Hospitality Evangelism in a Postmodern Age

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” —John 13:35

The following is taken from a series of Sunday schools I taught on evangelism. Hospitality is a gift that all Christians can nurture and use to proclaim their hope in Christ even if they are not gifted in speaking, rhetoric, proclamation, or evangelism. Speaking as an apologist, I assure you that the world is more impressed with the love we share than our apologetics.

Goal Setting
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:18-20, KJV).
For the Christian who wants to travel light, Matthew 28:18-20 is the passage to pack along. Contained within this prericope is an encompassing statement about who is rightly said to hold all power and authority over the heavens and the earth. It is a powerful theological summary regarding the nature of the Godhead as well as a mandate for the believing, worshipping community to go teach and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Traditionally the passage has been viewed as a mission statement—a Great Commission—by the church.

With the Great Commission in view we take on Christ’s name and set forth to make that name famous proclaiming the kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem is here! As heralds and ambassadors for Christ we implore others to be reconciled to God by means of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who according to Scriptures died for our sins, was buried, rose again on the third day and was witnessed by Cephas, then of the twelve and then by the five hundred, and who now speaks to us all through the Holy Spirit.
Living Out the Life of a Disciple
In carrying out the Great Commission Christians have always faced three challenges. They are:

    1. How to continue to nurture, disciple, and grow to maturity those who are already within the church (pastoral care).
    2. How best to reach out to a lost world and give reason for the hope Christians have in the risen God with the resources the Lord has provided (evangelism).
    3. How to sustain the faith once received by the saints of old in view of assaults from within and without the body of Christ (apologetics).

Given these challenges, the question raised throughout by the worshipping community is how are we to follow the biblical mandate and go about our Father's business? In this study we will look at evangelism.

Getting Our Heads Right
Historically there have been primarily two schools of thought in response to Jesus' command to reach out to a lost world and make disciples.

—They are evangelism through conquest and evangelism through adaptation.
—Both of these methods have traditionally rejected the premise of remaining stationary and withdrawing from the world.
—Both have always sought to reach outwardly when logistically possible.

What is the greatest enemy to the proclamation of the gospel?
Why? Because we are afraid. In the case of evangelism we fear,

—coming on too strong.
—sounding too much like a fundamentalist.
—sounding too much like a liberal.
—in short, we fear losing our audience or being rejected.

And so we tend to tap-dance around our subject and dwell on God-talk but fail to proclaim the gospel and its meaning.

—Do not confuse boldness with tactlessness.

 There are three reasons why we fear other people:

    1. We fear people because they can expose and humiliate us.
    2. We fear people because they can reject, ridicule, or dispise us.
    3. We fear people because they can hunt, attack, or threaten us.

God has not forgotten the shamed, the rejected, and the threatened.
Illustration of fear and aut
hority. When we fear something, we give it authority.
We are to fear God and God alone so that we are controlled by Him and not our emotions or by other men. When we fear the Lord, God overwhelms us with His blessings.
    1) To the shamed and humiliated, He covers and glorifies.
    2) To the rejected, He accepts and glorifies.
    3) To the threatened, He protects and glorifies.
Without the basic sense of love and community, we may as well be arguing arithmetic. To paraphrase Francis Schaeffer: "Love is the first and last apologetic to a lost world."

Hospitality toward Seekers in a Postmodern Culture

How does the world think? Some characteristics of postmodernism:

    1. A growing distrust of technology that has served to complicate life, not simplify.
    2. An intentional willingness not to objectify anything. Everything is viewed from a perspective and therefore ultimately relative.
    3. Postmodernism applauds the end of modernism’s love affair with objectivity and reason as the sole arbitrators of truth. What is true is now determined more by experience and feeling.
    4. Because one’s personal experience can color one’s reasoning, postmodernists question whether pure objective reason even exists. In the postmodernist worldview, pure objectivity resides as a myth and in any case is not pragmatically applicable.
    5. The typical postmodernist can hold two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time. They believe this is acceptable because all truth is relative: it is just a matter of who you ask. In matters of religion, philosophy or morality one system’s viewpoint offers as much validity as another and one person’s opinion is as sound as an another’s.
    6. Postmodernists, embrace the proliferation of choices and options in every realm of life. They view the abundance of choices as needed and liberating. Plurality or multitude of interests demands plurality of choices. The end result of this plurality is that postmodernists pick and choose at liberty from any number of belief systems individualizing them as their own because they want a variety of truth options. If the cross of Christianity is too gruesome, they can choose the pacifism of Buddha. To them, one religious choice is as good as another. “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you believe something” becomes the mantra of postmodern seekers.
    7. Postmoderns have a communal urge. They have found living out life as an individual has left them without roots and alone.
    8. In an era marked by unbelief and skepticism, it is awash in spiritual things. Postmoderns long for transcendence, for a higher meaning than what they can just touch and feel. Postmodern people often demonstrate an affinity for an afterlife but would not necessarily identify Christ’s resurrection with their longing for transcendence. In other words, they do not know how they can find meaning in the Christian faith.
    9. Postmodernism approaches life with a hermeneutic of suspicion. It is ironic that the mindset that desires community becomes so suspicious that building community within a postmodern culture becomes virtually impossible and that multi-cultural tolerance and value neutral morality has actually eroded the community they had hoped to grow and enrichen.
    10. Postmoderns normalize the subjective experience of individuals.

