comfortable with the change while being welcoming to different ethnicities and cultures, and for the potential Hispanic members to feel welcomed and invited."
Dean Fleming
Pastor of First UMCs in Falfurrias and Premont, TX

"The laity need to take the lead to be hospitable to visitors by visiting them right away to express authentic friendship, inviting them back for worship and other activities, and mentoring them. The clergy need to 'open the gates' and invite all to the throne of grace by preaching evangelistic messages."
Richard Leaver
Director of Mission and Pastoral Care at Collingswood Manor United Methodist Homes in Collingswood, NJ

"Hospitality without evangelism is niceness; evangelism without hospitality is brittle."
George Alva White
Retired Elder in the Iowa Annual Conference

"Genuine hospitality doesn’t impose upon the guest but offers the opportunity to build relationships. During our recent hosting of a nightly meal for homeless neighbors, guests often found a way to ask—and sometimes witness to—our volunteers. Evangelism is a two-way street."
Paul Mitchell
Pastor of Snoqualmie UMC in Snoqualmie, WA

"Hospitality is the context of what it means to be Christian. Evangelism is the content and the expression of it."
Charles Schuster
Retired Clergy in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

"I prefer the word hospitality. People are invited into a community and a conversation centered in Christ. They are welcome to set their lives up against what they see and hear, and then decide. Evangelism starts with an agenda, often eschewing a loving, inclusive ear to the needs of the individual."
Jeff Sterling
Lead Pastor at St. Paul’s UMC in Allison Park, PA

"I believe hospitality is the first action of evangelism."
Ron P. Griffen
Lead Pastor of First UMC in El Centro, CA

"I prefer hospitality to evangelism because I think more people understand the concept of hospitality."
Susan Taylor
Senior Pastor of Bethany UMC in Smyrna, GA

"Evangelism is the lifestyle of the church as we seek to transform the world, and hospitality is an essential way we do it. How can we separate the two?"
Jim Frisbie
Pastor of Oak Grove UMC in Oak Grove, OR

About the Author

Circuit Rider

Circuit Rider is a magazine for United Methodist clergy. Issues back to 2008 are available on Ministry Matters. For read more…
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