Reviews - What do customers think about Welcoming the Stranger?
Recovering a Public Place of Worship Sep 17, 2001
Patrick Keifert in this book, Welcoming the Stranger, has some insightful things to say concerning the connection between worship and evangelism, but unfortunately managed to make the task of discovering them tedious. Following are some nuggets of wisdom picked out from the rough of the text.
The churches greatest opportunity for evangelism on a weekly basis happens during gatherings of corporate worship. Precisely because this worship gathering tends to be the most public of its gatherings it is the time most non-believers participate with the church. Keifert tries to identify the hurdles that "strangers" in our midst typically need to jump feel welcomed and as a result brought into the presence of God. Removing these hurdles goes beyond a firm handshake and a warm hello.
Keifert sees a recovery of ritual as the way to bridge the evangelism and worship chasm in our weekly worship. Rituals bring church members and strangers to equal footing, thus creating truly public space. Space that is intimate, but which allows for appropriate and common expression of worship.
This book helped me better appreciate ritual and liturgy, especially for their value of creating public space in which a stranger can feel welcome. Must of all, I was reminded that as we welcome the stranger in our midst we are not the true hosts, God is. Therefore, we are all guests in the presence of the Lord and all invited to receive his abundance and love.
Practicing Christian Hospitality Sep 16, 2001
"Welcoming the Stranger," by Patrick Keifert is a wonderful book. Keifert attempts to show that liturgical worship and effective evangelism can be put together. In fact, Keifert maintains that these two areas of ministry actually complement and enhance one another.
The manner in which liturgical worship and effective evangelism are blended, according to Keifert, is through a unique understanding of offering hospitality to the stranger. Worship is not a private matter and the church needs to reserve a place for the stranger, especially in worship. The reason is twofold: first, "God is the host of public worship, whose presence is often revealed in and through the stranger. Second, God who is present in worship is essentially a gracious God who gives to the stranger" (1992:58). Keifert biblically argues for the practice of evangelistic hospitality in the modern liturgical congregations.
Practical and Profound Aug 29, 2001
This book has changed the way I have viewed and practiced ministry. Most helpful is Pat's understanding of worship as a public act and not private family time. Public events and spaces are designed to welcome and incorporate strangers. When worship is thought of as a public act as opposed to a private family event it also will be designed to welcome the stranger. Pat not only outlines the Biblical text that support this understanding but also looks at practical ways that our worship services would change as we took seriously that worship is a public act. A book every pastor and worship leader should read.
A Substantive Theology of Worship and Evangelism Aug 8, 2001
Welcoming the Stranger is a substantive, academically credible, and original theology of worship and evangelism. This book is not for intellectual lightweights. Keifert challenged and stimulated me as I followed his arguments to their practical implications. Keifert seeks to demonstrate "...that liturgical worship and effective evangelism can complement and enhance one another" (1992:5). What makes this pursuit interesting is that Keifert argues that the biblical metaphor of hospitality to the stranger links worship and evangelism. He reasons that our society's fascination with intimacy actually hinders hospitality to the stranger. When strangers enter an intimate environment they tend to become passive observers. Compounding this difficulty is our culture's tendency toward individualism. This individualism is often expressed in its "scientismic" and "irrationalist" views. "...Because of the modern dogma, faith, religion, and the church are experienced as private, fueling the self-consciousness most individuals feel during worship" (1992:36). The answer to this self-consciousness is to be found in liturgy. Keifert explores three currents of liturgical renewal and argues that they also have "been unconsciously affected by the modern undercurrents" (1992:53). Keifert appeals for liturgical renewal. He notes; "Stripped of its ritual, Christian worship loses its public character, substituting performance to an audience for the ritual involvement of the entire community in the presence of the self-giving, self-sacrificing God" (1992:97). Rituals serve vital functions for communities. He explores Hippolytus's Apostolic Tradition initiation rites as a prime example. Strangers want and need rituals. "Ritual builds the social barriers necessary for effective interaction" (1992:110). Keifert argues for "ritual competence and ritual resourcefulness" (1992:117). He aids the reader in developing strategies for creating rituals. Worship planning entails a fourfold process, attending, asserting, deciding and acting. Effective worship planning, that creates resourceful rituals which strangers will find hospitable, entails utilizing tradition, culture and faith experience (1992:142). Welcoming the Stranger is a challenging reading experience that is certain to stimulate many unexpected thoughts about the role of ritual in evangelism.