Postmoderns tend to be cynical about organized religions in general and may appeal to Christianity’s tarnished history as a reason to not give the gospel a fair hearing.

We must disarm such skepticism by confronting it head on and admit that the Christian mission to take the gospel to the world has not always been very Christian. Nevertheless, while Christian history has not always been Christian, this doesn’t change the basic message of the gospel which is immersed in hope.

Because postmoderns expect a variety of truth options, we must take seriously their multiple understandings of reality.

Notwithstanding, because they hold to no absolute truths, this opens them up to the Christian faith as one option among many.

If the Christian world view cannot be objectified—which I think it can— then that same lack of objectification holds true for all systems of thought.

—One cannot have it both ways.
—You cannot assume relativism when it is convenient and then make exclusive claims for your own truth options.
—If stealing is wrong, it is always wrong. It cannot be wrong when I steal your coat but right when you steal mine.
—Either all truth is relative or no truth is relative.

A truth claim does not make the claim true.

—Truth will not contradict itself.
—For this reason postmoderns, despite the overatures of doubt are seeking authentic explanation for the world.
—One way of engaging postmodern listeners is to approach the creation narratives not as science but as a theological discourse to describe the origins of the universe. But showing postmodern listeners that the biblical account is a theological description of a historical reality, rather than a scientific treatise, taps into their understanding and desire for authenticity.

“The postmodern climate provokes doubt not for the sake of philosophical inquiry [as Descartes] but because of the inherent pessimism of the age. Perceptions distort experience. Experience can misinterpret facts. Reality is a mental construct. Absolutes are a myth of an earlier [bygone era]. Such goes the wisdom of postmodernity.”
“The current cultural doubt—tied closely to the skepticism of our age—almost becomes doubt for doubt’s sake, a kind of end in and of itself.” Here doubt is not in the pursuit of further understanding; rather it is doubt aimed at debunking any standard or system of thought as archaic and meaningless.

—Yet in the midst of doubt, people deeply desire to find meaning in their lives.

The postmodern world exists on multiple understandings of reality and is highly skeptical of any objective view of truth.

—Just as beauty is the of the beholder, what is true is in the mind of the believer. Truth, rather than being an external reality, is viewed as simply what is held in the mind of the believer.
—In matters of religion, philosophy or morals, any system of belief is just as valid as any other’s. To the postmodern, truth is an internalized construct rather than an external reality and because of this, people expect a variety of truth options.
—Because of the lack of true conviction within eclectic postmodern thinking, people often choose what seems to work in the moment and then discard it when its usefulness passes.

Christians answer the overatures of doubt with faith. Our faith is not in a message, but in a person.

—Doubt is this generation’s presentation of pseudo-intellectualism that presumes only new ways of thinking could have any meaningful consequences on our culture.

Postmodern misunderstanding of Christianity remains an obstacle.

—An authentic reading of the Gospel narratives which are centered upon Jesus of Nazareth cracks open the false notion that Christianity is narrow-minded and oppressive.
—The person and work of Jesus Christ is for all peoples everywhere.
—for a people looking for liberation, Jesus Christ—God with us—is the liberating answer.
—Ultimately Jesus provides a bridge between objectivity and subjectivity in that Jesus Christ is an objective person who lived and acted within human history and that he is a person filled with feelings and emotions (subjectivity).

Summary: The love/hate relationship with technology, skepticism about objectivity, preoccupation with choices, concern for unified communities and the hermeneutic of suspicion are a few of the more salient aspects of postmodernism.
Key: Reaching the postmodern world means taking the postmodern world seriously and addressing it from a collaborative rather than an adversarial stance.
More than anything, the postmodern world expects authenticity.

Longing for transcendence:
In an era that seeks meaning that transcends the here and now, the Christian faith is hope-based. That hope is encountered subjectively and experientially within each believer but is grounded objectively within an intrinsic relationship with God and God’s actions within human history.

—The promise of the gospel exists in hope.
—“Faith, hope, and love are integrally entwined. Hope taken without faith is nothing more than wishful thinking” but Christians have reason for their faith.

“The Christian faith hopes within the daily experiences of life. As noted earlier, postmoderns are increasingly interested in spiritual matters and tend to view the transcendent with less skepticism than their modern forebears. They also know that they live in the here and now. They expect any religious system to which they would give their allegiance to speak to the daily life situations they face. That is what our congregations expect from us as well. And may we be keen to realize that we, the church, are a part of the postmodern mindset. So, people ask, will your faith help me face a boss who takes advantage of me? Will your religion help me cope with teenagers who are out of control? Will your religion accept me even though I am divorced? Will your religion walk with me Monday through Friday? Or is your faith a Sunday-only proposition?”
“…There is always the danger of reducing what should be thoughtful theological discourse—sermons—to mundane chatter that is nothing more than pop psychology baptized in Jesus talk.”

Moving Forward by Looking in the Past
Our earliest Christian predecessors believed the practice of hospitality was central to the Christian life.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

Proof texts:

Hospitality commanded: Rom. 12:13; 1 Pet. 4:9
Rom. 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
1Pet. 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Hospitality required in ministers: 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8
1Tim. 3:2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
Titus 1:8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.
Hospitality to be shown to strangers: Heb. 13:2
Heb. 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hospitality to be shown to the poor: Isa. 58:7; Luke 14:13
Is. 58:7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Luke 14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,

Hospitality to be given to enemies: 2 Kings 6:22, 23; Rom. 12:20
2Kings 6:22 ¶ “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”
2Kings 6:23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Rom. 12:20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Encouragement to be hospitable: Luke 14:14; Heb. 13:2
Luke 14:14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Heb. 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Today we will focus on two important insights in early Christian texts on hospitality.

    1. The first is that Christians must recognize themselves as strangers in the world.
    2. The second is that Christians must recognize strangers as Christ.

Strangers in the World

1) Christians of the first three centuries understood themselves to be aliens and pilgrims in this world with citizenship in another.

“The Epistle to Diognetus expresses the paradox of Christian identity. Written as a defense of Christians in the face of pagan misunderstanding, the letter explains that Christians are at once citizens and foreigners.

But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the locals in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their regular daily life, they [the Christians] display to us their wonderful and admittedly striking way of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers (Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:26).

Even after Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire, the great preacher of Constantinople, John Chrysostom (347-407), continued to teach that Christians should identify themselves as citizens of another realm, as pilgrims on their way to the Holy City. Chrysostom preached:

Don't you know that we live in a foreign land, as though strangers and sojourners? Don't you know that it is the lot of sojourners to be ejected when they don't think they will be, when they least expect it? This is also our lot…but seeing we are by nature sojourners, let us also be by choice; that we be not there [with God as] sojourners and dishonored and cast out. For if we are set upon being citizens here, we shall be so neither here nor there; but if we continue to be sojourners, and live in such wise as sojourners ought to live in, we shall enjoy the freedom of citizens both here and there” (John Chrysostom, “Homily 16 on 2nd Corinthians,”  NPNF 1.12, p. 359. Cf. “Homily 12 on Matthew,” NPNF 1.10, p. 78; “Homily 23 on Ephesians,” NPNF 1.3, p. 166).

The message Chrysostom made is plain: Christians are strangers by nature and Christians are also sojourners by choice.

2) Early Christians frequently remind one another that their true allegiance is not with the powers of this world, and they must hold a sort of double consciousness, seeking to be good citizens in their communities yet never fully at home in the world.

Strangers and Sojourners

The early saints reckoned themselves “strangers and sojourners.” How and in what way? For example, where does Abraham confess himself “a stranger and a sojourner”? Probably Abraham did confess it, but David both confessed “I am a stranger” and “As all my fathers were” (Psalm 39:12). For those who dwell in tents and who have to buy even their own burial places, evidently were in some sense strangers, as they didn’t even have a place to bury their dead.
Did they mean that they were strangers from the land that is in Palestine? Of course not. But they were strangers in respect to the whole world and with good reason, because they saw that within the world there was nothing for which they truly longed for, that everything was foreign and strange.
But how were they strangers? They had no concern for things here. And this they showed not by words, but by deeds:

He said to Abraham, “Leave what seems your country and come to one that is foreign.”  He [Abraham] did not cleave to his relatives, but let go as unconcernedly as if he were about to leave a foreign land. He said to him, “Offer up your son,” and he offered him up as if he had no son. His acquired wealth was common to all passers-by. He yielded the first places to others. He built no splendid houses, he enjoyed no luxuries, he had no care about his dress, for all these things are of the world. He lived in all respects as belonging to the city yonder. He showed hospitality, brotherly love, mercifulness, forbearance, contempt for wealth and for present glory, and for all else.

For Chrysostom and the early Christians, the Christian identity as strangers in a strange land entails the proper ordering of desire. Strangers, Chrysostom said, know that the “things they long for” are not in this world. Abraham modeled this thought through his willingness to yield his place, risk danger, share his wealth, and to show hospitality.
Augustine, the greatest of the western fathers, mirrored Chrysostom, preaching:

Acknowledge the duty of hospitality…. Take in some stranger…for we are all strangers. [For the Christian,] even in his own house and in his own country, acknowledges himself to be a stranger. For our country is above, there we shall not be strangers.

If he [the Christian] is not a stranger [in this world], let him not pass on from here…. Whether he wills it or not, he is a stranger. If he leaves [his] house to his children, he leaves it [as] one stranger to other strangers…. If we are all passing away, let us do something which cannot pass away, so that when we shall have passed away, and we come to that place where we no longer pass away, we may find our good works there. Remember, Christ is the keeper, so why do you fear you might lose what you spend on the poor.

Augustine makes it clear the connection between stranger status and identification with Christ.
Sheltering strangers was essential to the survival of Christianity in a hostile empire.

By the third century, no part of the Roman Empire was without a Christian witness. The practical expression of Christian love was probably among the most powerful causes of Christian success [in evangelism]. Tertullian tells us the pagans remarked, "See how these Christians love one another." and the pagan’s words were not irony; he meant them. Christian love found expression in the care of the poor, of widows and orphans; in visits to brethren in prisons or to those condemned to a living death in the mines; and in acts of compassion during a famine, earthquake, or war.  
The impact of this ministry of mercy upon pagans is revealed in the observation of one of Christianity’s worst enemies, the apostate Emperor Julian (332-63). In his day Julian was finding it more difficult than he had expected to put new life into the traditional Roman religion. He wanted to set aside Christianity and bring back the ancient faith, but he saw clearly the drawing power of Christian love in practice: “Atheism (i.e., Christian faith),” he said, “has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them” (Bruce L. Shelley, 1995, Church History in Plain Language, 2nd ed., Nashville: TN, pp. 35-36).
Christians became well-known within the larger culture for their practices of hospitality and were often cited as examples of morality on this account.

Strangers as Christ
Before Christians can truly offer hospitality, they must understand their marginal status:
If the first step of being hospitable is remembering who we are as Christians, the second necessary step is recognizing the other, the stranger standing before us.

When a Guest Comes
Hospes venit, Christus venit. Latin meaning, “(When) a guest comes, Christ comes.” This is a traditional maxim of hospitality, derived from the Rule of St. Benedict, that indicates that in receiving guests one should receive them as if Christ himself had come.

On first glance the poor at the gate or the stranger at the door may seem just that: a supplicant wanting something. The stranger may seem suspicious or even dangerous. The stranger’s presence can be disorienting. But if we look a little closer, we will see our initial reading of the situation is wrong. Over and over again, early Christian voices remind us to be prepared for surprises. The apparent stranger at our door is not simply the poor, the stranger, the widow or the sick, but Christ himself. For those with eyes to see, hospitality offered to another is always hospitality offered to Christ. In receiving others, we receive Christ; rejecting them, we reject Christ.
To recognize Christ, we must have eyes to see. To recognize Christ in the guest at the door is not easy, for the guest may not look like the Christ we expect.
The Matthew passage emphasizes that the Christ who comes will be needy, hungry, thirsty—a Christ known by “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40 cf. Matt. 25:45). Eyes that can only see Christ in the triumphant or powerful will fail to recognize the Christ present in the stranger and the poor. Only proper recognition makes union with Christ possible. This recognition changes everything. Jesus’ followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) powerfully portrays this experience of recognition and surprise when they unexpectedly encounter Christ as a traveler and guest.
Because the guest is actually more than just a guest (i.e., Christ), there is another surprise as well. Christ becomes the host and the host becomes the guest. When we attend to the guest, we are not left unchanged. We become a guest of the heavenly host, who receives us unto His life.
The Greek word used to express hospitality (xenos) denotes shared identity and partnership. It can mean “guest,” “host,” or “stranger.” The semantic fluidity conveys the blurred identities of the guest and host heightened by the recognition of Christ.
Christ isn’t asking that we kill our best calf; He’s only asking for the minimum: feed the hungry, give cloths to the naked, shelter to the stranger.
Christ goes about “naked and a stranger” (Matt. 25:43). It is only shelter He wants.
Abraham received the strangers in the place where he himself lived. His wife stood in the place of a servant, the guests in the place of the masters. He didn’t know that he was receiving Christ, didn’t know that he was receiving Angels. Had he known it, he would have lavished his whole substance.
If we cannot receive the stranger as Christ, we should not receive the stranger at all. If you receive the stranger as Christ, be not ashamed, but rather glory. But if you receive him not as Christ, receive him not at all. “He that receives you,” Christ said, “receives Me” (Matthew 10:40).  
Hospitality becomes more than a private virtue, it is a means whereby we model to a fallen world the household of God by receiving others into our lives and communities.
Early Christian thought on hospitality is a rich resource for the recovery of hospitality in Christianity today.
What does it take to talk to unbelievers these days?

1)    You must have the right heart.

—The greatest obstacle to the spread of the gospel is Christians who are afraid to speak out.
—Postmoderns need: gentleness, openness, integrity, and role models that seek first to genuinely avoid hypocrisy.

2)    You must develop relationships.

—You cannot meet the community and share the gospel with them unless you visit them and develop relationships with them.
—Too often there is an “us” against “them” mentality—therefore you need to establish a relationship with them to break down walls. 

3)    You must have the right attitude toward popular culture.

—Receive the positive and the negative.
—You cannot be an ivory tower academic and preach to seekers.
—You need to know enough about their world so you can reach them.   

4)    You must have the right attitude toward the gospel.

—We need to resist the temptation to water-down the message. If we do, we do not serve Christ or the person we are speaking to.
—We don’t want to transform the message into something that it isn’t; rather, we want to translate the message so that the people in our community can understand it.
—The more we water down the message, the less our community will want it and the more they will wonder why they need it.

5)    Avoid the “Holy Roller” attitude.

—Admit that you struggle/struggled with similar issues to build empathy and interest.
—Be real: show empathy.
—Explain your own struggles (postmoderns can identify when you share your story and they are especially interested in things that “work”).
—Instead of pointing out to people who think, but are not Christian, define Christianity so that they will become convicted on their own that they are not Christian.

6)    We want people to feel welcome.

—Consider that Jesus openly welcomes all who come to him. Should we not be willing to do the same?

7)    Remember that in a society that welcomes all things that save time—from microwave ovens and washing machines to internet broadband—that today’s audience does not favor protracted arguments.

—Most people do not have the level of interest required to be held by logical, deductive arguments.
—Nor can we expect people to rightly reason when presented a logical argument.
—All the logical arguments in the world will not change the fact that listeners do not have the inclination to wade through the depths of the arguments to be persuaded to the Christian faith.
—But they will listen to stories and they may listen to somebody who speaks of hope and who shares that message of hope from life experiences.

Sharing Hope

—Find ways of communicating the hope you have in Christ.
—Share from personal experience and from the experience of other Christians of the hope they hold.
—Remember being hopeful does not mean being naïve. We have reason for our hope!

Hope moves us to the theme of good news!

—In the world’s religions salvation must be earned, but in Christianity salvation is a free gift.
—This makes the gospel a radical departure in the history of the world religions.

The three most counter-intuitive things about postmodernism:

1) Doctrine—Never having heard about how Christianity works, seekers are interested in doctrine.
2)    Evidence—People reach a certain age where they want to know that what they believe is built upon reasonable evidences.
3)    Don’t be afraid of gently and humbly challenging.

—This is counter-intuitive.
—If you don’t challenge your audience, the audience will not come back to learn more.
—We need to challenge them on the specifics.
—Ask how do they know what they know.

Unbelievers, as well as believers, like to learn from stories.

—Story telling draws people in.
—Seekers are interested in hearing biblical stories—even if they do not believe them.
—Personal stories of change are the most powerful.

