About This Blog

Friday, March 10, 2017

"The Simplest Way to Change the World" (Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements)

AUTHOR: Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (176 pages).

Change the world? Is that really possible? Would that require a lot of money or human resources? For many people, changing their own neighborhood might be a miracle already. Rather than launching gigantic projects or to pour huge sums of money into some huge infrastructural plan, it is actually quite simple. It takes one to start. It takes one to invite another. It simply takes one individual to share love and goodness with another, one at a time. For authors Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements, it is possible one neighbour at a time. More importantly, it begins with one's heart of hospitality. After all, hospitality is a biblical exhortation. Indeed, the world is changed by the Living Word and how the Word lives in the people who claim to believe it.

They first describe the potential of biblical hospitality. Opportunities lurk at workplaces; hobby locations; social environments; homes; etc. It could be as small as inviting someone over for a cup of coffee or being welcoming in how we greet people. It is about engaging people intentionally. Unfortunately, we have become misinformed or misguided about what hospitality means. For some it means coming up against some of our comfort activities like isolation with our own digital devices. We give excuses that hospitality runs against our need for personal relaxation and entertainment. Busyness could also hinder our cause. These four cultural currents need to be overcome. It begins with God to know that God has created a home for all people. This home is to be shared. This home is to be occupied by a hospitable people who see opportunities rather than obstacles in the establishment of a culture of hospitality. Opportunities such as:

  • Meeting the need for relational depth among people
  • Moving toward an appropriate way to connect amid a changing culture
  • Mission of hospitality not just as an activity but a way of life 
The second part of the book shows us the nitty-gritty of how we can accomplish these potential. We need to avoid becoming derailed by big plans and forget about the effectiveness of small-scale and simple hospitality. I like the reference to Skye Jethani's argument:
"We’ve fallen into the conventional thinking that a big mission demands big tactics, but we forget that in the economy of God’s kingdom, big does not beget big. It’s precisely the opposite. The overwhelming message of Jesus’ life and teaching is that small begets big. Consider, God’s plan to redeem creation (big) is achieved through his incarnation as an impoverished baby (small). Jesus feeds thousands on a hillside (big) with just a few fish and loaves (small). Christ seeks to make disciples of all nations (big) and he starts with a handful of fishermen (small). Even Goliath (big) is defeated by David with a few stones (small)."
Hospitality is that 'small' act of kindness that can reap huge dividends. The difference is God's hand at work. Life is a lot of little things all put together. Our meals; hobbies; work; friendship circles; and even social media are opportunities to reach out and be a good neighbour. There is a touching story of a guy named Landon who befriends an ostracized boy named TJ. Through acceptance and plain hospitality, not only was he able to help him get back on the right track, he wins him to Christ too. It reminds me of the story of the Blind Side where hospitality not only gives back dignity to a down and out boy, it helps him to achieve his higher potential. The authors show us some ways in which we put our own barriers. We tend to give excuses like:
  • What if people don't like us?
  • What if my house is a wreck?
  • What if I don't have the gift of entertainment?
  • What if I don't know how to cook?
  • What if my house is too small or I have kids?
  • and so on..
Truth is, we can use it as an opportunity to invite other believers to help. We can plan ahead. We can make things simple. We can begin with the ones close to us. We can initiate conversations that lead to invitations. We can go outside regularly. We can also use technology means. We can build weekly rhythms, and so on. Even popular TV shows can be used as a magnet for inviting people to our homes to watch. Rhythms can be adopted in weekly, monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly activities. Finally, we get some insight on how to get to the gospel.

So What?
Reading this book makes me believe that hospitality is one of the most uttered but least practiced aspect of Christianity. We sometimes need a kick on our backside in order to be spurred to do such good works. In a world of isolation and individualism, we need to buck the trend by choosing to engage in a culture of disengagement. We can choose to embody the presence of Christ even as people are increasingly being disembodied by a technological world which appears close but feels far. We can inculcate a spirit of community even as we wrestle with constant propaganda about personal rights and individual freedoms. All it takes is love for our neighbour and this love will set us free from excuses, free from petty needs, and free from retreating back into our private homes. How then can we build communities and open friendships amid a "Private and Confidential" world? Be hospitable and keep being hospitable regardless of the discouraging results. 

Hospitality according to Willis and Clements is the simplest way to change the world. That said, the concept is simple but the practice of it needs to overcome several hurdles. Hurdles that they have clearly pointed out in chapter two. Other hurdles include a lack of theological understanding and missing the opportunities to connect because we have become too inward-looking. My advice is: Start small. Do it as regularly as possible. Work together with another like-minded couple or family to start the ball rolling. By practicing hospitality first with familiar faces and people, we learn the ropes of what it means to serve. As we do this more and more, perhaps, we can let God show us even greater things. The key is to start where we are with who we already know with what we already have. We leave the problems of lack to God who has promised to be faithful to us. If you are looking to be more effective as a witness, hospitality is not only effective, it is biblical.

Dustin Willis currently serves as Executive Director of Marketing with the North American Mission Board and speaks across North America. Dustin earned his bachelor's degree in marketing from Clemson University and his master's degree from Liberty Theological Seminary. Brandon Clements is pastor at Midtown Fellowship in Columbia, South Carolina. He blogs at dearbiblebelt.com and is married with three children.

The book's website can be found here.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment