|This book comes with much enthusiasm from those who have read it. The author is from Bill Johnson's Bethel Church in Redding, California which is a big deal in charismatic circles for it's evangelistic fruitfulness and emphasis on supernatural experience.|
The book was published in 2008 and I've heard of churches (including my own) and some CUs in the UK putting his teaching in this book into practice. It's been on my list to read for some time. In some ways you couldn't name a book more different to the other book that its sat with next to my bed, Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology, though both do advocate a really God-involved life which isn't so different.
Looking for Treasure
Dedmon sets the scene by calling us to the treasure hunt where people are the treasure. His reasoning comes from places like the parable of the lost coin. The Son was sent into the world to find us and bring us back to God, even though it cost him everything to do so. To cast evangelism as a treasure hunt isn't a particularly outlandish metaphor.
There's a tension to hold between pursuing people and presenting the Triune God as the true Treasure. It goes both ways. Dedmon is clearly pressing against a people-as-projects approach to evangelism though one could argue that the treasure hunt idea could feel like a project or gimmick too.
We're shown stories of successful treasure hunts in which many people have been identified through words of knowledge, spoken to, healed and in many cases have then become Christians. Later in the book we get some balance from stories where things haven't quite worked out, where opportunities to speak of Christ haven't come or where people have held back from saying everything.
I find the book to be both optimistic and realistic about the experience of first contact evangelism, though I wonder whether the difference between the US and UK would change that a bit. In the US I assume the God people don't believe in is still the God of Christianity, I'm not sure so much can be said here, and my guess is that whilst there might be some openness to the offer of healing it might often not go much further than that...
Evangelism in Acts
The next move is to look at evangelism from Acts. The underlying assumption here is that Acts can be normative for church life today. That's a stretch many conservative Christians bendover backwards to avoid - see David Peterson's Pillar Commentary on Acts for many examples of this. Many will argue that Paul's Athenian evangelism is normative, so why don't we want to see other parts of Acts happening today?
In any case if you're not prepared to accept the possibility that what happened in Acts could happen today you'll really struggle with this book. And if you can say that of Acts then likewise we can see some example for us in Jesus the Spirit-annointed one who said we'd do greater things than he did when we receive the Spirit.
Elsewhere Dedmon's highlights a difference between Athens and Corinth in Paul's approach, I'm really not convinced there is such a massive change in strategy going on though I recognise that many do subscribe to an 'Athens failure - new approach from Corinth' approach to Acts 17-18. In both Paul surely speaks of the gospel in the power of the Spirit.
Encounter with God
Dedmon argues that what people need is less an argument (though I don't think he's against argument) but an encounter with God. So long as we don't drive too much of a wedge between the two things then I want to agree with that. I want to remember that we encounter God in the gospel - through which we do experientially know his presence and his love, and can know healing. Christianity isn't just a system of beliefs, it's a matter of the God who comes to us and brings us to himself. In the gospel we come to know God and be known by him.
In the next post tomorrow I'll reflect on words of knowledge and evangelism which is the main focus of the book.