Hospitality is better than ‘outreach’

Hospitality is better than ‘outreach’ September 3, 2012

Evangelism is hospitality. And Addie Zierman explains why inflatable Sumo Suits and marketing hype are not the best form of hospitality.

Zierman’s post is titled “Outreach Events and the Old Bait-and-Switch.” That tactic — “bait-and-switch” — is from the world of sales. Evangelism should never be about sales or selling or marketing.

In the context of sales, even free pizza becomes inhospitable. Free pizza offered as bait, or as a sales premium, isn’t really free. It’s given in the hope, or in the expectation, of getting something in return. That’s not hospitality.

Adam Fisher isn’t talking about evangelism here, but it’s something akin to it:

You can’t talk someone out of his fears or loves or needs or aversions. The best you can do is to urge them on, and hope that they will come to the end of their own railroad track … debark … and have a doughnut and a cup of coffee.

Try to be there to share the coffee and doughnut. Go ahead and spring for the check, even, just don’t do it expecting something in return.

Oh, and don’t forget Rule No. 1 of evangelism (and everything else): Don’t be an asshole.

* * * * * * * * *

• Melanie Tannenbaum discusses the psychology of Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar and Todd Akin.

• The Revealer shares an excerpt from Colin Dickey’s Afterlives of the Saints. Dickey recounts the death of St. George:

George was killed three separate times and resurrected three times by the Archangel Michael so he could undergo more torture. During this orgy of violence, George managed to raise some 460 people from the dead and convert them, miraculously producing water from the ground for their baptism. He turned the throne of the emperor into a fruit-bearing tree, cured a child of blindness, and resurrected an ox. The molten lead poured into his mouth did not stop him from summoning and directly engaging Apollo, whom he forced to confess that he was not a real god. When George was finally beheaded, a rain of fire consumed his tormentors, an earthquake terrified all who remained, and then milk and honey flowed from his corpse.

Dickey seems to suspect that portions of that account may have been embellished. Even so, I think St. George would make an ideal patron saint for the persecuted hegemon.

• I’m intrigued by Mark Edward’s new tell-all book, Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium. I’m looking forward to similar future memoirs from Bob Larson, David Barton, Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins. Among many others.

Noah gets a lift from the U.S. Coast Guard.

"There's considerable evidence that much of the Flat Earth Society, even its leadership, are trolls."

I’m going to heaven on a ..."
"I'd love to take credit for it, but I can't"

I’m going to heaven on a ..."
"Is there anything more to the argument than "War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance ..."

I’m going to heaven on a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • In the context of sales, even free pizza becomes inhospitable. Free pizza offered as bait, or as a sales premium, isn’t really free. It’s given in the hope, or in the expectation, of getting something in return. That’s not hospitality.

    Back when I went to community college, there was a Mormon temple across the arterial street from our campus.  A few of my friends belonged to that particular congregation.  One of them once invited me over on a Friday (not to the temple, obviously, which is a beautiful building in the middle of fenced in garden grounds, but to the church next to it which is a smaller and more utilitarian structure built like a polygon with a central chapel surrounded by hallways connecting rooms for kitchens, dining, practice, meetings, and the like) for their free Friday pizza.  It was rather pleasant, there were no sermons, no uncomfortable questions about my own faith, no pressure, just some free pizza.  It was not particularly good pizza, but I could not complain about the generosity and hospitality displayed.  

  • Hospitality delivered without the expectation of a reciprocal favor is often the best kind. :)

  • Murfyn

    I’m looking in your direction, Sodom and Gomorrah . . .

  • We Must Dissent

    I know I’ve posted this before, but I’ll do it again. On the difference between honest conversation and selling something:

  • Carstonio

    If the hospitality is offered in the hope that the receiver will eventually join the host’s religion, that still seems questionable even though that’s not a reciprocal favor and it’s not a sales pitch. It’s very easy to feel threatened when someone wants you to join their religion, regardless of the approach, because religious beliefs are very often an integral part of how you view your identity. 

