The Gospel Comes with a House Key

The Gospel Comes with a House Key

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian WorldAbout The Gospel Comes with a House KeyThe word hospitality often invokes a scene of a gracious, impeccably fashioned host welcoming guests into a beautifully appointed home prepared with perfectly-presented meals. However, when the Bible calls Christians to be hospitabl...

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Title:The Gospel Comes with a House Key
Author:Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
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Edition Language:English

The Gospel Comes with a House Key Reviews

  • Jessi

    This is a hard review to write. First, in college I was welcomed by the author into the very type of hospitality she describes in this book. I know that she practices what she preaches, and practices it very well. I was an unchurched Christian and she brought me, and many other college students, to church followed by lunch in her modest apartment with delicious and modest meals. The wisdom, love, and conversation she shared at these lunches were delightful. Many of us would stay the whole day an

    This is a hard review to write. First, in college I was welcomed by the author into the very type of hospitality she describes in this book. I know that she practices what she preaches, and practices it very well. I was an unchurched Christian and she brought me, and many other college students, to church followed by lunch in her modest apartment with delicious and modest meals. The wisdom, love, and conversation she shared at these lunches were delightful. Many of us would stay the whole day and return with her for evening worship, in the small church's basement.

    Still, after I began this book, I was nervous. At first, I really did worry it was going to be a new law, and I think it was the description of how the Butterfields practice hospitality and the insistence that

    must practice "daily" or "nightly" table fellowship. It is embarrassing to say, because it shows how unlike Rosaria I am, but I scoffed at this! You mean to say God

    that every day or night I need to open my home to people and if I don't, I am sinning? Can that truly be a biblical command that I have been ignoring for my whole Christian life? This made me both nervous and skeptical. Oh no! I can't even handle all of the things I already feel obligated to try to do well! Should I even finish reading this book? Am I just going to feel guilty? But I know how lovely Rosaria's Lord's Days were! How lovely she is! Keep reading! And I was also aware, thankfully, that even if I can't do it the Butterfield way, I should be involved in hospitality

    more than I am now. So I read it with part skepticism (sorry!) and part trepidation--I know I need to do this better. Keep reading!

    The weirdest part was that the crazy radical hospitality that she describes is probably my dream life! I would love to see neighbors everyday and be in and out of people's lives in such a constant way. But reading it when I was wondering if this was a command, scared me still! I don't live this way and I don't see that coming any time soon. I have five kids that I am homeschooling. I know she homeschools, too, but we are different people with different gifts (she is brilliant, for instance) and have different numbers and ages of children and probably different levels of hands-on-edness required, etc. The fact that I even had to wrestle with these things (and make excuses for myself!) is what made me nervous! Should I be defending myself--to myself--because I don't see making my house look exactly like hers? Again, the conviction that I was guilty of practicing hospitality less than I should be, regardless if it should be daily or weekly or what, told me to keep reading.

    So I did! Finishing the whole book, I do not think that this book is saying that we must look like the Butterfields in order to be living right, because she does share how other people practice hospitality and they don't all look like hers (chapter eight). Also, she describes a period of time (in chapter seven--my very favorite chapter for its sweetness and evidence of God's beautiful grace in an otherwise sad story) where she could not practice this daily hospitality. She sorrowfully missed practicing this way, but she doesn't say she was sinning.

    I think my knee-jerk reaction to the earliest chapters were probably me reading the book critically out of a guilty conscience. I know I

    practice regular or even frequent hospitality. I know that I could do some things differently in order to love my neighbors (which

    God's command for us) better and more frequently or even at all. I don't know many of my neighbors. I don't invite all the people from my church, even, to my home regularly. This book really gives a vision for an incredible, and hard, people-filled life--and it shows how this life brings people to the Lord himself! In the end, it has been a great encouragement! I fully recommend it.

    As a memoir sharing how living a life of radical hospitality has turned strangers into friends into family members, this book is incredible. Five stars.

  • Bambi Moore

    4 1/2 stars. This book is thought-stirring and a deeply challenging call on hospitality to the stranger and outcast. She calls us to love our LGBT neighbors with hospitality and hope of the gospel, not fearing or despising them. This book was hard for me to put down. I will read it again someday.

    The type of hospitality that Mrs. Butterfield holds out before us is indeed radical. She gives many, many examples of this in her own life. So many in fact that sometimes the book felt more like a memoir

    4 1/2 stars. This book is thought-stirring and a deeply challenging call on hospitality to the stranger and outcast. She calls us to love our LGBT neighbors with hospitality and hope of the gospel, not fearing or despising them. This book was hard for me to put down. I will read it again someday.

    The type of hospitality that Mrs. Butterfield holds out before us is indeed radical. She gives many, many examples of this in her own life. So many in fact that sometimes the book felt more like a memoir. But this did not put me off, as I do love memoirs! And Mrs. Butterfield’s conversion story is such a staggering example of God’s grace that I would have read this book just to read of her current walk with Christ since writing Secret Thoughts. I highly recommend reading her Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert before reading this one.

    I have a slight problem or two with this book, same as I’ve seen others mention. Mrs Butterfield does seem to brush off hospitality with like-minded people. In my own life however, most people do not even extend hospitality to other Christians, or even accept an OFFER of hospitality from other Christians. I can’t count the times I’ve been flat turned down, and it is a very rare thing for my family to be invited into others’ homes. And so I wish that like-minded hospitality had been addressed at least as a starting point for those who aren’t yet offering their homes to anyone, period. Hospitality requires a level of humility because there is no way to have others in your home without exposing your own or your family’s flaws. And at least in my circles, no one wants to do even this small thing. In short, Mrs Butterfield rightly holds up a high bar for us, especially those who believe hospitality is commanded but aren’t reaching out to the strangers among us. I wonder if this high bar will blow the minds of some who have yet to get their feet wet. Like I said, very thought-provoking book.

    Her testimony of ministering to her mentally-ill mother was beautiful. Her example as a helper to her pastor-husband was fantastic and very interesting to me as well. The transparency and truth she shared about her church’s sin, the discipline of its leaders and the effects on the rest of the body, was humbly shared.

    At times she mentions things that made me scratch my head as to what it had to do with hospitality. For instance she mentions several times a disdain for social media. Which I understood but it just didn’t seem to fit/flow with the book. A time or two I felt like my hand was slapped and a tone of winsomeness was needed. Just my opinion. That’s a hard balance for a writer.

    Overall I loved the book. It was heavy on real-life examples but I enjoyed them. Mrs.Butterfield has a gift of hospitality that is highly exercised and I’m thankful she shared her writing with us. Parts of the book I thought, “Wow, she is so brave to be saying these things!”

  • Rachel Schultz

    This book had some very good parts and some painfully bad. I would love to discuss this book in a group! And I would love having someone like Rosaria live in my neighborhood! My best take away is a reminder that living Christianity should be costly. I have to push myself. I have to work hard. I have to die to my self. That’s true with how I wife and how I mom. And how I hospitality. She made the point well that you should hospitality with sacrifice. Also she gave good advice to just start anywhe

    This book had some very good parts and some painfully bad. I would love to discuss this book in a group! And I would love having someone like Rosaria live in my neighborhood! My best take away is a reminder that living Christianity should be costly. I have to push myself. I have to work hard. I have to die to my self. That’s true with how I wife and how I mom. And how I hospitality. She made the point well that you should hospitality with sacrifice. Also she gave good advice to just start anywhere if you’re intimidated.

    Criticisms

    - Before reading this I heard she comes off as very humblebrag and I tried to not be swayed by a predisposition from hearing that, but yes, the smugness was grating. It seemed like almost continuous stories about how she was the hero of a scenario or how someone else (Christians and non Christians) was unloving or a buffoon and then she and her husband fixed it. I sympathize that it might be a challenge to write a book about how to do hospitality with the main framework being telling stories about how you did it well. And pointing out this smugness feedback would be difficult for a publisher and author to give/recieve. But I do think of women who have written books with topics like this (ex: Rose Marie Miller) and avoided this pitfall.

    - False dichotomies. One example is in the beginning when they learn their neighbor across the street was running a meth lab. She goes through a list of wrong things they could have done. “We could surround myself with fear: What if the meth lab explodes and takes out my daughter’s bedroom (the room closet to the lab) with it?” And then after the list… “But that of course, is not what Jesus calls us to do” (19). LOL! Actually, concern for my daughter not getting blown up by a meth lab is super god honoring! And doing that does not mean I think other people are worse sinners than I, shouldn’t be ministered to, couldn’t be saved, etc. But she described it that way, or wasn’t careful enough to nuance there and elsewhere.

    - She wants to make the point that good hospitality doesn’t have to be fancy and we should not avoid hospitality because of materialism. True. But she wades in to some asceticism. Having a nice home can be god honoring. If the choices are do nothing or do hot dogs then do hot dogs. But special, not utilitarian food is a God glorifying, practicing dominion way to bless people too. (She talks a lot about serving beans and rice and how stuff isn’t fancy.) There are times for both! This didn’t have to be a huge point, but it is not in the book at all. And that is a missing piece when you are talking about hospitality.

