Book Review: The Simplest Way to Change the World

The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life

By Dustin Willis & Brandon Clements

I have to admit I’m rather surprised.  I had expected the last book I read to be the gem and figured this would be a pretty light and fluffy follow-up.  The previous book was much more theoretical and academic, but not nearly enough so – if that makes any sense.  It wasn’t a practical hands-on guide, but neither was it a very meaty academic or theological treatment of the issue of hospitality.  This book is very much a hands-on book.  Light on theory and theology and heavy on practicality, and for that reason it’s a very helpful book.

The light language style is not my favorite, and I find it confusing how they switch back and forth between themselves, both writing in the first person and identifying changes in voice with their names in parentheses.  But since I don’t know either of them, it was easy enough to just morph them into essentially a single voice.  While I’m sure  this is a disappointment to them, it really doesn’t alter the effectiveness of the book much.

Whereas the last book was practically devoid of personal accounts of hospitality, this one utilized them far more often which made it both more real to read and more helpful.  Clearly the intent of the authors is to not just encourage but actually help equip people (Christians) to be more hospitable.  Towards  this end they provide a plethora of practical tips from the mundane to the more creative.  Clearly the key is making connections with people intentionally and then allowing the Holy Spirit  to guide and lead those connections into relationships where the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be shared.

I only have two real criticisms.  The first is that they utilize early on the metaphor of a weapon.  The hospitable Christian household is a weapon for the Gospel.  This really seems like a counter-intuitive metaphor.  If we want people to feel safe and valued in their relationships with us and their time in our homes, the metaphor of a weapon seems out of place.  I know, I know – it’s likely picking up on themes of spiritual warfare and things like that.  All well and good (though fleshing out the theology of choosing such a metaphor would have at least been more helpful!).  The Holy Spirit is undoubtedly waging spiritual warfare as I host someone for dinner or invite them to live in our home with us for a few weeks.  But it isn’t helpful to me to have that metaphor in the back of my mind.  My job is to love this person to the best of my ability and trust the Holy Spirit will utilize my home and family, both in terms of our words and interactions, to lead that person to Christ.  (Update:  OK, so maybe I’m changing my mind about this and warming more to the idea of Christian hospitality and the Christian household as a weapon.  We just need to be careful that we understand this properly.  It is the Word of God that is the weapon, and as Christians  our homes ought to be places where the Word of God is alive and active and present – read, spoken and acted on and through.  If we think of the power of God’s Word as mainly to make people nicer or more agreeable to our ways of thinking and being, we are dangerously short-sighted.  The Word of God aims at killing and making alive again.  It settles for nothing less than the entire person, whether we gel with that person or not.  Don’t get this confused!)

My second criticism is that their chapter How Do You Get to the Gospel? takes a fairly typical evangelical approach towards sharing the Gospel.  And while there’s nothing wrong with that, and we pray that it will be something we have the chance to do, it’s good to remind hospitality beginners that the act of opening your home and lives is a powerful witness to the Holy Spirit within you.  In other words, in being counter-cultural in this respect, people are automatically going to be wondering and looking for why you are the way you are and why you do what you do.  This will provide inroads for sharing the Gospel later on more naturally.  Don’t be afraid to just be with people.  It may not be that you’re supposed to share the Gospel with them the first few weeks or months you know them, or the first few times they are in your home.  But the fact that they keep coming back is a reminder that in loving them you are laying groundwork for more specific and explicit sharing of the Gospel later on.  Or, you may be making that person more receptive to someone else the Holy Spirit intends to use to share the Gospel with them.  You are  not to take upon yourself the burden of assuming you are the only person God can and will use in this person’s life!  Don’t, on the flip side, assume that you aren’t going to be used that way!  Remain open to it and responsive when opportunities arise.  But don’t take on more of a burden than you were intended to.  Remember who is in charge (Hint: It isn’t you.).

This would make for a great small group study resource, and I may use it that way in the future.  Figuring out how to talk more about Christian hospitality is a good thing, and this is a good resource if you’re interested in that or already doing it and wanting to give others some ideas about how they could get involved also.

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