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Sharing the Gospel Through Hospitality (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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September 27, 2023 2:00 am

Sharing the Gospel Through Hospitality (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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September 27, 2023 2:00 am

Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield challenges listeners to share God's love by opening their home to strangers, neighbors, and anyone in need, in a discussion based on her book The Gospel Comes With a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. (Part 1 of 2)


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Hey, Jim Daly here. If you like the Focus on the Family broadcast and haven't grown tired of this voice just yet, you'll love my Refocus Podcast. On Refocus, I take a deeper dive with a respected thinker on different aspects of culture. I ask those hard questions that maybe they don't get that often, and I don't shy away from challenging topics to help you share God's grace, truth, and love with others.

So listen to Refocus with Jim Daly on your favorite streaming app today. That practically means you, Christian, share the gospel with a house key. That practically means you, Christian, share the gospel with an invitation that, hey, you know what?

Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, my house, there's no question about where you're going to spend your birthday. You're my brother. You're part of a family, and the Christian community exists sometimes on that. I like to call a starvation diet of community. Well, that insight about the importance of community comes from Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, and she believes that many Christian families today are missing a powerful, life-changing ministry opportunity. You'll hear more on today's episode of Focus on the Family as she challenges us to look at our preconceived notions of what hospitality is and remind us as well of God's calling on our lives to be more open to others.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, I have so much respect for Rosaria Butterfield. She's always been a seeker of truth, which is what draws, I think, my heart. I want to be that type of person, too.

What is true, not what is in front of me that may be taking me away from truth. And I simply appreciate that desire that she has in her heart. Several years ago, we shared Rosaria's dramatic testimony, which she refers to as her train wreck conversion. In the late 90s, she was professor of English and queer theory at Syracuse University in New York.

She was living proudly as a lesbian and feminist, and she was an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights. Rosaria had abandoned the faith of her childhood and had little or no interest in God, the Bible or Christians whom she considered to be the enemy. But then God orchestrated something impossible. You know, when you think about it, no one is beyond the reach of God. I have said that so many times on this broadcast.

Never think that way, because it limits what God can do through you. Rosaria was befriended by a Christian couple, Ken and Floy Smith, who offered her the hospitality of their home. And that really caught her attention. That's what cracked her heart open.

And over time, that simple act changed everything. And as you said, Jim, Dr. Butterfield has been on this broadcast a couple of times, one of our most popular broadcast guests whenever she's on. She's an author, speaker, pastor's wife, and a homeschooling mom. And of the books she's written, today we're going to really zero in on this one.

The gospel comes with a house key, practicing radically ordinary hospitality in our post-Christian world. Rosaria, welcome back to Focus on the Family. Well, thank you so much. It's always an honor and privilege to be here with you. It's just good to see you.

My heart is leaping inside because it's so much fun. I just love the way you think and what God has done with your life. And what a background. And we're not going to cover all that ground.

We're getting into a new direction today. But I so appreciate what the hand of God has done in you, in your husband, in your family. And it's a powerful testimony. In fact, if the listeners missed it, you can get it through Focus on the Family.

We'll link over to the download, yes. But it is something that you should share with friends. It's one of those amazing stories of God's work in someone's life. Help us understand why you are so passionate about hospitality. You know, we read that in scripture and we think, yeah, be kind, be joyful, be hospitable. Okay.

And we keep moving. But it is a key to unlocking the heart of especially non-believers. I'm also connected to what it means to be a radically converted person in this post-Christian world. Why?

Here's why. When I share with people what Ken and Floyd Smith did for me in my conversion process. Now, I don't believe that I'm discipled into conversion. I don't believe that, you know, it was a casserole that brought me to faith. It was the Spirit of God.

Yeah, this is love. The supernatural, you know, the power of heaven coming down to save a sinner like me. But the highway that that traveled on was Ken and Floyd Smith's tireless Christian hospitality. I was in their home at least weekly for two years. And while in their home, I would argue with them. And after I would argue with them, I would go back to campus where I was a professor at Syracuse. And I would demean them. I would mock them. And I would go back the next week and do it again. Why did you say yes? Because I was doing research on a book for the religious right. And I thought of Ken Smith as my unpaid research assistant.

