Book Review: Rosaria Butterfield’s “The Gospel Comes with a House Key”

In anticipation of Rosaria Butterfield’s hospitality seminar on June 1, we read her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key.

“The gospel comes with a house key,” (11) begins Rosaria Butterfield in her book by the same name. She says the phrase is more of a process. By viewing one’s home as a key to sharing the gospel, strangers can become friends, and friends can become family members of God.

Butterfield explores that idea throughout The Gospel Comes with a House Key, using her life as an illustration. At the same time, she weaves in the gospel that undergirds and informs her family’s daily rhythms of hospitality. She intertwines the two on purpose, for Christian hospitality must always point to Jesus. Without that upward direction, hospitality becomes counterfeit and incapable of welcoming diverse worldviews, suffering with the brokenhearted, and inviting people to experience the healing found only in Christ.

Butterfield’s exploration of hospitality happens organically, meaning people glean principles and insights as they read the book. Some of those principles receive mention here. Butterfield’s book, however, contains many more.

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Training Writers to Lead

Writers who follow Jesus believe that God has given us life-changing truth to share and a dynamic medium through which to communicate that truth to a broken and hurting world: the written word.

Countless leaders throughout history have pointed to famous books, letters, and writings that have significantly impacted their lives and missions. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, cites Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day as an “impossibly perfect” literary work that influenced Bezos to push himself to achieve. Pharrell Williams, a prolific performer and producer, describes Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist as an epiphany that sparked intense reflection on his chosen life path and community. J.K. Rowling, author of one of the most beloved children’s series of all-time, credits Jane Austen’s Emma with making her a better thinker and writer.

Talk to anyone on the street, and they will likely have at least one book, essay, or treatise that profoundly influenced their worldview. The power to affect lives when a creator pours time, attention, and creativity into their work can create echoes of impact that will only be fully understood in eternity.

As believers in Christ, we have the greatest source from which to draw inspiration and understanding. We have the greatest model of humility, intentionality, and creativity. We have the greatest message to share!

We have the ability to make an eternal impact through our words. What an incredible gift and weighty call we’ve been given in Christ.

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Three Components of Biblical Leadership

To lead people effectively, a leader needs to understand how the gospel should inform their leadership. A primary element of such leadership involves listening to where a person is and communicating where Jesus wants them to go in a gracious yet challenging way. Leaders listen and speak. A biblical leader helps people process through the appetites and affections of their hearts, provides doctrinal and biblical content, and gives tangible steps of forward obedience. As this happens, the leader takes on three roles: teacher, shepherd, and coach. They instruct in doctrine, help shape character, and offer practical wisdom regarding action.

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Are Writers Leaders?

“Are writers leaders?” My instinct says, “Yes.” Writers can lead people for good or ill, and Christian writers can lead people either to or away from God. But instinct isn’t enough to validate an opinion. Opinions require some foundation for them to be not only believable but also arguable, defensible. I can say writers are leaders, but if I can’t point to reasons why that is, I’d be better off lapsing into silence.

Fortunately, I’ve done some thinking on the question and devised two ways to approach it, particularly as the question relates to Christian leadership. Other avenues exist, of course, but I’ve chosen two to keep things simple and to prevent rambling for an age. The first perspective comes from examining a biblical figure; the second, from literature itself.

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The Fear of Avoiding Failure

Most leaders have, at one point or another, experienced the fear of failure. Ed Catmull, the recently-retired president of Pixar and Disney Animation, says that we should have an even greater fear of being a leader who avoids failure at all costs. In his wonderful book on creative leadership, titled Creativity, Inc., Catmull states that “mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.”

Avoiding failure inevitably results in stagnation. We do the same old thing over and over again because it has proven to work. But innovation and growth require a degree of risk. The most successful leaders experience and learn from failure on a regular basis. To quote Catmull again, “If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: you are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy … dooms you to fail.”

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