Pastor Matt Recommends “The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission”

Posted: March 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God’s People (Zondervan 2010) was one of the best books of last year and on every few pages it quoted works by John Dickson.  After reading Dickson’s The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan 2010), I understand Wright’s appreciation. 

Dr. Dickson is a missional minister laboring on Sydney, Australia’s  North Shore who has written a clear and compelling outline for evangelism. Dickson argues with careful attention to the Biblical text that Christians must engage in the following “gospel promoting activities”: “flexible social relationships, financial support of the gospel, prayer, good works, the praise of God in church, answering for the faith, and, of course, the work of evangelists.” 

None of these “gospel promoting activities” are particularly new to the modern missional conversation (with the possible exception of his implication that the church needs professional evangelists, which I will turn to in a moment), but Dickson’s passionate prose serves as a reminder that a truly evangelistic church must balance out all of these activities at once.  Churches that long to be truly biblical must encourage their members to be “friends of sinners” (i.e., avoid the evangelical subculture and go to where “sinners” hang out), pray for the lost regularly by name, give generously to the work of evangelism, glorify God through good deeds and worship for the sake of doing the deeds and honoring God alone (i.e., good deeds and worship don’t need to be “seeker sensitive” for when they are done with passion they become evangelistic anyway, know the Gospel and look for moments to communicate it with grace and identify those with true gifts for evangelism and support them!

Dickson will face some push-back for following N.T. Wright in defining the Gospel as the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus rather than primarily along the lines of substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness (although he believes in both) and his assertion that the church needs professional evangelists.  Dickson contends that it is not Biblical to argue that every Christian is to be an evangelist (although he does believe that every Christian should look for opportunities to speak about Christ to non-believers).  Dickson argues from texts such as Ephesians 4:8-12 that the early church had full-time evangelists who were so gifted by God and that the modern church should follow suit.  I haven’t extensively studied the issue but Dickson makes a compelling case.

In sum, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission is a clear, well-written work that should be on the shelf of every church leader, especially those like myself who laments the poor outreach efforts of the local evangelical church.  I highly recommend it.

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Comments
  1. Professional evangelist is an interesting idea.

    Would a preacher be considered a professional evangelist?

    I have a friend that loves to preach, not in the pulpit but in every conversation. When I am with him Jesus, the gospel, and God’s grace always come up. It is refreshing for me. He not only loves God, but something inside of him yearns to speak to people about God.

    He says he is nothing but God’s and that in everything he trusts in the Lord. Money is usually tight for him.

    He doesn’t read as much as I do, and he doesn’t dive as deep into doctrine as me, and yet I can see him impacting everyone he meets with the gospel.

    Maybe he should be a full-time evangelist. And if so, does the church in its current form have methods of supporting him?

    Difficult questions. I may have to pick up this book.

    What do you think, Matt?

  2. Revolution says:

    I think Dickson may have a point and that any church that is truly serious about being missional should prayerfully consider it.

    I know that churches within the Restoration/Stone-Campbell tradition often considered their preacher the “evangelist” but I’m not sure the gifts of preaching and evangelism always overlap. Some of the most influential preachers are actually too naturally introverted to be great evangelists.

    I think we all should evangelize but, as you pointed out, there are some people who are just naturally gifted at it! Maybe they should do it full time.

    Grace and peace,

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