So this came with a little bit of an undercurrent. Oh, yeah. An agenda.

I mean, if I thought evangelical Christians had an agenda, believe me, as a gay rights activist, I had a bigger one in my opinion. And I thought I had the winning one. So you said yes, you go to the home. And week after week, it's the same thing. Lots of people come in, good food, simple food, sort of like how I cook, simple food, but plenty of it. People come in, they talk. Then at a certain point, you know, the Bible's open, the Psalter's open.

They sing the Psalms exclusively, four-part harmony. The aesthetic, a beauty of the Psalms was compelling to me. And the words, quite frankly, were disgusting. To you at the time. To me at the time, absolutely. And after years and years of that, and I talk about this elsewhere, something happened. The Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. And that's what changed.

And when I came to Christ, I did not stop feeling like a lesbian, but I knew Jesus was who he said he was. Yeah. To paint that picture a little more fully, I mean, you even referred to their home as the cult house. Oh, I did, yeah.

Probably to your students. Oh, yeah, yeah. And the reason I'm asking that- Especially to my lover at the time. Yeah, right. She'd be like, what are you doing again? Oh, I'm warming up my vocal cords. That was just the most common thing for me to do.

But we were going to sing. Yeah, and the challenge- Which was compelling. Yeah, and the challenge there is this tension you had to feel between your life and what it was, then as a sinner not knowing God, and then this odd attraction to what this couple- Yeah, very odd.

Disarmingly odd attraction. How long did that process take before you said, Lord, I get it? Two years.

It was two years. Let me just turn to the listeners again, because this is critical. Think of somebody in your life that you think is so beyond God's reach, they could never become a Christian. And start praying for them, start inviting them over, right? I mean, that's the thing.

That's right. Why do we stumble with that simple idea? Well, because I think the spiritual warfare that we experience is disarming to us and it's unusual. And instead, my invitation is for Christians to just relax and step into the conflict. But I think that we want it to be nice. We want to have a nice dinner.

We want the table settings to match. We don't want the cat to have a hairball as soon as the guests come in. And we certainly don't want our guests to be potentially offended. We don't want our guests to offend us. We have lots of anxiety and this is spiritual warfare.

And instead, I think what we need to do is what Ken and Floyd Smith did. They said, you know what, if we're going to be agents of grace, then we need to get close enough to the stranger, to put the hand of the stranger into the hand of the Savior. And you know what? Somebody here is going to get hurt. Yeah.

May God be given all the glory. Yeah. And I love the idea that you're – what's the right way to say this?

You're deconstructing the complexity of doing something like this. It doesn't have to be something huge. It doesn't have to happen in La La Land. Guess what? Right. Guess what? You know, 20 years ago, people could sit together at the same table even though they voted differently. Today, we're told that's impossible. A good question is why. And those are some of the things that I try to unpack in this book and some of the practices that I think are necessary.

But here's what I know. As I've shared with people my testimony and I share with you what Ken and Floyd Smith did for me, I have so many people just walk away rich, young, ruler style. And they say, wow, they're super Christians.

I could never do that. And I'm here to say I think we all – I don't think anybody is called to be a super Christian, but I think we're all called to set our boundaries a little differently. In the past, we've set them according to our checkbook and according to our calendar. In a post-Christian world, we're called to set them according to the blood of Christ.

Ken and Floyd Smith are just a little ahead of the game. Yeah, but it's where we should all be. And that's why I like the subtitle of your book, which is Radically Ordinary Hospitality. Describe what that looks like day to day. Well, day to day, it means two things. First of all, conceptually, it means always looking at the objective of the Christian life, the purpose, your purpose for being here, and that is to seek strangers – and seek them you must, they don't actually fall from the sky – to seek strangers and make them neighbors and embrace neighbors praying that God would make them family of God. So that's conceptually the journey. And once you cross those thresholds, everything changes. When you cross the threshold between stranger and neighbor, you never go back to stranger. And when you cross the bridge from neighbor to family of God, you can't go back either.

And so that's conceptually what it means. And what it means practically is that for the last 17 years of marriage, Kent and I have just done this thing that we thought was normal, but we are in the world, so we know that Christians don't think it is. So think of this book as our coming out party, if you will. So when Kent and I got married, we were the only believers in our extended families. That means that we were lonely people. And our commitment to family of God meant that we believed that our home was a place where family of God gathers, not by invitation only, but organically and regularly. So we started practicing daily hospitality with our family of God from the very beginning of our marriage. One of the nice little old ladies in the church had bought us one of those little guest books that you fill out. Well, after four months of marriage, we had filled it up entirely. And we looked at each other and said, we're going to throw this sucker away.

Get a new one. No, we're never going to get a new one because we're going to have God keep these tallies. Because there's something about keeping these tallies that is going to spook us. Because we were noticing then a crisis of loneliness in the church. And part of how the post-Christian world became a post-Christian world is the secular world capitalized on some real sin issues in our church. I'm not talking right now about sexuality. I'm talking about cold hearts. I'm talking about the willingness to allow crushing loneliness to reside in the hearts of the people who are our fellow shoulder rubbers in the pews.

And why? Well, because it was a sin that just went under the radar. We started to feel that our time was our own. That our homes were our castles. And that really the scriptural command that the gospel would come with a hundred fold, practical, nurturing connections within the family of God.

Even Mark chapter 10, we might get to that in this conversation. We started to see that as somebody else's business. We started to prefer programs over relationships. And we looked at the singles in our church as people who needed to be fixed or fixed up. And those are sins that we are revisiting in this post-Christian world. Well, I so appreciate that, the way we started the program, that heart for truth and understanding. And I think that's true when we really dissect where we're at.

We're in a cold place. We have automatic garage door openers. I would assume that, like me, I know some of our neighbors. I don't know all our neighbors. And even when I'm in Christian company, many people don't know any neighbor.

And I think that's an indication of what you're talking about this. You know, it sounds harsh, but that cold heartedness that we don't really care. The other thing is just with modernity, you have so many things pulling at your time. You know, we're busy people and we make excuses that we're busy people.

And therefore, we don't have time for hospitality and getting to know the people around us. And that's really an error, isn't it? Because an old book, I think Paul Tripp is the author, Instruments in the Hands of God.

There's a line in there that caught me for today's program. And that is, our relationships belong to God. That's right. Think of that, that our relationships belong to God. And it's how we nurture them and how we steward them that is important to Him. That's right.

The Heavenly Father. When you start looking at it from that perspective, wow, that's a lot of responsibility. Right, absolutely. And I would say in addition to modernity creating a kind of self-absorption, the idea that somehow I'm really busy. I'm guilty of that. And that I'm really busy doing important things. And maybe I should have a blog in my own name.

I mean, can I just tell you that I think the Puritans would call that sin? I really do. And maybe you all have blogs in your names. And so you're just going to be like, oh, I'm sorry, I can't believe you nailed me. Well, I happen to. I'm going to plead the fifth. I never do anything with it, but I have. But speak to our hearts.

We're open. I mean, in modernity, the idea was the self-autonomous individual finding meaning in nothing but himself. That's the American creed. But now we're at even a more dangerous place because we've moved from modernity to post-modernity.

And we are now in a place where we have the quote-unquote intersectional person finding purpose and meaning in nothing but victimhood. Yeah, that's so true. And you know, that is damaging in a different way. But that's what makes it impossible today or seemingly impossible. I argue in the book it's not impossible. You just have to have enough chutzpah to move on with that.

I like that. But often Christians feel that, how can I talk to my neighbors who identify as lesbian when everything I say is hate speech? Well, here's how. You make sure that your relationship with that person is stronger than the words you're going to use.

And how do you do that? Well, get off Facebook. Stop thinking that anybody really cares what you have to say on Twitter and peel some potatoes. Put on a pot of coffee. Invite them over.

And invite them over. And you know what? It's not efficient. We're talking about one person at a time. Yeah. It's tough. But you're really hitting it. I want to highlight some of the critics that you've had in your church.

I mean, because I think that's an important place to go. And that will be something that you face. People that say, you know, I just don't have people over. Maybe their personalities are more introverted. Speak to the temperament issue, too.

Because this is hard to do for some people that aren't bent toward relationship in that way. Right. Right. And I would say, too, that everybody doesn't have to do this the same way.

All right. So there are lots of things that you can do. And if you do what you do and you open your arms a little wider, you're going to find that you have a niche that I don't have. And so there are various things. When it comes to seeking the stranger, one of the best things you could do is go get home studied.

You know what? The welfare state has cornered the market on strangers. And if a couple of families in the church do it together, that means that you all can support another family in crisis. Now, all that means is that you have access to people in need.

It doesn't mean you have to do anything. There are seasons of life when you can't. If you're a mom with small children—and let's face it, 7 o'clock is not the time you're having dinner with friends. That's bath time. Right.

Is there a time during the day that you can open your home to other moms with small children? But make it explicitly gospel-focused. I think this is the challenge.

Christians need to do what you do, but realize that the gospel is not going to transmute by osmosis. So if you're having lunch with people, how are you going to move from egg salad to eternity? Well, figure that out. Ask good questions. Ask good questions.

But I'll tell you, in our house, it helps to have a routine already established. And I want to ask you about that because earlier you said, if Christians have an agenda, you had an agenda. So go back to me. I'm inviting a neighbor over for coffee.

I feel like I have to turn it to Jesus right now. Yeah. And so here's what I would say, too.

That's a great question. One of the reasons that we have found making open invitations to our neighbors so useful, I mean, one is I talk in the book about a crisis in our neighborhood that kind of conjured that up. But it became so useful to just say, Thursday night is neighbor night. Thursday night is soup and prayer.

I put on pots of soup at six. Come join us. Anybody's welcome. We put this out on the Nextdoor app. Invite 300 households. No kidding.

And then at seven o'clock, we're going to have a short Bible lesson, and we're going to sing a psalm, and we're going to pray. And you know what? First of all, neighbors already know what we're going to do. So it's not a surprise. It's not a surprise.

And you know what? Sometimes neighbors say, hey, I got to go. That's fine. But they don't always. But the reason for these open and regular invitations is this. Many of your neighbors, I might even say most, are afflicted with abuse and addiction. And that means that as noble as your invitation Tuesday night at seven might be, quite frankly, many of your neighbors do not know if they're going to be sober or safe that particular Tuesday. But if it's regular, hey, we do this every week.

One of those weeks, they will be ready. And so we turn it in this way, and it's a known reality. And we've had neighbors say, wow, is this some strange ritual you do?

I don't care what you call it. But we're going to go there. And the reason is because we've just talked about heavy things. We've just talked about important things. And now we want Jesus to enter this conversation, not to stop the conversation, but to deepen it. And then you know what? We're going to come back and do this tomorrow.

And we're going to do this the next day. So we don't have a one-time opportunity to talk to our neighbor. This is the problem is that people have very shallow understandings of the relationships that they are to create. I'm not talking about a shallow relationship with my neighbors. God never gets the address wrong. He gave me these neighbors. He appointed these relationships. And I'm going to build them for as long as he keeps me there.

And so to spend a good amount of time listening is very important. I mean, how will you know what the gospel bridge is to your neighbor? Too often, Christians think in false categories of personhood. They think, oh, there's got to be some special gospel for my neighbor who identifies as lesbian or a different way of approaching the gospel for my neighbor who identifies as Muslim or not. You know, I mean, a big question that Christians have to ask, this is a question Ken Smith asked me 20 years ago, Rosaria, do you believe that what is true determines what is ethical or do you believe that what is ethical will determine what is true? We are all image bearers of a holy God, every single person.

I don't care what category you have slapped onto yourself. There's only a few that are going to survive eternity. We know the word of God will survive eternity.

So we want to make sure that our neighbors who might never hear it elsewhere will hear it from us. But we also know that our gendered bodies will be in eternity in one way or another. You will be male or female in the New Jerusalem, or God forbid, you will be male or female in hell. And so, you know, the world we live in has created all these false notions of personhood. And, you know, it's the Christian neighbor who can call out the image bearing of a holy God that each and every human being does. But here's what we need to also remember. Life is hard. And some people have one cross to bear and others have 10. So rather than pretending that the Christian life is democratic, why don't we just work hard to roll up our sleeves and help carry some of those crosses? But we can't do it until we know what they are.