  • By the way, here is what  Majority Leader Eric Cantor had to say about the holiday that is currently going on in the united states:

    Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.

    I am having trouble finding a response sufficiently profane.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Today we are celebrating (if ‘celebrating’ is the right word for ‘other people’s kids have invaded my basement to play video games’, but that’s another rant) the LABOR MOVEMENT.

    Because it is all thanks to the LABOR MOVEMENT that we have weekends, eight-hour days, sick days, vacation days, and (most relevant just now) holidays.

  • Ked

    Oh!  It’s a multi-segmented  link post!  I love those!  Amazing how that feels like a bait-and-switch when only the first part and a related headline are visible on the front page!

    (I know, I know,  I’m starting to get a little troll-ish with these, and I’ll cut down.  But the new page format really takes a lot of the joy out of the site, much more than the original move to Patheos did, at least once I turned Adblock on.)

  • ako

    A couple of months ago, I went to this public Fourth of July event and off to the side, there was this explicitly Christian mini-carnival thing.  It was set up in kind of an overlapping way so people could go back and forth and not have to declare any allegiance to one side or the other, which was kind.  It was a hot day and they were offering free water and a seat in the shade to anyone who wanted it, which was also kind.

    And yet I found myself hesitant to go ask for water, for fear of being subjected to an unwanted degree of preaching and pressure.  And I thought how nice it would be if that kind of thing was offered in a no-strings-attached way.   No pressure to sit through a sales pitch, no implicit “Since you accepted our generosity, you obviously wouldn’t be ungrateful enough to not listen to us share our beliefs, would you?”, just “You’re thirsty?  Here’s water.”  (If they ask about your beliefs, then answer, but with an honest answer that fits the question, not a prepared routine.)  We used to do that in my home town back when I volunteered for the Red Cross, and it’s a good thing for people.

    (To be completely honest, they might have been doing that.  I never did get around to finding out.)

  • That’s what I’m driving at. If there is no implied quid pro quo, and it’s made very clear, that’s good. One way to lower the stakes would be to purposely hold social gatherings away from the church.

  • ako

     I wrote to Patheos about my dislike for the new format.  The response I got indicated that they did consider feedback from readers.  Obviously, one email didn’t convince them to change things back, but I don’t know how they’d respond twenty or fifty or a hundred emails.  It might be worth trying if enough people are bothered by it.

  • Amaryllis

    “I think St. George would make an ideal patron saint for the persecuted hegemon.”

    Why not? He’s been the patron saint of just about everybody else, including a couple of dozen different and not necessarily allied countries. Not to mention syphilis patients, the U.S. Cavalry, and the Boy Scouts.

  • Worthless Beast

    “I sense that..! Someone wants to sell me something!” __ Spongebob Squarepants

    I didn’t click the link to the tell-all book because I didn’t want to see what the book was about through the bias of a blog – so I looked it up straight on Amazon.  Reading the summary makes me wonder what is worse? A phony psychic stringing people along for fun and profit or someone who confesses to remorselessly stringing people along for years for fun and profit and as some kind of experiment?  Whenever I read an article or some other thing on this type of thing, I find myself getting ass-tired of the attitude of “What Measure is a Non Human?” lobbed toward the gullible.  While the stuff I see on TV talk shows when I’m channel surfing out of boredom strikes me as really obvious (“I’m seaking an M-name? Did someone know a Mary or a Maury or a Max?”) I tend to think people in the studio audience are paid to play along…

    Actual explotation of people in grief is one of my berserk butons. If you’re doing it for profit, you’re a monster in my eyes.  The same goes if you’re doing it For Science!

  • quietglow

    I think this is one source of confusion for people who want to make a program that ministers to people, but end up turning people away for not being the right sorts of people, like charities for the homeless that refuse services to homeless gays. 

    It’s as if the script that congregations are taught for evangelicism turns into some kind of social contract when put into practice. Even seeing it as an investment is too much, but I think it’s natural to fall into that kind of thinking when convincing a group to give things away. And then the church is encouraged to think tribally when the unsaved masses let them down by not getting saved for pizza.

  • cjmr

    I, too, am having trouble finding words for a response which actually express how I feel about that.

    So I’ve been annoying my FB flist by posting pro-Union and pro-Labor ‘postcards’ all day, instead.

  •  And Schattenjagers. Don’t forget the Schattenjagers.

  • Carstonio

     But that doesn’t get at the purpose of holding those gatherings in the first place. Religious belief is an intensely personal matter, and as long as those beliefs aren’t motivating someone to harm others, I don’t see why these should be anyone else’s concern, particularly strangers. If I were to believe that a stranger should live in a certain place, work in a certain career, or marry a certain person, that would seem patronizing and paternalistic, like I should be in charge of how other people should live their private lives. (The standard would be somewhat different if the person was a family member or close friend.) If I belonged to a religion and I found happiness through it, I hope that I would recognize that something that helps me find happiness wouldn’t automatically do the same for anyone else. Treating these issues as merely a question of tactics ignores the larger ethical problem of the goals.

  • Kiba

    One of my favorite patron saints (in a darkly ironic way) is St. Sebastian the patron saint of archers. 

    According to the story he was shot full of arrows, but didn’t die, was saved and healed by Irene of Rome (she went to bury him and found him still breathing), and later beaten do death by the emperor.

    Now, it could be that I’m just a spiteful person, but I don’t think that if I was shot full of arrows that I would be all that kind to archers. I mean they would probably be right at the top of my shit list.

  • Carstonio

    The quote from the Commandments of Men blog seems to take it for granted that fundamentalists don’t consider Mormons to be Christians. How many other divisions of Christianity take the same attitude? 

  • That’s been my experience of Mormon outreach too. We became friends with a Mormon family through one of my son’s preschool classmates, and I ended up being invited to a workshop at the church on how to grill. And the only thing that was had was some excellent burgers and hot dogs and potato salad. The closest we’ve ever come to explicit evangelism was my son once being told he’s “always welcome” when he expressed interest in going to a service with them one day.

  • Anton_Mates

     Maybe he’s just happy that they didn’t actually kill him.  You’ll notice he’s not the patron saint of club-wielders.

  • Nenya

    I’ve had this experience with the Sikhs in our city as well. They serve a communal lunch after their Sunday services, and it’s open to anyone who wants to stop by. I went a few times the summer that I was unemployed and broke enough that that was going to be my hot meal for the week, and I never felt pressured to convert. Heck, I always felt vaguely awkward, as if I was intruding on something (by being a white Christian-ish person in an Indian space) and that if I did express interest there might be some doubt that I was appropriating something. But they had the most fantastic lentil things and veggies and dal…

  • Isabel C.

    Well, I can understand wanting to do outreach for any given community:  new blood and new perspectives are good for the people already involved and, presumably, you believe that at least some people can get something out of whatever it is you’re doing, whether that’s Church X or ballroom dancing or a book club. So I’m not opposed to recruitment events in general.

    Neutral/social gatherings seem, to me, like a fine way to go about that, as long as you’re up front about the reasons and approach them the right way. This is the time of year when I remember my stint as recruitment person for my college RPG-and-general-geekery group most vividly. Lots of movie nights and apple-picking trips and so forth there, and those worked as a way to let freshmen get to know the folks they’d be hanging out with in a casual setting, without the commitment of a game.

    I could see church events serving the same purpose: a low-pressure way to meet church members and maybe find out a little about the church itself. I think the problem is when you start seeing it as a way to collect converts, rather than an opportunity for people to get to know one another. 

  • The_L1985

    IIRC, St. George is no longer considered to be a “real” saint by the Catholic Church.  Neither is St. Christopher, but St. Christopher medals are still insanely popular as a sort of Christian protective amulet.

  • Kiba


    Yeah, I wouldn’t be too happy with them either!