Evangelism

Book Review: The Gospel Comes with a House Key

In seminary our wives met together once a month with older mentors rotating through each other’s homes in order to learn how to be hospitable with whatever we had. Some nights the ladies gathered together in the comfort of a couple near retirement who had plenty of space for everyone. Other evenings 20 women would pack in a one-bedroom apartment barely large enough for the couple that made it their home. The goal was to remind us that what matters is our willingness to open our homes, not that it is perfect for entertaining many guests.

In her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, Rosaria Butterfield says, “Sometimes Christians tell me that they don’t practice hospitality because they don’t have enough space, dishes, or food…This is a false fear that no one should heed. Hospitality shares what there is; that’s all. It’s not entertainment. It’s not supposed to be” (216–217).

We are a world that is connected in greater ways than ever in history yet more disconnected from real relationships. We have a thousand friends on Instagram and yet can go through a week without having meaningful conversation with anyone outside our own family. It has created a culture that is more concerned about image than relationships and we fall prey to it fearful that our homes aren’t good enough to have people over. But “People will die of chronic loneliness sooner than they will cat hair in the soup” (111).

Hospitality is an often overlooked aspect of the church, especially of her leaders. Elders must show a pattern of hospitality in their lives (1 Timothy 3:2). We are to love one another as the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 6:10). We must be hospitable because God was for us in Christ. We are orphans, wanderers, foreigners, homeless and he makes us into a family and gives us a home (John 14:1–4). Our witness of his hospitality toward us is hospitality toward others.

But what is Christian hospitality? There are many counterfeits. There is the feeling of welcome you get at the local coffee shop or the camaraderie you build at the CrossFit box. You might even know someone who has an extra room in their home and makes it available on Airbnb. But this isn’t what God did for us. He made us part of his family. He extended a welcome at his table to those who were rebels, thieves.

Hospitality in the bible comes from the Greek word meaning, stranger-love. But it means so much more than being cordial with a person you don’t know on the sidewalk downtown. It was a word commonly used to refer to having someone in your home as part of the family for a time. It could refer to a stranger passing through or a fellow citizen who fell on hard times. It’s not so much the time or the type of person in your home, but how that person is treated inside. It sees the gift of a home as a tool to display the work of God. “Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom” (11).

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That could mean a myriad of different things for different homes, but to Butterfield it boils down to this: “Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God…When our Christian homes are open, we make transparent to a watching world what Christ is doing with our bodies, our families, and our world” (31). The world already distrusts us. They think we are crazy. They think we oppose them, hate them, are disgusted by them. We say we aren’t. We follow with pithy bible quotes that justify our position. But hospitality puts hands and feet to our words about truth and love. It creates a dissonance in the minds of many when they don’t like our words, but they see what the words from Christ produce in our homes.

It is important to realize that this isn’t an individual endeavor tacked onto an already busy life with other worldly priorities. It is part of the fabric of our corporate Christian identity. “Radically ordinary Christian hospitality must be rooted and steeped in grace: church membership, private prayer and fasting, solitude, repentance, Bible reading, Scripture memory, and worshipful singing” (36) We do this together with the tools God has given to the saints for two-thousand years. This simple work is the means by which he rescues the perishing. “Radically ordinary hospitality means this: God promises to put the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6), and he intends to use your house as living proof” (37).

The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a much needed book for the church. We have forgotten what our witness is. When we hear “evangelism” we are filled with fear believing it means we are called to preach on the street, hand out gospel tracts, engage in apologetic debates with skilled arguers, or confront blatant sin in someone’s life. Some of these things might need to happen, but we fear evangelism so greatly because we’ve disconnected our witness from our ordinary lives. Hospitality is the connection between ordinary people and an extraordinary witness. “Radically ordinary, daily Christianity is not PhD Christianity. The gospel coming with a house key is ABC Christianity. Radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living.” (220)

Instead of worrying about sharing the gospel with a complete stranger, let’s first take the step of welcoming a neighbor or co-worker into our home. It is through building these relationships of trust that spiritual conversations flourish and the gospel has a real person to it instead of a cold, social-media hit. Jake and I often joke that we are going to write a one-page book called, Eat Food and Talk about Jesus. It’s a book that simplifies evangelism and discipleship. Food has a way of breaking down barriers.

Rosaria Butterfield’s book does far better. With both inspirational stories and solid bible teaching, she casts a vision of a church on mission through ordinary life in the home.


We have purchased a copy of this book for each of our Community Groups. Reach out to your CG leaders to get a copy of it for yourself.

Don't Waste Your Life

By Sarah Trejo

This morning I am thankful for the alone time that God has allowed to take place. It can be difficult to find the time to calm one’s mind and heart with the business of everyday tasks and commitments. To sit and meditate on what God has been showing you is an important part of the Christian life. This helps us to refocus on God’s will and way for our life and gears us away from our tendency to get caught up in the humanistic world’s will and way.

            I was going to write on the topic of the value of life this morning, but once again when words began making their way unto “cyber paper” and forming sentences and meaning, an epiphany hit me like a pickup truck’s brights hit my vision from the rearview mirror of my small 1998 Chevy cavalier. Don’t Waste Your Life. Some may have read John Piper’s book. As for myself, I was referred this book the other day but have not yet read it. It started out a couple days ago when I was working with a patient, and we got on the topic of our spouses and how we met. To back up just a bit; I work on a cancer unit as a Nurse. Our patients have blood cancers which are sometimes curable, and other times terminal. I often ask myself how God can use me there, and I honestly struggle trying to save people’s physical beings while their spiritual beings are heading towards death. This is a real battle in “physically treating” in the medical field. I have prayed for conversations to be brought up on eternal focus and hope, and for guidance when these conversations do get brought up. Anyways, this patient and I are both married to Ecuadorians, so we found ourselves asking more questions on how we met our spouses and what drew us to each other. The Ecuadorian wife laughed and asked me if “he could play the guitar”. Funny that my husband can, but I shared that it was our beliefs and faith that was the main tie. Both of their eyes lit up even more and they both said, “Us too!”. The husband began sharing with me his involvement in Missions in Ecuador for over 10 years and how through studying Biblical theology, God really shaped his understanding of the Gospel and meaning of life. He told me about how he sold his house and workshop and moved to Ecuador to basically live a missionary life. It was very refreshing and encouraging to meet this person who is going through this physical challenge, with such a strong focus on what really matters in life; the spiritual being and God’s will and use of us as vessels. He told me that John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life is a must read and will change your way of how you want to live your life. I want to share this with the church as this was and is a very awesome encounter that God brought about, with not just a spousal cultural similarity, but also a larger focus on the kingdom of God and how Christian’s are tied to each other all around the world by an invisible spiritual string. It is there! Since the string is invisible, we often forget it is there, and also tend to stretch that string to gear away from the mainstay to get consumed by the world and living a meaningless life.

Photo taken by Sarah Trejo, Ecuador 2014

Photo taken by Sarah Trejo, Ecuador 2014

Let us be used by God to pull each other closer and bring new souls to this string so that we can become more confident and intentional with our life.   

We must wake up each day and ask ourselves, “How does God want to use me today?” and to, “Pray to give us an opportunity to help grow YOUR Kingdom and to encourage and bring life to others.” The sermon a couple of weeks ago on the hired laborers validated the importance of being active and not wasting your life away while here on earth.

Matthew 20:1-19

It was a perfect connecting message to what God was speaking to me through the divine meeting with this married couple at work.

6...He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

Don’t waste life away! God has so much in store for us. Be active, share, and show the good news with those who are lost, or even encourage those who already know, so that they can experience the immense joy and zeal for life that He intended His creation to have!

Why another church in Rochester?

One of the most common questions we are asked is: "Why does Rochester need another church?"

That is a really good question that every church planter (and existing church pastor) needs to ask himself. There are over 200 congregations in Rochester, MN, why can't we just help one of them become stronger and grow?

The answer to this question has many good answers. For us it comes down to reach, theology, and relationships.

Reach

First, Rochester, MN is a quickly growing city. Currently it is the third largest city in the state but investors are pouring billions of dollars into the city to grow its medical facilities, business and education opportunities, and improve its infrastructure. Rochester is just over 100,000 people (not counting the additional 50,000 in the outlying towns), but could easily become a city of 200,000 people in our lifetime if it continues to have such a worldwide reach.

