How Hospitality Helps Evangelism


A couple years ago, I took a mission trip to a closed Muslim country. My team spent the first part of the trip as tourists to establish our story for being there. We spent the second half of the week in the city to do street evangelism. We were armed with a smart phone, gospel videos in Arabic, and hope that someone might come to faith. 

On the first night we were set loose, we were in a restaurant waiting for our table when a law student in his early 20s came over because he wanted to practice his English. We will call him Ahmed. 

We had been warned by a missions worker on the ground that it was likely that the first local we met would attach himself to us for our whole trip. In their culture, it was a matter of honor for their whole society that we, as foreigners, have a great experience. In God’s providence, that week was Eid al-Adha, the second and greater of the two festivals celebrated by Islam. It’s the equivalent of Christmas in the States. 

That night, Ahmed ate dinner with us, the next day he took us kayaking, and on the third day his mother and sisters prepared a traditional Eid feast. He hosted us in his home and served us himself. There was more food than twenty grown men could eat. 

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it was also a once-in-a-lifetime lesson. I left that feast deeply convicted. If the positions had been reversed and I had met Ahmed on the streets of downtown Houston, there’s no way I would have been as hospitable to him. 

For the Love of a Stranger 

The stranger has always been near to God’s heart. In Leviticus 19:34, he commanded Israel to love the stranger who sojourned among them as if the stranger was a fellow Israelite. They were to love him as they loved themselves, so that Israel remembered what it was like to be a stranger in Egypt. 

Love of the stranger shows up in the New Testament, too. In Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do for eternal life. He turns the question back on the lawyer who answers by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Jesus tells the lawyer he answered correctly, but since neighbor-love is hard, the lawyer wants to clarify: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replies by telling the strangest story about someone the Jews would have thought was the strangest person. Not strange as in weird, but strange as in other. He tells the parable of the good Samaritan. 

Samaritans were the most other of the others. They were Jew-Gentile half-breeds who weren’t just different—they were corrupted. Christ chose the most distasteful and offensive example of strangeness he could conceive of. 

This is our standard of hospitality. Why? Because it’s the type of love we’ve experienced. We were strangers—separated from Christ, alien to the covenants, alone and having no hope in the world. But Christ Jesus brought us near by the power of his own blood. So now we are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:12–13). 

Of all people in the world, the church should know what hospitality accomplishes. The gospel is a story of hospitality—of someone sacrificially loving strangers that they might become family. 

Go and Do Likewise 

Christ ends his interaction with the lawyer by saying, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Embedded in the command to be hospitable is the command to evangelize. After all, love wants what’s best for a neighbor, and what’s best is God. How can we who have experienced such undeserved love not turn around and do likewise—love with everything we are and everything we have? 

Hospitality is not merely opening your home and baking apple pies. It’s that and so much more. Hospitality is a disposition of the heart that, having meditated on how you’ve been loved, seeks to love the same way. The more you understand your otherness, the more you will be able to love others who are strange. 

A Practical Suggestion 

My hope with this article is not to write a how-to on hospitality, but to expand what evangelicals typically think of as hospitality. Yet here is one practical suggestion. As I considered my experience in the Middle East, I realized I had thought of my home as a place of solitude, not service. My house was a fortress that I was more worried about protecting than sharing. 

How do you think of your home? Hospitality is hard. It requires sacrifice. You’ll sacrifice your time, resources, and privacy to bring people into your life. Yet no matter how much you sacrifice, you will never come close to what Jesus Christ sacrificed to be hospitable to you. 


Ahmed was a better evangelist than me. He represented his country and his people better than I represented my King. His hospitality opened my heart to him. This is the secret of hospitality. The stranger someone is, the more effective hospitality is for evangelism. When someone understands you are different from them, they cannot naturally justify your kindness. They must seek a supernatural answer, and you will be ready to give them one. 

Sam Crites

Sam Crites serves as the lead pastor of Mosaic Church in College Station, Texas.

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