In my last post, Alan Creech asked about traditional apologetics and how it differs from new forms of presenting our faith. In that post, I shared the impressions of a campus minister friend of mine, that traditional apologetics are no longer the way to "reach" people on college campuses. That represents a sea change, for when I went to university, a rational, systematic, linear, and reasoned approach was the only conceivable way to share one's faith with one's neighbor. With those on my campus "quad" and in my dormitories, I shared the "Four Spiritual Laws". If my hearer accepted the reasoning I provided for the faith, I expected them to concede and yield their lives to Christ. Not just for me, but this way of sharing the "gospel" worked for many, many, people, and not just on my campus, but on campuses throughout our country and beyond. But that was then, and times have changed. Over time, many found that winning the argument did not necessarily translate to an increase in number of the followers of Christ.
Hospitality apologetics does not focus on the verbal argument at all, in fact it is way down on the list of priorities. Rather than presenting an argument, these communities present a life. They do not concern themselves with presenting a gospel formula, but rather their focus is on whether the gospel was demonstrated in the recipients midst. How do they go about that?
Primarily, these communities extend hospitality to the recipient, i.e. the outsider becomes an insider, and the outcast is included. These acts are not performed so that the gospel can later be presented -- these acts constitute the gospel. These outsiders are invited to a join in God's movement to redeem the world, to bind up the brokenhearted,to set the oppressed free, to join God in creative activity. This is a lived apologetic -- it is a "taste and see" rather than a "think and decide".
Tasting and seeing might take a while. However, as time is spent with these very hospitable people, discussions ensue about deeper issues, e.g. why is it we do what we do? It is then that faith issues are discussed. But these conversations come in a context where the gospel is embodied in a community, not in abstract philosophical discussions divorced from hospitality. Without a deep and gospel-rich hospitality, discussions of faith have little purchase in our culture.
In our culture, it used to be, "whoever has the best argument wins". Now, for many in our societies, it is whoever creates the most creative, spiritual, generous, peaceable, just, and servant-like community "wins".
And ultimately, even if hospitable apologetics didn't "win", if we strive to be followers of Jesus, must we attempt anything less?