I recently led an online study group through the book The Simplest Way to Change the World and I wanted to write up a quick review and offer some of my thoughts for those considering purchasing and reading this book on biblical hospitality. In recent years, biblical hospitality has become a life-changing concept for my family, reshaping how we live out our faith in community with others. I purchased this book based on a recommendation from a friend and after reading it, thought it would make for a great introductory course on biblical hospitality.
Here’s a brief overview of the book:
The Simplest Way to Change the World is broken into two main sections. The first section covers more of the conceptual aspects of hospitality. The authors discuss things such as the common barriers to hospitality (Chapter 2), the theological reasoning for such a practice (Chapter 3 and 4), and the cultural-appropriateness of biblical hospitality (Chapter 5). One of the more reorienting things about this first section are the theological chapters (3 and 4). These two chapters help readers to see how hospitality ultimately originates from God and how this theme is woven throughout the entirety of the biblical narrative. From the Garden of Eden (Gen. 1-3) all the way to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19), God is seen both loving and welcoming “the stranger.” And since God is a hospitable God, he expects His people to demonstrate the same level of hospitality to those around them, especially toward “the stranger.”
Building upon the theological underpinnings of hospitality, the authors explain how the post-Christian culture necessitates such a practice. As religious attendance and affiliation decrease year after year, local churches can expect to see fewer people walk through their doors in search of answers to questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Furthermore, as technology feeds society’s disconnection with others, people are literally craving close, meaningful relationships with those arounds them. Biblical hospitality aids both of these cultural/contextual changes by fostering a safe place to engage in spiritual dialogue and build real, meaningful connections.
The second section of this book dealt with the practical aspects of biblical hospitality. The authors address some of the common questions and concerns people have about opening their homes (chapter 7), ideas for generating weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms of hospitality (chapter 9), and how to share the gospel with not-yet believers (chapter 10). While chapters 8 and 9 are helpful for those who are just starting out on their hospitality journey, I found chapter 7 to be the most “paradigm-shifting” and thus, the most influential. The majority of people I speak with about hospitality have a genuine desire to open their home, get to know their neighbors, and leverage their home for the gospel but many of them “excuse” these desires away. When you get down to it, people are insecure about themselves, the size and/or cleanliness of their homes, and navigating the social dynamics when you add kids into the mix. The authors dismantle many of these excuses by allowing the spirit of hospitality to cut through by reminding the readers of who God has called the Church to be, what He has called the Church to do, and what is most important in life.
The authors conclude their book by suggesting other ways in which their readers can leverage their homes for the Gospel outside of hosting a meal and inviting others to join. They cover things like fostering children, caring for widows and widowers, and intentionally welcoming people from other countries. The final chapter serves as a summary of the book and issues a charge for the readers to embrace biblical hospitality as a way of life.
Here’s what I liked about the book:
I thought this book provided a very simple introduction into the concept of biblical hospitality. Especially for those who are unfamiliar with the concept or are just starting out, biblical hospitality can be a bit overwhelming. The majority of the books on hospitality I have read assume that their readers have a working knowledge of the concept and in this respect, The Simplest Way to Change the World, meets a real need in this department. Furthermore, the authors provide a healthy balance between the theological and the practical. While there is certainly much more they could have said regarding the theological implications behind hospitality, their overview sets the reader on a good trajectory to be able to answer the question of “Why?” and aids the reader in generating some simple ideas for starting out.
I also enjoyed the small group guide in the back of the book. The authors divide the guide into a 6-week learning course, covering two chapters each week (this is the format I used). A few questions and quotes are provided for further discussion and reflection.
Here are some detials about the book:
The book itself is 172 pages in length (including back matter). It retails for $13.99 but you can find new copies online for around $9-10. For more information about the book, visit their website at thesimplestwaybook.com.
- What books are you reading that have encouraged you to open your home to others and “love the stranger?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.