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. 

15 comments:

  1. really helpful dave, appreciate your honesty. would you be happy for me to pass this to church leaders?
    ps glad you mentioned michael green's books. look forward to seeing you tomorrowq

    ReplyDelete
  2. "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"

    Or we could think about something, and plan it in advance and then go out and execute it in the best way possible ;)

    Joking apart this isn't too far away from the argumentation employed in a lot of the "School of Prophecy" type teachings.

    " fear would be that this approach would freak people out more than intrigue them"

    Ironically, this is the one bit of the technique that actually might have some success, a lot more people are open to mysticism than are to the church.

    The problem - of course - is that what you win them with, you win them to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This seems to capture so much of what's good and bad about the American church.

    Good: let's get out and share our faith, let's hold on to the bold pioneering spirit that got America where it is, let's take God at face value and trust His Word.

    Bad: Super pragmatism (let's just make it up!!), meeting people's felt needs without necessarily sharing the Gospel etc.

    How does it work in Exeter? I'm not sure how it would run in the ultra conservative, religion haunted areas of the Bible belt. That sounds very pragmatic doesn't it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think reading a book about something is very different to actually experiencing it! Treasure Hunting is amazingly effective and we have seen loads of people healed whilst doing it. It is just another tool that God can use and it is something that is accessible to people you see on the street as they understand the concept of a Treasure Hunt, and they love the fact that they are God's Treasure. People arent freaked out by it at all, most are hugely intrigued and want to know more and are more than happy for us to pray for them.

    This is a practical book rather than a theological take on supernatural evangelism, it is a book to encourage those who do it with amazing success stories.

    Come out and see how it is done, it is so amazingly effective and would blow your supernatural socks off.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Julia,

    Thanks for commenting. Like I say, I'm confident that there's some difference between the book and the practice, and I want to encourage you. That'll probably sound hollow if I don't come out on the streets with you in the near future, but I'm not sure I have capacity for anything particularly new at the moment - but equally it's something intend to pursue within the opportunities I do have, both with friends and in first contact evangelism with students.

    I beg to differ on it not being a theological book - it is, albeit with plenty of application. And I think a some of it's a bit skew in places.

    Please hear that I have questions about the book but big encouragement to you in what you're doing. I want to hear of more healings, and of people becoming Christians, I long to be sitting next to people on Sunday who when I ask them their story say: I was walking down the high street one morning when Julia came up to me...

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm pretty OK with the "make it up" thing because as someone who is hoping to move in the prophetic, we need to step out and try. I've heard it say that our "spiritual ears" are right next to our "maker upper" in our head. That is, often true prophetic words (and Words of Knowledge, etc.) seem as though you're making it up - I guess especially for those new to all this. So in a sense, to get people to step out and give words, we should just encourage them to go for it. Of course, we don't prophesy to people like that as it could be dangerous, but in the context of getting words for Treasure Hunts, I think it's OK when done with caution. No great harm will result if the whole thing is led properly by a mature leader. This "make it up" (which I think should be clarified as "speak out the first words that spontaneously come to your mind") is useful good for people who are new to the prophetic and those who wouldn't speak out any word because they don't think they have got any!

    I've done a TH once with a group of us who aren't moving in the prophetic and it didn't turn out well, but we'll do it more in future. I believe God will surprise us and desires to give us Words even more than we desire to receive them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Anonymous,

    The language of make it up probably isn't helpful but the recognition that God speaks into our thoughts is fine, and we are renewed and being renewed - even if I'd want to take that deeper than renewed mind to a new heart - so what's in your head isn't necessarily bad.

    I'd maintain that those who really deeply seek God's now words will be those who are going to be marked by a real depth in Scripture - since the point isn't newness but hearing God - and the deeper rooted we are in Scripture the more likely our thoughts are already to be thinking God's thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Julie -

    I don't think anyone is debating whether or not it 'works' in the sense of being attractional. The question is whether it's true and biblical. There are plenty of ways of attracting crowds that don't necessarily fall into either category. As I said, in the previous comment, there is a generic fascination with anything spiritual - but Scripture tells us that this does not mean that people are actually seeking God.

    Dave -

    "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."

    Your support for people using this approach sits uneasily alongside your evaluation of it - especially as the positives basically come down to "we should be more spiritual/spiritually sensitive" - which seems a bit jejune. There seems to be a conflict somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Dave,

    I read this with interest. I've both been part of stuff like this and seen it done and have mixed thoughts and feelings.

    I think this is kind of thing that could be applied very differently in different places with different people. So in one place it might allow a certain kind of person (who doesn't think of themselves as a stereotypical preacher/teacher/evangelist) to get involved with first contact evangelism. They might share things that are biblically true and have come to mind (and/or things about the person that are unlearnt). This seems to be sharing the Bible in a personal way, highlighting one angle of the good news and often leads on to other conversations and the opportunity to pray with people. I think I'm very positive about this kind of stuff.

    What I have been more concerned about is the approach where people will only speak to folk they think might be that day's treasure. It's a bit hyper-calvinistic radar where we try to divine 'openness' to the gospel. At its worst it can imply we must wait for a word to tell us to go - when as far as I understand Jesus has already given us a word about who it is the disciples shoudld go to in Matthew 28:19-20.

    Yes with Paul we see stragety - going to densely populated places and the synagogue first and then the markets. He also shows responsiveness to change with the Macedonian vision. But it didn't seem like he need a new word to tell him what he already should have known.

    Looking to my own life I think part the motivation to use a TH approach was because it mitigated against some of my own fear (there was an entry point - share this specific word and then see where things go) as well as there being a desire to speak to people about Jesus.

    Matt

    ReplyDelete
  10. The problem with Treasure Hunting (apart from it being unbiblical) is that more than often it jettisons the true Gospel message. They do Treasure Hunting at our church and though there has been many encounters with people and opportunities for prayer, Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins is simply not being proclaimed (I've chatted to the leaders about this and they recognise this problem too).

    Jesus told us to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations (Luke 24:46-47) and as Dave mentioned, the sower sows indiscriminately. Treasure Hunting leans away from both of these things, subtly shifting the emphasis away from the Gospel message itself (that we are all sinners and desperately need a saviour).

    I'm sure there are many great testimonies out there and I'm sure that some people even get to proclaim Christ but really we need to keep the gospel at the centre. We should just get out there with the intention of sharing the good news, not simply telling people that God loves them but rather explaining HOW he has shown his love to them (the cross).

    You might want to check out Todd Friel from Wretched Radio. He goes out every week to a local university and strikes up conversations with people so he can share the gospel: http://bit.ly/hMWWVG He doesn't pray for 'clues' he just approaches whoever the Spirit tells him to. I've learnt a lot from his witnessing encounters.

    - Dave

    ReplyDelete
  11. Here's a better clip (the first one edited out the best bit!): http://bit.ly/hpEkaQ

    ReplyDelete
  12. DaveTea,
    I think we have to be careful to distinguish - is a words-of-knowledge evangelism Biblical from whether it's done well. It's two separate issues. Using questionnaires in evangelism isn't "biblical" either... and faithfulness to the message is about what you say when you open your mouth not whether you Treasure Hunt, Door-Knock, Questionnaire or give out Tracts. Two issues. (There are preachers who lean away from the gospel too, but lets not abolish preaching please!)

    We do want to be indiscriminate but NONE of us actually are. Doesn't mean we actually speak to anyone but that we don't rule anyone out of being worth speaking to, in a sense Treasure Hunting is a bit more proactive in seeking people rather than other often more passive "first contact" evangelism.

    We can take up the question of whether Treasure Hunting is Biblical, and if it is within the scope of Biblical evangelism we can then seek to do it excellently, but it's a logical fallacy to knock it for having been done badly in some cases.

    As for Todd Friel, what's really the difference between asking the Spirit who to go to, and clues... I think a Treasure Hunter would argue that they're asking the Spirit who to speak to too.

    Telling people loves them vs. How he loves them... false dichotomy, we all want to do both - but whether we get given enough of a hearing to do so is another question...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think you hit the nail on the head there Dave - faithfulness to the message is key. Does Dedmon teach how to faithfully proclaim Christ crucified for our sins in the context of treasure hunting? Or does he presuppose that his readers actually know the Gospel and can clearly articulate it?

    I have to disagree with you that 'we all want to do both' when it comes to telling people that God loves them AND telling them that he demonstrates it by having Jesus crucified on a cross for their sins. Our Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing and most Christians that I know (including myself) would rather just tell people that God loves them over actually sharing the Biblical Gospel (which might result in rejection or us looking foolish). If we tell people God loves them without sharing the gospel then we simply affirm people in their sin. It's like what Paul Washer says in his '10 Indictments':

    "'What? God loves me? [says the unsaved person] Well, that’s great because I love me too. Oh, this is wonderful! And God’s got a wonderful plan? I've got a wonderful plan for my life too! And if I accept him into my life I’ll have my best life now? This is absolutely wonderful.' That is not biblical evangelism."

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think God loves us is better and more robust than we might think it is, but that might be a bigger question...

    Most people think God snarls at them and accuses them, and the cross tells me something vastly better. Lets not divide what God joins: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    Not only does he love us, but he is love.

    As for whether the book "presupposes that readers know the Gospel and can clearly articulate it". His expectation seems to be that people will go treasure hunting so they can speak of Christ. The book isn't a complete evangelism training manual but so I'm not going to ask him to cover everything in great detail.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am surprised that no one has mentioned what is written on pages 88, 89, & 90. If blaspheming is okay with you,then Mr. Dedmons doctrine that God gives "false" info out to test our risk taking ability, will suit you to a "T". God isn't in the "habit" but he will do it if needed! Utter LUNACY!! I even had a pastor using this trash say, "He didn't use the word lie, but the word false". Again, UTTER LUNACY!!!

    ReplyDelete