Well, and here's the issue with that. It's hard work. Yes. And this scripture that comes to my mind, Rosaria, is, you know, do these good deeds so that they'll honor your Father in heaven. It doesn't say, say these good words. That's right. Do these good deeds because through those deeds, someone's heart typically is open. Even the most crusty of hearts is opened in that way because they see what's real. That's right.

When somebody is willing to do the word. That's right. It changes the relationship, doesn't it?

Yes. What I'm talking specifically about is the way table fellowship does that. That these aren't just good deeds of change. I mean, it's good to change a tire, a flat tire.

I personally don't know how to do that. So you really don't want to help. But helping neighbors.

But helping neighbors, those are very good things. But to gather nightly at the table, that has the thumbprint of Jesus all over it. Yeah. Rosaria, I need to ask some tough questions too about our attitude as Christians and the issue about our tongue and how we use our tongue. And I want to get into this and I'm going to have you come back if you can. Let's come back next time tomorrow and continue the discussion. But this idea, I think it's partly born out of insecurity that we don't know enough to spiritually battle competently. And so we turn to this defensive posture when people knock us off our spot and we attack verbally, which is utterly the wrong thing to do when you're talking to somebody with the gospel. I love Romans 2 4, which says, don't you know it's God's kindness that leads one to repentance.

I mean, this is what you're saying. I often speak in front of audiences and I'll ask, who was beaten verbally, emotionally, or physically into the kingdom of God? I've never had a hand go up. Nobody has said to me, I was so mistreated by those Christians that I decided to become one of them. It's always the other way.

I saw such incredible love. They treated me with such kindness and yet it's a tool we don't readily use. That's right.

No, I think that's absolutely right. But I would also add to that, that those Christians were disarming. I came to them with a sense that this is who I am. I came to them with a sense that I am a lesbian. That's what I said to Ken Smith, my first meeting. Two years later, through his clear gospel witness and love, I came to realize that lesbian may very well be how I was, but it will never be who I am.

Which is so powerful. He did not meet me where I was and leave me there. He met me where I was and took my hand and said, let's go talk to Jesus about this.

Yes. But again, there's no way for you to have a good witness to your neighbors if you're mouthing off on Facebook. Or in person.

Or in person. But I would say a big challenge that people have is that they've gotten really comfortable with this idea that when I'm with my people, I'm just going to let loose. We have unguarded, unsanctified speech with each other because we don't think that outsiders are listening in and we apparently don't seem to think that Jesus is listening in too. Yeah. So we behave differently.

Shame on us. This has been a great conversation and a challenging one. I know that some people are going, wait a minute, that doesn't sound right. The best thing is read the scripture. Look at 2 Timothy 2.22. Read it right to the end of that chapter.

I think you'll be convinced that certainly the Lord and the disciples were teaching us all, not just Timothy and those of the New Testament time, but us as well as Christians in the modern era to better understand the heart of God. And this is a fantastic book. The Gospel comes with a house key.

Love the title. And I'd love to see it in everyone's home. And I'm telling you, if you can make a gift of any amount, I'll say thank you by sending you a copy of the book and hopefully putting that in your hand so you can put it into use. That's the goal. And if you can't make a gift, that's okay. I believe in the message so much.

Others will cover the cost of that. So just get ahold of us and let's get this into your hands so you can better understand the heart of God. Rosaria, thank you so much for being with us. It's my pleasure.

Thank you so much. And one more thing for our listeners. If you wish, you could go deeper on challenging topics like this about faith and living out God's truth in a culture that's moving far away from God's best. I want to invite you to join me for my biweekly refocus podcast. In every episode, we're asking hard questions and we're trying to inspire you to be salt and light in today's world. So join us. The details are at our website.

Yeah, we're really excited about Refocus with Jim Daly. You can learn more about the podcast and also about Dr. Butterfield and her book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, when you call 800-AFAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by the show notes for all the details. Coming up next time, we'll hear more from our guests about the spiritual gift and responsibility of hospitality. Hospitality is a laying down of your life. It's a sacrifice so that the hand of the stranger can be put into the hand of the Savior. It's bridge work.

It doesn't bring attention to itself. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. Call 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-28 16:35:49 / 2023-10-28 16:48:33 / 13

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