Christian Hospitality Jul 21, 2001
Welcoming the Stranger, by Professor Patrick R. Keifert of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary is a study in the application of Christian hospitality. "Barbara Whiterabbit" (1) is the fictitious name given to a particular kind of stranger who asked to attend a traditional Christian worship service. Keifert asked the reader to hold in mind this `stranger' as the book is read. Barbara is the type of person who is comfortable in the safe space of her own home and in the one-on-one setting of the pastor's study, but who felt uncomfortable in public worship. She is projected as an "Everyman" type of person. Her anticipation of being in a public worship service with its liturgical organization and use of specific religious language was perceived as fearful. Keifert's task was to illustrate the process of assimilation for such strangers as "Barbara" into the community of believers through the hospitality that naturally should permeate every Christian community. He asserted that strangers will become comfortable once they overcome their external fear of unfamiliarity with form and content, and internalize the reality that they are in the good company with other strangers who, like themselves, are seeking to deepen their spiritual relationship with God and coincidently and necessarily with each other. Keifert's thesis is that evangelism and liturgical worship complement each other as people participate in the assimilation process of becoming comfortable in church. Keifert pointed out that there are two types of services where the churched and the unchurched tend to meet, hear God's word, and engage in liturgical ritual - marriages and funerals and burials (121). Primarily spectators on these occasions, a diversity of people meet, participate, and feel touched by that which is eternal. Keifert stated: "Effective evangelism and liturgical worship belong together in a mutual apostolic mission" (5), and, "I propose that congregations . . . adopt a `both-and' approach to integrating liturgical worship and effective evangelism" (5). Two undercurrents in American society obstruct the assimilation process according to Keifert. The first is: "the ideology of intimacy" (9). The second is: "the ideology of individualism and the separation of the public and the private" (9). The ideology of intimacy precludes exposing oneself to risk-taking and public scrutiny. Individualism precludes melting anonymously into the psychology of group dynamics, in short abdicating power and control over one's own feelings and actions. Spreading the gospel through ritualized worship is a challenge. Public worship by definition asks that people express private feelings in a public forum and to identify as members of a company of strangers. Congregational worship invites people to pray, sing, meditate, listen, and otherwise respond to what is happening not only in front of them, but also all around them. Congregational worship is not usually geared to an intimate I-Thou encounter, although such is possible. Congregational worship encourages relatively sedentary activities; people usually sit in pews, in which the dynamic rhythms are more vocal than acted out, even though identifiable worship leaders do perform. The result is that "the stranger" may feel decidedly uncomfortable with the tension produced between the desire to be `religiously correct' in a public setting, and "authentic" in worshiping God.
The contrast between the private and public selves in terms of religion was summarized in a reference to Thomas Jefferson. Keifert recorded: "Thomas Jefferson, who was reticent to speak about his private life, was especially reluctant to reveal his religious beliefs. He was convinced that religion was essentially a private affair between each person and that person's God" (34). Not all Americans shared Jefferson's views, but enough did and still do to give it credence. Hospitality requires at least two participants, a host and a guest. Keifert stated: "The theological principles that ground this pervasive theme of reserving a place for the stranger, particularly in worship, are two. First, God is the host of public worship, whose presence is often revealed in and through the stranger. Second, the God who is present in worship is essentially a gracious God who gives to the stranger" (58). The implication is that everyone at a worship service is God's guest. Further, Keifert wrote: "Hospitality to the stranger, as we will see in the biblical witness, requires the transformation of the self in such a radical manner that this transformation often is referred to as repentance and conversion" (59). The focus is on God. Keifert utilized Robert Frost's homespun philosophy as expressed in the poem, "Mending Wall." Frost wrote: "Good fences make good neighbors." Feifert wrote: "Ritual builds the social barriers necessary for effective interaction. It provides the sense of cover that allows most people to feel safe enough to participate in expressions of religious value. Despite how things may seem when a visitor comes to church for the first time, ritual can in fact be most hospitable to the congregational stranger" (110). Ritual is the fence. Keifert issued a challenged: "I call for recognition that the presence of God is embodied in the stranger and in Christian hospitality to the stranger" (113). Of course, this is an ancient challenge. The example given was Jesus appearance on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24). Another well known example is the work of Mother Teresa's Sisters of Mercy, who see in the dying, the face of Christ. Keifert is dramatic, but not original. Keifert's claim for the efficacy of his text is contained in the statement: "The diagnosis in this book, combined with a Christian public imagination and sense of ritual hospitality, is sufficient resource for reactivating public worship around God's presence through and on behalf of the stranger" (113). Barbara Whiterabbit disappears from the text on page 20 in a mist of shame, and the reader is left uncertain as to what happened to her? The weakness in Keifert's book is that toward the end he seemed to go off track on some unnecessary tangents. As a result he diverts attention from his primary theme. It remains to be seen whether or not Keifert is effective in inspiring others to join with him in solving the problem of extending sincere hospitality to the strangers in the midst so that the Great Commission can be fulfilled.