Monday, August 23, 2010

5 Days with John Dickson: Day 5 – Talking About Talking

When John Dickson begins to talk about talking about Christ in his book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, he makes it feel normal and natural.

It seems that when we put on the witnessing hat, we feel awkward and freeze up. He suggests, however, we overcome a sense of inferiority about our Christian faith that often keeps us quiet about proclaiming the gospel.

And, even as we talk freely and naturally about God, prayer, church, the Bible, faith, Jesus, and so on with other Christians, “we decide to allow our faith to rise back to the surface where it belongs” with those who don’t know Christ (page 182).

In so doing, we allow God-talk – brief, casual, passing references to the faith – into our everyday conversations. These are not designed primarily to initiate conversations about Christianity, but to be part of a relaxed and natural Christian. He further illustrates, in the Appendix, how we can retell the stories recorded in the Gospels for answering contemporary questions.

“Each of us should speak of Jesus as our personalities, abilities and opportunities allow,” Dickson says, “confident that, as we do, God’s Spirit will work through us” (page 148).

This is a welcome message for us non-evangelistic type Christians. Plus, as he says throughout his book, we are further promoting the gospel with more than our lips.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

5 Days with John Dickson: Day 4 – Jesus Friend of Sinners

I never tire hearing about Jesus as the friend of sinners. There’s something fundamentally attractive about that designation.

I am especially drawn to follow this "friend of sinners" by reading John Dickson’s
The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (chapter 3).

He points out that in first-century Palestinian culture, sharing food and drink with people meant identifying with them and, in a sense, endorsing them. You can see how this put off the so-called “pious” religious leaders. How could Jesus socially interact with these sinners!

Yet Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. His friendship with them was a tangible sign of God’s welcoming grace. So his questionable dining habits not only went against the cultural and religious systems, but were an illustration of the very fellowship with sinners God so eagerly desires.

I like that, Mr. Dickson! I feel welcomed before God! When I talk to Jesus, I don’t feel uncomfortable with some “salvation cringe”. And I think I can follow his model.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

5 Days with John Dickson: Day 3 – What is the Gospel?

If I were to ask you, “What is the gospel?” how would you explain that message of Christian faith?

We are in need today of rediscovering the robust and revolutionary good news message and mission of the gospel. But what is the gospel?

In an admittingly content-driven chapter, John Dickson in his new book,
The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, details his answer.

Before reading him, I would say the message of the gospel is that:

• Christ came to forgive our sins and reconcile us with God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
• Christ came to destroy the power of Satan and deliver people from bondage (Colossians 2:15).
• Christ came to change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
• Christ came to treat people with compassion and justice as God’s loved creation (Matthew 12:18-20).
• Christ came to invite and summon followers to become the new people of God (1 Corinthians 1:2).

What Dickson adds is that a narrative account of Jesus’ birth, miracles, teaching, sacrificial death, and resurrection are included in the core content of the gospel. Not that we share all these aspects every time we share the gospel. But “the gospel message is not a set of theological ideas that can be detached from the events that gave these ideas definitive expression” (page 127).

Thus the gospel includes:

• both a narrative account of Jesus
and theological content
• both Jesus’ words and deeds
and an explanation of their significance to our salvation
• both the broad events of Jesus’ life
and an explanation the doctrine of salvation

Then, to be sure, “the gospel . . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

5 Days with John Dickson: Day 2 – A Multifaceted Witness

I’ve read other books by evangelists who try to teach me how to be a better evangelist. And I do aim to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). But, frankly, I don’t have the gift of evangelism. Even after serving as a pastor for more than 25 years, honestly, on a scale of 1-10, my verbal witnessing skills are about a 3.

John Dickson, in his new book,
The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, takes the pressure off us non-evangelistic type Christians. While many evangelists are prone to project their giftedness upon others, they just make most of us feel more guilty and inadequate.

I listen to what the expert evangelists say and how they say it. I model their techniques. I follow their patterns. I use their scripts. But I just can’t make it work for me. It’s not smooth, nor is it effective. I keep searching for the right combination to unlock spiritual results.

Dickson, however, underscores how evangelism takes place in its many forms – by nudging people closer to Christ – being a friend of sinners, praying for their needs, giving our money, doing good deeds in the name of Christ, living a light-shining Christian life, declaring God’s praise in community, and, yes, when appropriate, adding our words.

• Through your prayers, you demonstrate God’s power.
• Through your giving, you release God’s blessing.
• Through your lifestyle, you display God’s beauty.
• Through your actions, you show God’s love.
• Through your worship, you declare God’s nature.
• Through your words, you tell others God’s truth.

These dynamic multifaceted means produce a synergistic witness for expressing Christ to others. Use all, Dickson says, with intentionality.

So maybe after hearing his message, I don’t have to be so hard on my own “evangelist” rating. I still may not be a 10, but from God’s perspective my ways for witness are broader than I might think and probably more effective than I credit myself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

5 Days with John Dickson: Day 1 – With and Without the Gift of Evangelism

As any missions-minded Christian would understand, evangelism begins not with the Great Commission in Matthew 28, but is deeply rooted in the Old Testament.

When God called Abraham, God’s promise of spiritual blessing was universal. Why? Because God wanted “all peoples on earth” to be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:3).

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God dried up the waters so they could walk over on dry land. Why? “So that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful” (Joshua 4:23-24).

When young David announced to Goliath that he would be slain, he also declared that an Israelite victory over the Philistines would take place. Why? So that “the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46).

When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he prayed that when foreigners from distant lands who do not belong to God’s people Israel would hear of God’s great name and his mighty hand and his outstretched arm – that they too would pray to the true God and come to know God. Why? So “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other” (1 Kings 8:41-43, 59-60).

Israel was called to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). Jonah was called to be a witness to one nation, the godless Nineveh. The whole Bible is a missionary book, because our God is a missionary God.

John Dickson in his new book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, pushes evangelism back even further to the most basic doctrine of Genesis 1:1 – there is one God. “If there is one Lord to whom all people belong and owe their allegiance, the people of that Lord must promote this reality everywhere” (page 31, 35, 115).

Our mission is evangelism. And John tells us how to get it done with, and especially without, the gift of evangelism.