Church Hospitality Ministry is not Evangelism!

Hospitality is not evangelismDoes your church hospitality committee call itself something like:

  • Evangelism Committee
  • Evangelism and Outreach Committee
  • Witness Committee?

I’ve encountered several church committees with similar descriptions like this:

(Evangelism) Ministry Team is responsible for greeting visitors to our church.

Visitors  receive a visit from a member of our congregation who brings them cookies, an church brochure, a newsletter, and a pen.  They also receive a letter from the pastor thanking them for coming and asking if they would like a more formal visit from the Pastor and a lay person.

It is a group of men and women called to use their gift of hospitality to welcome visitors and members one Sunday morning each month.

We organize a post service lunch to help visitors feel welcome, and need team workers to organize, serve, and clean the tables.

Hospitality Ministry is not Evangelism

Evangelism, defined as I use it here, is focused on the verbal proclamation of the message of the cross.

Hospitality ministry is focused on the experience of the first time visitor, repeat visitors, and members who attend your church.

Evangelism deals with themes of:

  • Personal faith in Christ as Savior and Lord/li>
  • Repentance
  • Active service in the Kingdom of God

Hospitality deals with themes of:

  • Greeters
  • Ushers
  • Visitor Centers
  • Receptions
  • Connecting Visitors to your church.

Evangelism ministry and hospitality are not the same, so stop calling it that!

Hospitality ministry serves the evangelistic purpose of the church

Part of my work as church hospitality coach allows me to be a first time visitor in churches.

I’ve also listened to many people who make visits to churches as the first time visitor.

I read the last page of Outreach Magazine, which for now is a short interview with a first time church visitor.

One thing has consistently risen to the surface.

The ability of a first time visitor to connect to the worship service was directly impacted by the warmth of the welcome experienced.

  • When no one says hello, the perceived coldness hinders your ability to remember what the sermon was about.
  • When people stare at you for not dressing right, you want to hide, but feel trapped.

In both examples, the ability of the first time hearer to interact with the sermon (the central part of most worship experiences) is hindered.

However, when a guest experiences:

  • a warm welcome,
  • a safe place for their children
  • ease of finding their seat in the sanctuary
  • a chance to make friends at a coffee hour
  • a personal invitation to Sunday school

there remains

  • a greater openness to listen to the sermon
  • an ability to engage and comprehend the sermon
  • an openness to relax and participate in the signing
  • a distraction free environment to enjoy the entire worship service.

There is a greater likelihood (from a human point of view) of greater connection to the local church during that stage of their spiritual journey.

A warm welcome is thus part of the pre-evangelism work necessary in a church’s mission to help people find faith in Christ.

Hospitality ministry helps with the evangelistic work of the church.

Next steps I can help with

Do you want help developing your church hospitality?  In the EvangelismCoach.org store, I have several products for immediate download or on DVD that you might find helpful:

Another service that I offer church hospitality is some personalized coaching.

Usually, I spend time on the phone with your committee, up to 90 minutes, where I help you trouble shoot and develop some action plans. Read more about the welcome ministry coaching call here.

Video: Dr. Michael Green examines What is the gospel

Dr Michael Green Evangelism and the Early ChurchMichael Green has had a tremendous influence on my ministry through his books that I read while in seminary.

Michael gave the first talk at a recent confidence in the gospel event.  If you have 18 spare minutes, listen to his challenge to us to be faithful to the Apostolic Gospel.

Michael Green provides the keynote address exploring the question, “What is the Gospel?

He explores how the apostles approached the gospel by looking at the three word roots that are found in the New Testament for spreading the Christian message:

  • euangelizō, meaning ‘to tell good news’,
  • kēryssō, meaning ‘to proclaim’, and
  • martyreō meaning ‘to witness’.

The consultation, entitled, “A Faithful Gospel: How should we understand what the gospel is?” is the first in a series of five, taking place as part of the Evangelical Alliance’s ‘Confidence in the Gospel’ initiative.

(Feed readers will need to click through to watch).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

FOR SMALL GROUPS

  1. When we communicate the gospel, is it heard as good news? What can we do to ensure people see that the good news of Jesus is good news for them?
  2. How can we make sure we are staying faithful to the whole of the apostolic gospel, not just the parts that suit us?
  3. 2000 years later, how can we be part of the process of ‘bearing witness to the facts’ of the good news of Jesus?

FOR LEADERSHIP TEAMS

  1. How does the gospel we present compare to the gospel presented by the early Church? What is missing from our presentation of the gospel?
  2. In terms of how we communicate the gospel, what can we learn from Michael’s overview of the early Church’s approach?
  3. The apostles placed great importance on connecting the gospel to the Old Testament. How should we do this, when our audience has a limited understanding of the scriptures?

Free Download for further study on What is the Gospel?

More questions and a synopsis is found at the Evangelical Alliance Website:

 Books by Michael Green:

What is Evangelism? A Definition Discussion

What is a definition of evangelismYear ago, I was standing in the lunch line at the seminary cafeteria.  A classmate and I were discussing themes in our evangelism class when a fellow student from another class interrupted:

“Are you talking about the E-word?” In our class, we were talking about evangelism and its connections to American Imperialism.”

Huh?

Another time, in the conversational small talk prior to a personal evangelism workshop, one person mentioned that their session had just spent six months studying evangelism.

I inquired,

“What answer did the session come up with?”

She replied

“It’s finding the Presbyterians in our neighborhood.”

Gather 40 people in a room, and you’re likely to find 40 different understandings of evangelism.

Some evangelism definitions are so wide to cover anything and everything related to growing a church.

Some evangelism definitions are so narrowly focused to a scripted outline to a stranger that needs to be humbled.

Some definitions of evangelism are somewhere in between.

Whenever I do workshops, I always get different answers to the question “What is evangelism?”

Such as

  • sharing my faith,
  • getting people to come to church
  • building a home (as in a mission project for the poor)
  • after school tutoring
  • hosting the homeless for a night.

Since I’m a Presbyterian pastor, I choose to use an excellent definition of evangelism, as adopted by the General Assembly (1990).

Joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign love of God, and calling people to repentance, to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to active membership in the church, and to obedient service in the world.

I use this definition for many reasons.

  • It’s theologically rich.
  • It includes the emotion of sharing, the activity of sharing, the content of the sovereign love of God, and a fourfold call to commitment.
  • It goes beyond the “say-a-prayer” as a destination, and sees the fruit of evangelism as integration into a church and outworking as a disciple.

I’ve written about this definition before.  See these articles:

What is Evangelism? Group Discussion Guide

Evangelism Training MeetingLast week, I met with a leadership team for the first time to help them brainstorm new ways to grow in evangelism.  I led them in a group discussion on evangelism.

Since this was my first discussion with them, I wanted to get a feel for their experiences and their pre-conceptions about

What is evangelism?

The outgrowth will be future discussions into particular areas.

What is evangelism?

Leading a group discussion on evangelism can be a challenge because the field of evangelism is huge.

In fact I did an evangelism mind map to start thinking about all the different aspects for this group discussion.

If you are

  • gathering a new evangelism team, or
  • starting up a new evangelism work in the local church, or
  • leading some other group discussion on evangelism

here are some discussion questions I used that you might find useful.

Discussion Questions – What is evangelism?

  • How would you describe or define evangelism?
  • How do you think evangelism should be done?
  • How do you do evangelism in your life now?
  • In your journey to faith in Christ, how did evangelism happen in your life?
  • What is the role of the congregation in evangelism?
  • What is the role of the pastor in evangelism?

The Group Discussion on Evangelism

The opening question generated lots of answers that felt like cliches or rote answers — quick bursts of answers from years of hearing it from the pulpit.

  • Preaching the Word.
  • Sharing the Good News.
  • Sharing your testimony.
  • Giving the reason for your faith.

It may seem like a no-brainer question, but this questions reveals assumptions that people bring to the discussion on evangelism.

As the group facilitator, I pushed back a little to help people think through the “fixed answers.”

For example,

  • What’s good news?  What makes it good?
  • Can laypeople do evangelism if it’s only preaching?
  • What are the key elements to the gospel that you want to share?
  • Personally, how do you share?

As we got into the group evangelism discussion, it became clear that on a surface level, these 8 people had great answers, but underneath that surface, I saw

  • Different approaches to evangelism.
  • Different experiences.
  • Different theological understandings.

Avoid conversational drift.

Most opening discussions on the nature of evangelism, if unchecked at this point, tend to drift into colorful theological debates. For example,

  • Do people respond to God’s grace, or do they make a decision to respond?
  • What is the value or lack of value over the “sinners prayer?”
  • Do people have to fully understand their sin first, or can they start following Jesus and learn about sin later?
  • Can people follow first and understand later?
  • Can people follow Jesus before even having a completely biblical world view?
  • What do people have to understand before following Jesus?
  • Can conversions be “false?”

Other times, it may drift into areas of practice and styles:

  • Rush to present the gospel to as many people as possible.
  • Take the time to build relationships of influence with people.
  • Invite people to church
  • Go to the mission field.

The purpose of this group discussion on evangelism was not theological debate, but to expose some of the presuppositions that these group members were bringing to the table.

By exposing the presupposition through careful questions that challenge simple rote assertions, it made for a very rich discussion, and then setup the potential for further discussion into particular areas.

Get a full copy

I’ll send you the full PDF discussion guide that I used.  I want to have it field tested with other users, not just me.  To get it, leave a comment below (or at the blog if you get this via feed).

At least tell me how and with whom you’d use this discussion guide.

I’ll send it to you and then follow up to see how the discussion went.

Personal Evangelism Substitute #2: Hospitality

Today is part two of a series on four substitutes for Evangelism.

This may sound funny coming from me, because I write so much on this topic (and even sell two ebooks).  But as I’ve consulted with churches, I run into this substitute regularly.

#2: Church Hospitality Ministry.

In many churches, we have substituted evangelism for the nicety of saying “Hello” at a church on Sunday and we call that evangelism.

Many churches have an “Evangelism Committee” that is focused on the church coffee hour and assimilation of newcomers.

Some committees are expanded to include church marketing efforts.

(By the way, What does an Evangelism Committee do?)

But Christian hospitality on a Sunday morning is not personal evangelism.

Your hospitality ministries support the evangelistic work of the church, but it is not evangelism.

Rather, your hospitality creates the space where evangelism can occur, much like Starbucks has created the third space for life conversations to occur.

Read more about how I define evangelism

The Definition of Church Hospitality

I define church hospitality as

Taking the initiative to welcome others and

inviting others to share in our community life.

This extends beyond our group gatherings for worship but a welcome in:

  • our small groups
  • our families
  • our home
  • our lives

This definition is much broader than evangelism.

It speaks to

  • Our small group life,
  • Our corporate worship life
  • How we treat other people in general
  • How connected we feel to the local church body
  • How we get along as members of the body of Christ,
  • The potential depths of our relationship with one another.

Two different goals.

In my ebook on hospitality (How to Welcome Church Visitors) I write:

Evangelism seeks conversion and repentance and deals with salvation and faith.

Hospitality seeks a repeat visit and to help the person connect to the fellowship.

The focus of evangelism is a changed life, while the focus of hospitality is to create a first impression.

These are entirely different goals.  They’re mutually supportive, but they’re not a substitute one for the other.

The place for Church Hospitality Committees

Churches should have hospitality committees that oversee the various welcoming functions of the church, but this work is not personal evangelism.

The art of welcoming church visitors is a key component in helping a church fulfill its evangelistic partnership with its members.

Your church members should be confident that their invitees will be warmly welcomed in the midst of a group of strangers.

Your members should be so proud of the welcome that your church gives that it naturally fosters personal invitations.

A hospitality team will oversee all that: reception, greeters and tweaking the system to leave your guests feeling like that they’ve had a great visit.

Your hospitality committee should do at least a quarterly review of your church hospitality systems.

Let me ask you this?

What is the actual role of your church’s evangelism committee?

How can your committee take a more active role in encouraging personal evangelism in the church?

Watch for updates

Each week, I send out new articles to help you grow your your skills in personal evangelism.  I include other articles as well on hospitality ministry, greeter ministry and refreshing your vision for church hospitality.

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