0800624920hKeifert, Patrick R. Welcoming the Stranger: A Public Theology of Worship and Evangelism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

The Author

Patrick Keifert is Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. He has also been an adjunct professor at the School of Law, Hamline University, St. Paul, since 1984.

Ordained in 1978, Keifert served congregations in Chicago, Washington state, Wyoming and Minnesota. He has been the general editor of the Journal of Law and Religion, and served on the editorial boards of Word & World and dialog.

kiefertHe earned a B.A. degree from Valparaiso (Ind.) University, where he was a Christ College Scholar, and an M.Div. degree from Christ – Seminex. He received a Ph.D. degree from the Divinity School, University of Chicago, and has done additional study at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Tubingen in Germany.

He has been the recipient of the Fulbright-Hays Travel Grant, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Language Grant and the Franklin Clark Fry Postdoctoral Fellowship. His books include: Welcoming the Stranger: A Public Theology of Worship and Evangelism (1992), Worship and Evangelism: A Pastoral Handbook (1990), People Together, a set of small group ministry manuals (1994), Talking About Our Faith (1998), The Small Church Small Group Guide (1998), But Is It All True? (2006), Testing The Spirits (2006) and We Are Here Now (2006). He has also contributed to A Story Worth Sharing: Engaging Evangelism (2004), The Ending of Mark and the Ends of God: Essays in Memory of Donald Harrisville Juel (2005), and To Teach, To Delight, and to Move: Theological Education in a Post-Christian World (2006).[1]


Keifert’s main argument critiques the dualism of the Modern Western world which keeps individual/corporate, private/public, value/fact dichotomies as the ruling framework for society. Religion, and thus congregational worship, has been relegated to the private sphere. Congregations have been reduced to voluntary associations in which the members see themselves as members of an intimate family. This conception of the local congregation is evidence of the ideology of intimacy that is dominant in our culture. Keifert proposes that the local church is actually a company of strangers and that worship is a public act that bridges the gap between the public and private spheres in our society. The local congregation of believers must create ritualistic, public spaces in which the stranger can feel welcomed and can slowly become part of the community.

Select Quotes

“Indeed, if we are to understand public life in general and the church’s work and worship as public, we will change our present theological emphasis from that of the intimate society. Under the influence of the ideology of intimacy, in the modern period we focus on redemption to the neglect of God’s other good works, a preoccupation that parallels and abets the ideology of intimacy. The Scriptures teach that God’s primal work is in creating, not redeeming. People, therefore, are primally stewards of creation and only secondarily the objects of God’s salvation. Our redemption is critical precisely because it frees us to be a part of God’s creative and sanctifying activity in the world, both in its private and public dimensions. As free people, as stewards of creation, we are sanctified to an ever greater communion with God, not apart from our creaturely selves but precisely through them. This stewardship of creation is as much a public as a private activity.”[2]

“In reconstructing the church as a company of strangers engaged in an evangelical conversation and life on behalf of the world, we need a new strategy for liturgy that can link the public and private by focus on the conversion and sustenance of its members. Such a strategy does not necessarily call for a new set of liturgical forms, any more than it dictates the repetition of traditional forms. It does require that Christians be both ritually competent, or capable of participating in rituals, and ritually resourceful, or capable of adapting them to a specific culture.”[3]

Photo May 15, 7 16 43 AM
Photo May 15, 7 16 38 AM (1)

[2] Patrick R. Keifert, Welcoming the Stranger: A Public Theology of Worship and Evangelism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 81.

[3] Ibid.,  96.

Get Art and Spirituality in Your Inbox

Join my mailing list to receive the latest posts and resources

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This