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The Gospel Comes with a House key (book review)

Why Believe

Elaine Dickson, , .



The Gospel Comes with a House Key (240 pages)
Rosaria Butterfield
Crossway Books

I was eager to read this book as I had heard great things about it and had read Rosaria’s autobiography “Secret thoughts of an unlikely convert” too – which outlines how an older Christian couple practising ‘radically ordinary hospitality’, started to invite her as a university lecturer of LGBTQ+ studies, into their home and display such warmth and love.  I was not disappointed!  If ever you need to know what being Christ–like means, this book lays it out for you.

Rosaria looks at ordinary hospitality as a mission field. She gives us a glimpse in the book of how her and her family practice it on a daily basis. I haven’t read any other book (apart from the living word of God) that pushes the boundaries of what living as a Christian really means.

In this book she writes from a firm biblical perspective why hospitality is the ultimate evangelistic way of life that sees prayer, pain, food, an open door and real friendships as the key to sharing the gospel and seeing people come to know Jesus.

Butterfield writes a mini theology of Christian hospitality with lots of personal examples of how hospitality brought her to Jesus in the first place and real–life examples of how God has changed lives through her family. She describes the good times and the painful times.

Her practical approach is simple but effective, she promotes simplicity as opposed to what we normally might be like i.e. worrying about how tidy the place is, how visibly pleasing the meal is, or fussing over our guests. Butterfield’s approach is about being welcoming and open.  When she has guests, she shares whatever food she has made, involves everybody in setting the table, putting the food out, putting the kettle on and making the tea etc. Anyone coming into her house is made to feel at home.

Like her own story of coming to faith, it doesn’t matter what background or lifestyle her guests come from. She doesn’t judge her visitors and accepts people the way they are. However, she doesn’t approve of their sinful lives. Rosaria talks about the ‘Jesus paradox’. ‘‘the touch from Jesus that launches a contagion of grace …that allows the believer to love those who hate in return’’. (pg. 29) Also, like Jesus, her and her family were accused of dining amongst sinners.

Around her table a variety of people gather, they are welcomed, Rosaria and her husband simply open their home and make themselves available. What is the challenge for me and for you?  I remember well one Christian student who opened her door to me as I was a struggling young Christian, she always made herself available. We cried together, we prayed together and we dined together. The kettle was always on, I felt at home in her dorm room. Her genuine friendship with me was used by God to help me with my anxiety and loneliness and also to persevere through my own studies.

So practically speaking whether it’s just a dorm room, a flat or a house, simply the challenge from this book is to have an ‘open door policy’. All you need is a kettle, whatever is in the cupboard and share it with those around you. People will start to open up and as you extend real friendship with them, God will work. But don’t just take my advice, I really do recommend reading this book by Rosaria Butterfield where you see how God works powerfully through ‘practicing radically ordinary hospitality in our post–Christian world.’

Elaine Dickson, a past Relay worker, is the voice behind True Word Ministries and can be found on Twitter @true_ni 

You can support a local Christian bookseller who gave us a review copy, by buying the book here.

Some questions that you and your CU may want to think about having read the book:

  • how can you shape your whole CU to show radically ordinary hospitality?
  • what does this mean for the accommodation choices that you make?  How could Christians in halls of residence that are dominated by non–Christians, shape this lifestyle?  How could a Christian house show this?  How might Christian accommodation blocks both help or hinder this lifestyle?
  • what does showing hospitality look like when we can’t open our physical doors in this crisis?
  • some of us spend lots of time with non–Christian friends, but sometimes lack intentionality to introduce them to other Christians, or to know how to show love in meaningful ways to them.  Others amongst us spend very little time with non–Christian friends in any meaningful way but yearn for opportunities to speak of Jesus.  Which of these do you tend towards?  What can we repent of?  How can we better live for Jesus in this?

You can hear more of Rosaria on this topic here: