Last week in an international student ministry conference, I asked the question, “Which of you have invited an international student or an immigrant into your home?” Even though many were already involved in international student ministry, only half had invited a non-American person into their home, be they a student or other immigrant. This was actually a much higher percentage than any other group to which I have posed the same question, but again, this was a conference about doing international student ministry and still only half had invited an international into their home.
When you pose the same question to a typical church congregation you might get ten percent who have ever had a non-American into their home. There isn’t a great deal of “rubbing elbows” at the dinner table between Americans and immigrant peoples.
That experience last week led me to think about a similar question: when is the last time you invited an unbeliever into your home for the purpose of building a relationship that enables you to effectively share Christ? If you’re like most Christians, it’s been a long, long time, and perhaps never have you welcomed an unbeliever into your home, became friends, and had an authentic heart-to-heart gospel conversation.
When we talk about sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus, we often focus on the content of the message we share. Sometimes we discuss how to organize the church to share the gospel. But we need to remember that the Christian faith is always incarnational. It must be embodied. We must walk with people in “real life” in order for them to best see Jesus and understand what it means to know Him. The gospel spreads relationally, one-by-one, life-on-life. Therefore, activities and lifestyles that foster friendships and relationships with unbelievers must be pursued if we are to effectively share the life and message of Jesus with them.
That brings me back to having meals with lost people and using our homes as a means for evangelism. In the New Testament many of Jesus’ most memorable teachings were associated with a meal in someone’s home. The early church met in homes and the faith spread from house-to-house. The home provided the center for ministry and outreach. I would encourage you to consider using your home, and meal times, as a means to befriend lost people and share Christ with them as you embody the faith through your hospitality.
And one more thing – missionary Amy Carmichael observed that many of the missionaries in India did not spend any of their “free time” with the Indian people. She said that the Indian people interpreted this to mean that they were not the missionaries’ friends because you spend your free time with your friends. They were the missionaries’ work projects. Once off work, the missionaries recreated with their “own kind.” Carmichael said that this greatly hindered the effectiveness of the missionaries’ work.
When we bring unbelievers into our circle of friends we demonstrate an interest in them and love for them as real persons, not simply as objects of our evangelism.
So, when was the last time you had an unbeliever into your home for a meal, be they an American or an immigrant? We have had lost people from China and Iran and other places into our home, as well native-born Americans, and God has blessed our life and witness through it. Try using your home as a place for ministry and you’ll be blessed too, especially as you see your new friends come to know Jesus.