200 churches in a city of 100,000 people means that if every citizen were to attend a church each congregation would need to contain 500 members. That is a lot of big churches and very unlikely. If Rochester grows to 200,000 people each church would need to have 1,000 members! The average church in America is less than 100 people. To reach even half of a population of 200,000 people we would need 1,000 churches. A more modest goal of reaching 25% of that population means 500 churches. We, the corporate church, have a long way to go to reach this city with the gospel of Christ.

Additionally, every church has a different flavor mixed from ingredients of different kinds of people. Some churches are going to reach different kinds of people than other churches. It is a team effort to serve and teach children, parents, retirees, doctors, teachers, chefs, artists, laborers, homemakers, rich, poor, black, brown, and white. Some might be really good at reaching college students while others are really good at connecting with suburbanites.

Statistically, new churches have shown to be better at reaching non-Christians. They offer a fresh perspective not yet controlled by history and tradition ("the way we've always done it"). They attract people through a vision of what Christ will do instead of hanging onto what he has done in recent history. They are excited and motivated people willing and able to take more risks and try new things than an established church may be willing or able to. We believe that the corporate church in Rochester should always be planting new churches to keep our eyes forward and challenge others to take risks so that God can show off his fierce love for his people.

 

Theology

The second reason we are planting a new church in Rochester is because of theology. Currently, of the approximately 200 Christian congregations in Rochester, MN maybe 50 are conservative evangelical churches that have some true gospel witness (50 may be generous). Sadly, a country that was founded on  many Christian principles has gotten comfortable with some of the principles, forgotten others, and completely abandoned the Person those principles point to. Those 50 churches represent about 20,000 people in Rochester giving a true Christian testimony (assuming that their membership reporting accurately represents 400 people per congregation who are all faithful followers of Jesus).

In addition, there are now no churches in Rochester that are explicitly Baptistic in polity and Reformed in soteriology. We know many good pastors in the city with Reformed theological leanings, but would not teach such doctrines publicly (for various reasons). We know many people in Rochester who feel out of place at a baptistic church that is uncomfortable with Reformed theology or at a Presbyterian church that differs on baptism and church government. Some have expressed to us that there is no place for a Reformed Baptist to be free to express their views and know that every week they will grow more in love for Christ through the teaching and preaching of his Doctrines of Grace.

We desire to plant a church that is unashamedly Reformed and Baptist. We joyfully proclaim God's sovereign work in this world to save his people from every nation, people, and language. And we diligently work to build a church that reflects the pure bride of Christ through meaningful membership, independent congregational authority, a plurality of elder leadership, and entrance into the covenant community through believer's baptism.

 

Relationships

This culture is growing more isolated. People huddle into groups that affirm their own perspectives. They interact with the world mediated through the sterilized world of their devices yet are left unfulfilled relationally. Part of being made in the "image of God" is reflecting the relational nature of God's very nature in Father, Son, and Spirit. We were made to be with others. Redemption City Church wants to be a people that expresses its identity in the world, not in a building on Sunday mornings. We show hospitality in our homes by sharing meals with neighbors and providing lodging for the traveler. We encourage each other through life not just with an inspirational message on Sunday morning, but by living, working, and playing together throughout the week. We encourage interaction with people who are different, people who believe other things, and people who look different.

We don't want to plant a church that is in competition with other churches but is a partner to other churches.  We need each other and our unity over essentials is a testimony to God's work in us. Yes, secondary issues will require us to work on the details in different ways, but we want to come together regularly with other congregations to serve the needs of the community and display the mighty love of God for all kinds of people.

 

Tim Keller explains further why we need to be busy planting more churches. In summary: 

  1. Planting is the pattern we see in the Bible.
  2. Planting is effective evangelism.
    1. Plants reach different groups of people.
    2. Plants are more effective at reaching non-Christians.
  3. Planting is good for the corporate church.
    1. Plants bring new ideas and perspectives.
    2. Plants empower new leaders.
    3. Plants challenge existing churches to self-examination.
    4. Plants help fill other churches.
  4. Planting promotes an outreach mindset in existing churches