    - Too prescriptive. One of the endorsements she included even said this. (!) She seems to write in a way that anyone who is not doing hospitality like her is unfaithful. Many people SHOULD NOT do hospitality like she does for them to be faithful with other God given responsibilities. AND we need people that ARE doing hospitality like she does. The lonely can’t be settled into families if we don’t have well functioning families. And some families would not be thriving if the mom wasn’t spending her time in a hugely different way than Rosaria can. In the conclusion she goes through a list of “Imagine…” to paint a picture of a hospitable world. “Imagine a world where every Christian knew by name people who lived in poverty or prison, felt tied to them and their futures, and lived differently because of it.” Then to conclude the list, “This is the world God imagines for us.” (220). This is flat wrong. I think of Kevin DeYoung in Crazy Busy who says every Christian needs to care and be sad about sex trafficking, but not every Christian is responsible to personally do something about sex trafficking. And also when Kevin DeYoung talks about “moral proximity” where our relationships are like concentric circles and we are most responsible for the smallest circle (our family) and then working outward, circles like - our local church, the global church, our community, the world at large, etc.

    - There are a few very long sections of Rosaria telling personal stories, that I think only barely thread the needle of connecting back to hospitality. (Ex: Her cousin opening a gay bar, an incident of church discipline in her church). The amount of detail was excessive for the points she did make about hospitality. I think this book would have be less frustrating for some readers if it was more clearly branded as very predominantly memoir. It is not teaching on hospitality punctuated with personal stories and examples; it is personal stories and examples punctuated with teaching.

    - The book would have been better without Rosaria’s pretty numerous political opinions - drug sentencing, environment, and immigration are some I readily remember. I can think drug crime sentencing is not too harsh and still be a faithful Christian and a faithful practitioner of hospitality. If she agrees with that sentence she did not make that clear to the reader.

  • NinaB

    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via #netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I have been looking forward to reading this book; first, because the author is one I’ve admired from afar ever since I read her first book, Confessions of an Unlikely Convert; second, because hospitality is a ministry dear to my heart. I had high expectations for this book; and sadly, it slightly disappoints. Perhaps I’m being nit picky and I apologize if I sound harsh, but I need to give my

    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via #netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I have been looking forward to reading this book; first, because the author is one I’ve admired from afar ever since I read her first book, Confessions of an Unlikely Convert; second, because hospitality is a ministry dear to my heart. I had high expectations for this book; and sadly, it slightly disappoints. Perhaps I’m being nit picky and I apologize if I sound harsh, but I need to give my honest review. It is perplexing because though I do not love the book, I do not have a problem recommending it to others. (I gave it a 4* on netgalley bec of this).

    I’m not sure if this is promoted as such, but it is part memoir, part theology lesson, part christian living kind of book. Interwoven are the theological basis, biblical illustrations and personal story about hospitality. Mrs. Butterfield is a good writer and could very well be the most qualified to talk about hospitality, but I still find issues in the book that I cannot give it a 5-Star rating.

    These issues are not theological in nature, so I can still in good conscience recommend the book. For sure, it is highly engaging, saturated with Scripture, and convicting to the core. I’ve had to stop several times to repent for past sins in the area of hospitality and pray for God’s grace to help me a better hostess.

    I cried reading about her tumultuous relationship with her mother. I especially love that she encourages us to not idolize safety and security, something American Christians are obsessed with. We need to live our ordinary lives radically and one way we do that is through hospitality. Here are some favorite quotes:

    I know I can’t save anyone. Jesus alone saves, and all I do is show up. Show up we must.

    Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed.

    Christians must learn to practice radically ordinary hospitality not only as the hosts of this world but, perhaps more importantly, as its despised guests. Let’s face it: we have become unwelcome guests in this post-Christian world.

    God calls us to make sacrifices that hurt so that others can be served and maybe even saved. We are called to die. Nothing less.

    The job of an ally makes the cross lighter, not by erecting or supporting laws that oppose God’s law, but by being good company in the bearing of its weight.

    Now for the disappointing parts...here are just a few:

    Perhaps this is unavoidable when writing a memoir, and I have a sensitivity to humble-bragging because of my own pride problems, but I find her constant use of her own personal triumphs in hospitality as a little irksome. I don’t want to judge her motives, but it gets old when I read one hospitable act by the author after another. She did use other people’s examples, but it’s mostly about her and her family’s sacrifice and good works. This is especially interesting because she talks highly of her husband who would not “tarnish by bragging about it (one’s coming to faith through their hospitality) on a blog post or on Facebook. Kent is a Christian man. Christian men do not steal glory from God. This is the kind of news that moves mountains, something to be addressed in the sacred moment of table fellowship.”

    Her schedule seems unmaintainable. Doing intentional ministry every day could exhaust even the most devoted Christian. As a minister’s wife, I understand that being in full-time ministry is a 24/7 kind of job, and opportunities to serve could come at any moment. But her way is to have something planned every day. Maybe these are assumed, but I ask her, When does she devote time alone with her husband? When does she foster one on one time with her kids? It is hard to imagine she has time for them just by reading about her schedule.

    One of the characters she mentions in the book is Hank who starts as a grumpy neighbor and becomes a friend. Later on, it is found out he was leading a secret criminal life. I understand and admire the author’s compassion for her friend, but her intent focus on this made her question the fairness of his incarceration, made her forget his serious crimes that hurt a lot of people. His sins are somewhat downplayed. Yes, as a Christian, he has been forgiven, but he still has to face the consequences of his sins.

    She quotes and uses as a good example a Catholic priest who “regarded hospitality as a spiritual movement, one that is possible only when loneliness finds its spiritual refreshment in solitude, when hostility resolves itself in hospitality, and when illusion is manifested in prayer.” This sounds mystical and, as an ex-Catholic, I seriously have an issue promoting any of them.

    I found two typos: principal when she meant principle, tails instead of tales.

  • Clara Biesel

    This was a bit of a love-hate book for me. I have the deepest respect for the work she is doing in her community. I want to be much more welcoming, and more intentional about how Owen and I open our home to those around us. My dissapointment in the book mostly stems from my initial excitement when I read she had been a professor of English and gender studies, as I too, hope to be a professor of English with an emphasis in gender studies. Rather than finding a strong braiding together of rich cri

    This was a bit of a love-hate book for me. I have the deepest respect for the work she is doing in her community. I want to be much more welcoming, and more intentional about how Owen and I open our home to those around us. My dissapointment in the book mostly stems from my initial excitement when I read she had been a professor of English and gender studies, as I too, hope to be a professor of English with an emphasis in gender studies. Rather than finding a strong braiding together of rich critical reading skills and theology, I found that she had rejected her whole secular academic past to become what she now sees to be her true role: a stay at home wife and mother. Some of the way in which she writes is simply bewildering, particularly given her background. As someone seeking to live out my faith in my vocation (as in all parts of my life) it was frustrating. Mostly I was just... mislead by the little bio in the coverflap. If you'd like to borrow my copy, you'll find a lot of marginal backtalk.

  • Margaret Bronson

    I've been dying to read this book since before it was even released; the Gospel and hospitality? two of my favorite subjects? written by one of my favorite authors? I couldn't wait.

    Now that I've read it I think I'm mostly disappointed. While there were lots of good things about this book, for me it fell flat. But, let me start with the good stuff:

    Pros:

    - Her story about meeting her teenage son in a group home for the first time ripped my heart out and deepened my prayers for our hopeful future in

    I've been dying to read this book since before it was even released; the Gospel and hospitality? two of my favorite subjects? written by one of my favorite authors? I couldn't wait.

    Now that I've read it I think I'm mostly disappointed. While there were lots of good things about this book, for me it fell flat. But, let me start with the good stuff:

    Pros:

    - Her story about meeting her teenage son in a group home for the first time ripped my heart out and deepened my prayers for our hopeful future in fostering to adopt.

    - The last chapter was solid gold. So helpful. I wish the whole book had been like that.

    - Chapter 6, Judas in the Church, was also really good, though there were several times I wish she had been a little more clear. I have several situations that are definitely in the borderlands of hospitality but because it mostly revolved around how the Church should respond I was left wishing she gave some thoughts to how individuals within the church should respond.

    - I loved that this book didn't include any recipes or party ideas.

    - I loved that she was all about the messy home hospitality, mismatched cheap dinner ware, and cheap filling foods. Cuz that's my kind of hospitality.

    Neutral:

    - She's Presbyterian and I'm Baptist so there is a whole element to this that is based in a very different set of theological ideas. (Covenantal theology)

    Cons (Guys, I'm REALLY not trying to be nit-picky, I wanted to love this and thought about not leaving a review but I'm actually worried about some of this stuff):

    - I was not expecting what really ought to have been sold as a memoir. I think, had it been billed that way, it would have been a better read for me. I struggled with what, to me, came across as "how to be hospitable like me." I wish that the structure of the book had started with Jesus and the Gospel and what that means for our homes and churches, and THEN provided pictures that added a practical, tangible look at what that means.

    - Because it was written more like a memoir it was SO WORDY. Her stories lasted so long I forgot what point she was trying to make with them and sometimes didn't see that she made her point by the time she got to the end.

    - Part of why I wished it had been written in a more traditional Christian living style is because Mrs. Butterfield's world is not my world. With every story I felt the chasm between the world she ministers in and the world my family ministers in. My world is a lot poorer: meth next door is the norm and mental illness is everywhere. This is why I wish she had started with some broad, hard-hitting truths the Gospel teaches us about hospitality so that they could be applied in any context.

    - Because of the way she continues to use herself as an example she becomes the picture to compare ourselves against rather than the gospel, and I think it's actually rather damaging. Mrs. Butterfield includes a breakdown of her week and it's enough to send anyone into a total mental breakdown.

    My schedule is very, very full of hospitality and ministry, yet it doesn't come close to what she has going on. Most concerning is the lack of time set apart to have quality time with her husband and children. But I believe our family is our first ministry, those to whom we owe the highest level of hospitality and whose needs dictate to a degree how much and what kind of hospitality we offer to others. To recommend otherwise in a book on hospitality, even by omission, is, I think, dangerous. For example, my husband is chronically ill; if I over-filled our schedule he would be back in the hospital in a flash, my son would be an anxious mess and my third child, my baby, would go un-held more than he already is.

    - I found her response to parents' concerns about our hospitality inadvertently exposing children to things they aren't ready for to be honestly offensive. She brushes it off as sheltering and full of fear. However, she sets up a straw man through using examples that support her position. If Christian parents are afraid to have a LGBTQ person into their home, read what she says, because she's right. BUT, if your concern is about safety and toxic people and those who would prey on your children that's a completely different matter. For example, a little girl we were frequently bringing into our home was actively attacking my daughter and trying to get her in trouble and make her do things she shouldn't do, then lie and say they were her idea. There are many, many times this sort of thing has happened during my efforts at hospitality, and I would love for a mom whose been there to give me direction and not tell me I'm not trusting the covenant enough. Like, really, what do I do? I think I ask someone else in my church to reach out to that little girl and her family and protect my daughter but... again, I would love direction on this.

    - I wish she had given concessions to seasons of life. She put her schedule in there with no caveats or clarifications or even saying that "I haven't always operated on this level." Her youngest is 11, and several of her children are already saved and can join into this ministry with her. For me, my oldest just turned five and I have two toddler boys. None of them can help in any significant way with the hospitality and prep. In fact, after we are finished with hospitality I have to work really hard to reassure them and reconnect with them and deal with whatever difficult stuff happened while we were being hospitable that I was not able to address at the time. I wish she had given concession to people being in different places.

    - Perhaps most disturbing of all, and my only theological concern, was her take on headship. In her words, headship is a result of the fall and is needed because of sin. I HIGHLY disagree.

    - Ultimately, I think this book would have benefited from a better editor. There were spelling mistakes and a lot of organization and flow problems and a lot of saying things too narrowly or saying things too broadly and not explaining what she meant. A lot of the paragraphs left me wondering what she was saying exactly.

    I hope no one finds this review harsh. I love Mrs. Butterfield's ministry and her other books and deeply respect her. But, as someone who is very involved in hospitality I was hoping this book would motivate, challenge, encourage, and comfort. For me, it didn't do any of those things. It felt like a whole lot of "try harder, do better" and "do it like me." Since I can't and I'm not her, it was defeating. Honestly, I didn't find much of the gospel made available for me in this book. I found a lot of law.

  • Andrea

    This is a revised review. At about 30% in I thought I couldn’t take it anymore and called it quits, but I decided to tough it out and complete the book so this is my updated review on the whole thing. It’s pretty rare for me to consider quitting a book (esp. multiple times), but for reasons explained below this book had that effect on me.

    First, I had a really hard time getting through this book in the audio version. The reader, who is the author, reads so slowly and with such overly dramatic emp

    This is a revised review. At about 30% in I thought I couldn’t take it anymore and called it quits, but I decided to tough it out and complete the book so this is my updated review on the whole thing. It’s pretty rare for me to consider quitting a book (esp. multiple times), but for reasons explained below this book had that effect on me.

    First, I had a really hard time getting through this book in the audio version. The reader, who is the author, reads so slowly and with such overly dramatic emphasis that I often had a hard time paying attention. The pace was just way to drawn out. I felt like I was being held captive to one tedious monologue after another. Apparently there is some iTunes hack to increase the playback speed but I haven’t figured it out yet. If (and that’s a big IF even though it has been highly recommended) I read her book about her conversion, I would definitely get the paperback and read it at my own speed.

    The tedium was compounded by the

    story telling. Actual instruction or advice was sprinkled seemingly randomly in paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of personal stories that are overly stylized and riddled with what felt like faux humility (or "humble brags" going by today's vernacular). The author, trying to be warm, funny or relevant, includes a mind-numbing level of detail in her anecdotes like which version of monopoly her kids were playing at the table and the names and vocal characteristics of the singers on the CD she was listening to. In fact, most of anything that could be considered teaching is in the preface and conclusion (including almost half of the takeaways I list below). Unless you really want to read about her life, you could just read those two sections (about a half hour of out nine hours) and you’d get about as much out of it as I did. This book really needs to be billed as a memoir - "This is the story of my life and how I do hospitality: watch, learn and imitate."

    To her credit, the author believes that the Bible is "inerrant, inspired, authoritative, unified revelation" and I thought she did a good job of showing a balance between loving people while not approving of their sin. She usually demonstrates good theology (though I thought some of her Bible interpretation was a stretch, detailed below) and I believe she truly loves people and that God is working good out of her experiences (like he is doing with all Christians). She challenges the reader to think about hospitality in a new way - to be radical about reaching out in ordinary ways. I appreciated her example in this. If you're looking for more of a casual, chatty life story/memoir about hospitality, this book may be interesting for you. 

    There were a few tidbits that caught my attention in this book about "Radically Ordinary Hospitality" a phrase which was repeated so frequently that it has been seared into my brain and is defined as "using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God." I appreciated the following challenging, though often underdeveloped, thoughts: 

    1. Build margin into your lifestyle and live intentionally below your means so that you are ready and proactive about being hospitable. 

    2. Hosts and guests are interchangeable. You're always one or the other and the role changes often.

    3. Your words can be only as strong as your relationships. "Do I have the grace to say less than everything I could say about something?"

    4. No body approves of everybody or everything. When someone challenges you about your disapproval of something, remind them that no one approves of everything and that's ok. We all disagree with each other on all kinds of (big and small) issues and can still be friends and be kind/respectful with each other.

    5. My words are not pep talks. "Invest in your neighbors for the long haul - the hundreds of conversations that make up a neighborhood." Don't see your words as "sneaky evangelistic raids."

    6. Recognize our own sin (and that while claiming the name of Christ) and don't dwell on your neighbors' sin. Stop treating people as "caricatures of an alien worldview." Love the sinner - hate your own sin.

    7. Understand the difference between holiness and goodness - don't be afraid to celebrate the goodness of your neighbors because of God's common grace.

    8. Be good company to those who are struggling; be near. 

    9. God may use our time and resources and selves as a way of escape for others.

    10. Christians are not called to be desperate people even in desperate times, but to do God's work.

    Many of these points were mentioned almost offhandedly - blink and you'll miss it. And many of them are book-ended by what felt like self-righteous and authoritative judgments about how exactly to do hospitality and how exactly

    to do hospitality. I felt that her words communicated a sense of superiority in both her past (as if she was proud of just how anti-Christian she was and how much she “despised” believers) and her present (as if only someone from her background could see people the way she does). She writes that God calls us to serve and give and not get credit for either, but her entire book reads like a highlight reel from her life of hospitality with superfluous details that seemed to be fishing for admiration and designed to enhance the reader’s perception of her dedication and self-sacrifice. She went as far as to include an example of their weekly schedule, replete with all of the things she does for other people in it. While some may appreciate the concrete examples of how she serves and demonstrates hospitality, for me, it was way over the top. Meanwhile, she is very adamant that the barista at Starbucks and the Airbnb host are practicing “counterfeit hospitality” because they get paid for their efforts (apparently she doesn’t feel the same way about the fact that her husband gets paid to do ministry as a pastor).

    Even though she relates so many things to hospitality (so much so that the word loses meaning), she suddenly will get very particular about what doesn’t count as hospitality according to her. The goal of relating so many topics to hospitality, I think, causes her to misinterpret scripture. She regularly assumes the motivation and emotions of Bible characters and even writes in the preface that if Mary Magdalene had written a book about hospitality it would read like this one. She gives as an example of hospitality the exchange between Jesus and some of his disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. The author writes that Jesus was being hospitable by listening to their sadness about everything that had happened and encouraging them, but she completely leaves out his rebuke (he calls them “fools” and “slow of heart” for not believing what the prophets had written). She also includes the story of Jesus naming Judas as his betrayer as an example relating to hospitality merely because they were at the table when it happened and claimed that “table fellowship” somehow provided a natural context for this exchange. In these cases, she seems to expand her understanding of hospitality to any exchange between at least two people, but in other areas of the book (especially when it concerns other peoples’ efforts) she is less generous.

    Toward the end of the book she contrasts what

    family does with an extended critique of a family that they know who sets out

    extra seats for guests at their table (and she only knows about this practice from what her son told her about what their son told him – there’s no indication that she’s ever actually talked to the adults about their lifestyle firsthand). She claims that that family’s idol of “family time” will keep them from ever practicing hospitality the way that God commands (which I guess is always inviting your entire 300-home neighborhood over for a grill out). She writes that making the Lord's day a family day steals glory from God and she even dramatizes the way she talked about that family in a very negative way, calling them the “two chairs only family” in a very purposefully miserly tone as if that one decision defines them as a family. These comments (deeply undercutting her encouragement to her readers to start anywhere you can with your hospitality), to be sure, are less than “hospitable” and I think would be downright hurtful if that family ever read the account.

    Indeed, she talks about

    of people she knows (sometimes using their full names) in a way that I doubt endears her to them. I got the feeling that she included so many names to make the point that she knows and interacts with so many people, but she often describes them and their words with condescension and sometimes flat out mockery. I wondered many times throughout the book if she had gotten permission from all of these people to make them look like the ignorant, naively wide-eyed or selfishly misguided character so she could look like the enlightened, self-sacrificing, godly one. The story of her neighbor, Hank, which was told so extensively and repeatedly throughout the book that it seemed to be beat to death, included some pretty negative descriptions and intimate details. I’m assuming that she must have had his (and his girlfriend’s) permission since half the book is about him. If not, I think I would feel pretty used if someone had written that much about me to the whole world. Likewise, when people left their church, she assigned them wrong motivations and doesn’t seem to mind that if they read her book they would likely be offended with her (the pastor’s wife) analysis of them. When her neighbors were concerned about a neighbor being busted for having a meth lab she made them out to be selfish and cowardly with misplaced worries. When neighbors were apprehensive about an unknown pit bull roaming the neighborhood she painted them as unfeeling and alarmist. She even implies that the

    teaching of 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“bad company corrupts good character”) is a cop out when evaluating how to handle the knowledge that your neighbor is doing meth. If I knew this woman in person, I would be very apprehensive after reading this book to say anything around her that might end up as an example of what not to do in one of her future books. It’s obvious that she sees her way of doing hospitality as the best and most legitimate, often using the phrase “at

    house” to distinguish between their way and how others do things, frequently identifying them by name. Near the end of the book she writes, “There are, of course, other ways you can use your days, your time, your money and your home, but opening your front door and greeting neighbors with soup, bread and the words of Jesus are the most important."

    The author brings up the issue of the “worldwide refugee crisis” several times and, while it doesn’t really bother me that she has an opinion on this, she is very authoritative about her thoughts on these and many other issues. She claims it’s an “act of willful violence” to not live out hospitality in the different ways she describes and that it’s “deadly” to ignore God's teaching about caring for the stranger. At the same time, she shares that her neighborhood is fighting the new development of homes that is in the works for the land next to them because that land is “needed” as a buffer from the highway and for wildlife. She wrote often of the felons and prisoners that they invited into their home as if it were the most normal thing to do, but then said she hated herself and felt she was misguided for bringing her atheist mom to live with them, writing that she doubted whether or not her mother would ever change and questioning if she should keep giving her second chances. The author mentions her neighbor’s dog a million times (how much her kids loved the dog and how much it opened the door into her neighbor’s world), but she makes light of her ordeal in dealing with a different neighbor’s dying cat (joking with her family about whether or not there was enough space in the freezer to keep it until the owners get home and leaving it alone for almost a whole day bleeding on the floor without calling a vet). She then pats herself on the back with the statement that if they didn’t love their neighbors they wouldn’t be making space in their freezer for a dead cat. I was appalled at her whole description of that situation; I can’t imagine what the owners would think if they ever read it. The inconsistently in her arguments and attitudes was frustrating, especially because the tone in which she stated her opinions came off as so smug.

    Butterfield writes of the strained relationship she had with her mom, who eventually did make some sort of profession of faith in the days before her death. It’s always encouraging to hear of an example of someone so opposed to Christ being changed, but I disagreed with the author’s reflections on the matter. She writes that it was being on her deathbed that brought her mom to the point of salvation and, while I don’t dispute that God used that in her life, she then goes on to say that not everyone can come to Christ in the “fullness of life,” but anyone can come to Christ on their deathbed. Because she believed that her mom needed to be made physically weak in order understand her frailty and spiritual need, she makes a claim that I think (perhaps inadvertently) denies the sovereignty of God over anyone’s heart at ANY time – perceived strength or not. She adds that her mom's salvation "changed the past" and made her suffering a mark of God’s providence. What if her mom had not been saved? Does her suffering lose all meaning? Does not God make sense of all suffering whether or not those who have hurt us become saved in the end? These thoughts are, I think, the outcome of an attempt to process the situation emotionally, not theologically.

    The author's writing style quickly wore me down and I was very impatient for the book to conclude (which I’m sure plays a part in my overall reception of it). I found that she often took a paragraph -or two- to communicate one sentence’s worth of material. Her flowery, emotional language was too dramatic, seeking for a reaction, and, in my opinion, self-congratulating for me. It felt like she was trying too hard to be poetic and there were times where I think it got in the way of whatever message she was trying to communicate. I ended up with the feeling that she likes to write more than she likes to communicate anything in particular which resulted in this book being so much longer than it needed to be (in my opinion). In a recommendation I recently received for her book

    she was praised for being a great writer so my impatience with her style is somewhat a matter of taste. Others may appreciate her style as warm and descriptive.

    Her style of speaking also made it harder for me to get through the book. Not realizing at first that the author is the reader of the audiobook, I originally thought the reader of the audiobook was party to blame for the sensation that I was being scolded for my naive, conservative Christian perspective that ignorantly sees others as evil and has to be enlightened by someone who has come from the "other side" as to how to treat people. Learning that the author is the reader about halfway through made it more difficult for me to get past her often smug-sounding tone and the fact that apparently she's reading it exactly the way she wants it understood - disdain and all. Her communication style just came off as reprimanding me and bragging about her and, combined with the slow pace, I think I would have been much better off reading the text myself.

    Despite everything I struggled to appreciate about this book, I was impressed by their lifestyle (I’m not sure that wasn’t part of the point of the book), but the author really didn’t leave much room for the possibility that not everyone is called to live like they do. There are some very brief caveats in the conclusion (like being on the same page with your spouse), but they are counteracted by her criticism of anyone who isn’t making their entire lifestyle revolve around her idea of hospitality. In a few different chapters she relates stories of her childhood in which she struggled and she wonders, “Did I have Christian neighbors who could have helped? Who knew?” This seems, in part, to fuel her desire to reach out to her neighbors and I think that’s great, but I also know that God’s plan for her life was designed specifically for her good and his glory and that the supposed absence of Christian neighbors getting involved was not God’s plan being thwarted, nor should that thought drive us into an unhealthy obsession with trying to save everyone through “radical” hospitality. God has clearly blessed and equipped Butterfield to reach out in kindness and service to her neighbors in a unique way and God is to be praised for everything he brings out of that effort. Her example is

    in which a believer has been influenced by God (through their hardships, their education, their family of origin, their marriage, their physical surroundings, etc.) to serve him. I felt that she missed the point that God is doing this all over the world in ways that may look very different (even “radically” different) from how God is using her. Her attempt to relate everything back to hospitality got to feel like a justification for how they choose to live more than an encouragement to think biblically about how each believer should use their gifts in this particular area.

    I understand that the author has had quite the transformation (coming out of lesbianism when she got saved) and I am thankful that she is willing to write about her testimony and I think God is glorified in her heart for serving others. I don’t doubt that she will influence many and that God will continue to use her to further his kingdom. However, there were so many little digs at the way other people (mostly Christians) think and act that, even though she writes with the inclusive "we" when speaking of Christians, I sensed that she didn't really feel a part of 

     Christians who don't understand things like she does. I admit that Christians need to be confronted about these issues and that I have a lot to learn about how to love as Christ loved, but between her off-putting tone, rigid opinions of exactly what hospitality is, stretchy Biblical interpretation and inconsistent judgments, I did not enjoy the book. Nevertheless, it has given some food for thought about being intentional with my neighbors and, as mentioned above, there were a handful of thoughts that I appreciated.

  • Jeremy

    Read 5 myths about hospitality

    . Hospitality is a

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  • Kelly Sauskojus

    This book floored me. Rosaria Butterfield casts a beautiful image of Christian home as ministry through ordinary, daily hospitality. She strikes the perfect balance between practical details and lovely well-read writing. This book will be affecting me for years to come.

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