Monday, January 03, 2011

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt (Kevin Dedmon) - part 2 of 2

The underlying argument of The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is about knowing who we are as sons of God. Dedmon rightly argues that a lot of our problems stem from not really getting who we are in Christ, meaning we settle for a lesser Christianity than the faith-requiring picture we see in the New Testament. Dedmon doesn't really show us how the dots join up.
The idea is right though not unique.
I find the same helpful focus, more fully developed, in the work of Jack Miller, Paul Miller, Tim Keller, Terry Virgo, Martin Luther, John Calvin and many of the Puritans and my friends and colleagues in UCCF others who are calling for gospel-centredness.
What Dedmon and his pastor Bill Johnson are probably doing is pushing some the implications of that in supernatural direction further than some.

Words of Knowledge
As a Charismatic Kevin Dedmon believes that God speaks in the Scriptures and that he can and does speak beyond the Scriptures with prophetic words and words of knowledge. Nothing outlandish there. A word of knowledge here is an insight that we could not have possibly known without divine insight. Dedmon cites examples of Jesus and the Samaritan, or Jesus and Nathanael, and a number of examples in the Book of Acts. When I've done first contact evangelism it's been normal enough to gather to pray before hand for God to guide us to people and to help our conversations with them. Dedmon considers that God can not just silently guide us but could speak.

What happened in Acts, happening today
In Acts we see Philip told to go to the Ethiopian, Ananias sent to Saul. They're sent quite specifically to certain people to bring the gospel to them. If then then why not know? Why not ask God to direct our paths in advance to find certain people. With some imagination (and not much Scriptural foundation...) Dedmon suggests drawing up a prophetic treasure map in advance, to go looking for clues.

  • I don't see the Apostles drawing up treasure maps, I see them strategically taking the gospel to all peoples, and then the Spirit speaks to divert them to certain places and people some of the time. 
  • If I'm already living a strongly evangelistic lifestyle then having an ear for God diverting me would be good, but that's not really what Dedmon's Treasure Hunting is driving at. Since gifts like prophecy and words of knowledge are for building up the church and 1 Cor 14 includes an evangelistic application.
Dedmon suggests at times that we might not feel God has said anything to us and in such instances we should try making it up!! This is argued because we now, by the Spirit, have the mind of God. Dedmon does gives say words need to be weighed and tested. But... 
  • The 'treasure map' feels more speculative than the word Ananias is given to go and find Saul. We might ask whether this 21st Century manifestation is in the same league as the 1st Century. Now, we can ask that question, and we can also let faith drive us on to seek what God has for us in the same league as he has in the past... I'm up for 1st Century stuff.
  • I want to sound a warning over the 'make it up' approach. There is a real Biblical difference between a word originating from man and a word originating from God. Whilst I accept a true word would just come into your thoughts, I am not happy with where Dedmon takes this.
  • Another concern here is that this approach could be in opposition to an indiscriminate sowing of the word of God to people. That said, none of us can really claim to be sowing indiscriminately. Those I know who go Treasure Hunting are out on the streets far more than I am meeting strangers with intent to speak of Jesus. It's a contrast also to 'friendship evangelism' or events-based gospel preaching, but a varied approach seems Biblically appropriate - people in the Bible share the gospel with friends and family, but also with strangers, one to one and with gathered crowds.
What happens in a Treasure Hunting moment? 
The hunter claims that God has brought them to the person by asking if they fit certain conditions. Do we need to play such a God card? If we're confident that God is leading us to the person can we not just start the conversation...   Maybe it's similar to just asking if we can do a questionnaire? I'm not sure. 
Much first contact evangelism is a bit odd, the nature of meeting strangers probably...   My fear would be that this approach would freak people out more than intrigue them.  Dedmon suggests seeking words about things to seek healing for and so praying for healing is part of the treasure hunting approach. Many churches practice 'healing on the streets' already - offering healing to anyone passing by, the Treasure Hunt is more pro-active. 
Dedmon's testimony is that offering healing often leads to speaking of Jesus and leading them to faith in Christ and to join the church - which is great to hear, he's also honest that this doesn't always happen, just as it doesn't always with other first contact approaches.

What's the impact of this book on me?
  • I will continue to pursue my God - I want and need encounter with God.
  • I will pray when I go to the Father's & Toddlers group I attend. I'm making friends there but God can help me! Likewise with friends and family.
  • I will pray for God's help when I'm a CU Mission Week speaker in February (and you could pray for me in that too). Can I preach and talk with people with the help of words of knowledge or prophetic insight? I want to encourage students to seek God for his insight in evangelism, to pray for students who aren't Christians who need healing. In a CU context I'd already want to be permissive about Treasure Hunting. I recognise some who belong to a CU wouldn't believe it can or should happen, but also that others will. It's a matter of freedom in a CU context where various means of evangelism are happening. 
  • I will encourage the members of my church home group who treasure hunt. I'd like to see them used for healings and for seeing people hear of Jesus become Christians and join our church.
And the book? 
I think the book does have some useful things to say especially if our evangelism is a little less supernatural than the New Testament. I'm happier with the idea of 'supernatural evangelism' than I am with this book's approach to it. Good ideas but I'm left thinking this is a book that needs handling with care. There is some good material but there's a looseness and lack of focus that leaves me not wanting to recommend this book without some reservations.

I am thankful for a challenge and provocation to believe God and join in what he's doing, but wish I'd been shown more of God to believe since he's who the people of our city need to know. (The same could be said of many other evangelism books.)
I do want to see God heal and I do want to see him save, this book got me thinking but it's not a world changer for me.
I wonder if Michael Green's Evangelism and the Early Church or Thirty Years That Changed the World: The Book of Acts for Today might do a similar job without need for cautions or caveats.