Narrative is a literary form characterized by sequential time action and involving plot, setting, and characters. It is the story form of literature. The meaning of a narrative derives primarily from the actions of its characters. Rather than telling us how to live or how not to live, the narrative shows us how to live or how not to live by the actions of the characters....
The Old Testament is giving us much more than just the history of Israel. The purpose of these stories is theological—that is, God is using them to teach us theology....
Advantages (Pros) of Using Narrative to Communicate Theological Truth
1. Narratives are interesting, both to children and adults.
2. Narratives pull us into the action of the story.
3. Narratives usually depict real life and are thus easy to relate to. We find ourselves asking what we would have done in that situation.
4. Narratives can portray the ambiguities and complexities of life.
5. Narratives are easy to remember.
6. God can include himself as one of the characters in the narrative. Thus he can teach us about himself by what he says and does in specific contexts.
7. Narratives are holistic; we see characters struggle, but we also often see resolution of their struggles. We see the entire character.
8. Narratives relate short incidents and events to a bigger overall story.
Disadvantages (Cons) of Using Narrative to Communicate Theological Truth
1. The meaning of the narrative can be subtle or ambiguous and not clearly stated; the casual reader may miss it altogether.
2. The reader may get enthralled with the narrative as a story and miss its meaning.
3. The reader may assume that since the literature is narrative, it deals only with history and not theology.
4. The reader may read too much theology into the narrative (allegorizing).
...In our opinion, God chose to use the literary device known as narrative as a major way to communicate his big story to us precisely because the biblical narratives engage us in a powerful way. They challenge us, interest us, rebuke us, puzzle us, and entertain us. They stick in our memory. They make us think and reflect. They involve us emotionally as well as intellectually. They teach us about God and his plan for his people. They teach us about all kinds of people—good ones and bad ones, faithful, obedient ones and mule-headed, disobedient ones. They teach us about life in all its complexities and ambiguities (J. Scott Duvall & J. Daniel Hays, 2001, Grasping God’s Word, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, pp. 294, 295).

Be Non-Adversarial
The Argumentative approach often used in the past, will seldom yield results today. I suggest a narrative or story based approach because people today respond better to subjectivity than to objectivity.

—Stories are inductive rather than deductive
—Stories do not require a predisposed commitment to a premise or proposition.
—Induction begins with people’s experience and moves them to an appropriate conclusion, from experience to the truth of biblical revelation or from personal experience to the formation of a general principle.
—It takes seriously the postmodern desire to be led to theological truth rather than being bombarded by theological truth.
—The Christian faith does not need to be argued as much as it needs to be shared.
—Gentleness and reverence should exemplify the stance we take when speaking to our community about the reality of Jesus Christ.


1) Jesus never got into an argument with those who disagreed with him.
2) Jesus treated everyone, even those who disagreed with him, with respect and love.
4) Jesus accepted people where they were and invited them to come where he was.
5) Jesus so believed his message and mission that he was willing to die for it.

—Postmodern people are sickened by shallow and deluded convictions. They are tired of religion that seems to exist as an end in itself rather than a means to an end.  

Bring Friends
Evangelism, as with discipleship and fellowship, is best done by a group with a variety of gifts and emphasis's, and even levels of maturity in their personal walks. Outspoken persons may gain attention, but others have gifts of mercy, giving, hospitality, and loving for example. If evangelism were left up to only the outspoken of the world, the non-Christian would be left with a decidedly lop-sided view of our faith and the Christian community. At best they may view Christianity as an intellectual religion; at worst they would view Christianity as a group of angry men out to intellectually plummet those unskilled in rhetoric.
No, for me, I want the young Christian with me who by nature shows more hospitality and concern for the well-being of the lost in a moment than I struggle to muster over a long weekend. I want the Christian with me who will patiently listen to the complaints of others and then simply smile, saying all is well in Christ. I want the child, unlearned as she is in doctrine, who will bring a smile to all who witness her love for them. Without brothers and sisters possessing these and so many more gifts how will the world see our love for each other?
History provides testimony of the of the veracity of Jesus' words: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Tertullian tells us the pagans remarked, "See how these Christians love one another?" Without a sense of community found even within this very room, how shall the unsaved see our love for each other and them?

Unnamed Sources:

Notes from breakout session led by Lee Strobel at Willow Creek's Evangelism Conference, Early Church Fathers, Paul Little's Know What and Why You Believe, Edward Welch's When People Are Big and God is Small, Paul Copan's That's Just Your Interpretation and Craig Loscalzo's Apologetic Preaching, Thomas Oden's Two Worlds.


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