Saturday, July 17, 2010
Review: The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission
As I write this review I have just set down John Dickson's new book on evangelism "The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission." There are not very many books that I would consider to be "life-changing" but after finishing this one I can confidently say that this will have lasting effects on my life. The reason I initially picked this book up was because I wanted to see how N.T. Wright and Alistair Begg could end up endorsing the same book on evangelism. Now I understand.
The Best Kept Secret is basically a book on evangelism for the whole church. Dickson makes a helpful distinction between proclaiming the gospel and promoting the gospel. This book is primarily about the latter and shows a variety of ways that all Christians can participate in "gospel ministry."
Evangelism, in the strict sense of the word, is a verbal activity. It is the actual communication of the news of the royal birth, life, teaching and miracles, atoning death, resurrection and ascension of the Messiah and Lord, Jesus Christ. But this verbal activity is not the only aspect of gospel ministry. One example of promoting the gospel is the financial giving towards Christian mission. Paul speaks of those who give financially towards his mission as "partners in the gospel". These "gospel promoting" activities are not of secondary importance. They are actually vital to the mission of the church.
For Dickson not every Christian is an evangelist. There are some Christians that are set apart for the verbal proclamation of the gospel. This does not mean that everyone else just sits around and lets the evangelists take care of all the gospel work. All Christians are to have a "salvific mind-set." They are to be people who are passionate about the salvation of others. This "salvific mind-set" expresses itself in a variety of ways from letting our light shine before others to being ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
One of the best chapters was chapter 8, "What is the Gospel?" Dickson does not settle for a systematic presentation of the gospel that presents the doctrine of sin and then the doctrine of the atonement. These are central to the gospel but need to be placed within the narrative accounts of Jesus. The theme of the gospel is the kingdom of God and the content of the gospel includes the royal birth, life, teaching and miracles, saving death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In other words, the four books at the beginning of our New Testaments are actually Gospel.
This is an excellent book that would be a good read for those who have no experience when it comes to sharing the gospel and for those who have been doing it their whole Christian life. Dickson roots all his discussion in the Scriptures and refuses to have a narrow view of gospel ministry. I am sure that I will be turning to this book again and again for wisdom on this amazing topic.