John* was lying on my couch in the living room while I cooked something in the kitchen. He said, “You know, Gordon, I would like to believe in God… if only there were reasons to believe in him.”
For someone like me who thinks there are many, many good philosophical and scientific reasons to believe God is real—not to mention that there are good reasons to believe he has acted in history and has revealed himself to us—this was a beautiful thing to hear. I love being given an opportunity to share the reasons for what I believe.
But to hear this from John was also somewhat shocking. A year prior, that sort of comment from him would have been unthinkable. He was aggressively opposed to Christianity, and bragged about destroying foolish and naïve believers’ faith.
How did we get to the point that he’d dropped his hostility and was willing to talk about reasons for belief in God?
In a word, hospitality.
It was through having John in my home, through sharing meals together and relaxing afterward, that we’d gotten to know each other better, to trust each other, to the point that he felt comfortable talking with me about these things.
As Christians, we want to share our faith with others, or, at the very least, we know that we should. Yet we also strongly suspect that in most situations, sharing our faith with someone would feel like having to do yoga on a public bus: not technically illegal, but odd and uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a mistake to think of evangelism as something that only happens in uncomfortable environs, with an awkward proclamation of what we believe to someone who isn’t interested in what we have to say. Instead, evangelism can be a natural part of everyday conversation, occurring in the back and forth of an enjoyable exchange of ideas.
And good conversation starts with asking someone good questions and then listening well to their answers. But that takes time, and we don't always have the time or leisure to talk at length with the people in our lives. So how can we create the time and space for good conversations to happen?
One of the best ways to create the time and space for good conversations is by showing good old-fashioned hospitality. Host your neighbours for a weekend barbecue. Invite your co-worker over to dinner. Have the new family on your block over for dessert. What better way to befriend someone and get to know them than by serving them a meal and enjoying their company for an evening?
It turns out, Christians are commanded to show hospitality (Romans 12:8). It is one of the most basic ways that we can show love for those around us. In Canadian culture, relatively few people are in desperate need of food, but many are in desperate need of loving relationships. We can go a long way toward meeting the needs of others and serving their interests, all the while building friendships and creating opportunities for good conversation, by simply showing hospitality.
Unlike doing yoga on a bus, discussing what you believe and why you believe it in the comfort of your own living room is entirely appropriate—especially when your guest, who is comfortable and well-fed, starts asking you questions about your life. Every conversation is different, but good hospitality can make for the best conversations.
*Not his real name.