The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission By John Dickson
Book review by Dr. Greg Linville
John Dickson’s latest book is one of great interest to local church Sports and Recreation Ministers. It is an easy to read and yet still a meaty book. It outlines how to think about and how to implement relational evangelism. His overarching rubric fits well within the programmatic mission of a local church’s Sports Outreach. It is profound and yet simple. It is full of theory and theology and yet engagingly practical. It is solidly Biblical and will be a great aid to any Sports Minister who is looking to infuse new life into their evangelistic endeavors. If you’ve not had the privilege of reading a book by Dickson, make this your first, I’ll bet its not your last.
Chapter #1 answers the question: “why get involved in mission” by sharing insights into verses most will find familiar and sets the table for the book’s connecting theme of “promoting” the gospel.
Chapter #2 is an excellent treatise and explanation of what pluralism is and how Christians can effectively navigate the treacherous waters of lovingly sharing their faith in Christ with those of other faith traditions or even totally secularized non-believers. It may well be the most helpful guide to effectively reaching out to other cultures ever written.
Chapter #3 uses Jesus as the ultimate model of reaching out to those of other faiths and world views – under the theme of being a “friend to sinners.” Dickson also provides helpful practical advice about how to walk the fine line of reaching out to “sinners” without surrendering to temptations of the culture.
Chapter #4 is a refreshing emphasis on the “hidden mission” of prayer being the foundation for all true outreach. While not as good as Steve Quatro’s chapter about prayer it presents a welcome reminder of this most essential mission.
Chapter #5 is a succinct but powerful call for “promoting the gospel with our money.” This chapter is powerful in its call to “put our money where our mouth is.” Either we believe in gospel outreach or not. We will know by becoming a financial partner in evangelistic outreach.
Chapter #6 is a great explanation of how to “promote the gospel through the works of the church.” This is the chapter most Sports and Recreation Ministers will resonate with and will feel affirmed by. It gives a great rationale for Sports Outreach without ever mentioning Sports Outreach directly.
Chapter #7 piggy backs on chapter 6 by taking the theme of corporate good works and giving it personal specifics for “promoting the gospel through Christian behavior. It provides great insight into how individuals within a Sports Outreach can personally their outreach through Christ-like behavior.
Chapter #8 is a lengthy but wonderful outline of the specifics of the “gospel we promote.” This solid Biblical treatise will be especially helpful to anyone needing clarity in their personal understanding of what gospel really means and its verbal proclamation. It should be read in conjunction with Chapter 11 and Appendix #1
Chapter #9 supplies a Biblical study on what constitutes an evangelist of the New Testament and combines that with some thoughts on how to recognize evangelists today.
Chapter #10 is a rather unique chapter on how to “promote the gospel through public praise.” It is a very helpful and thought provoking treatise on the role public worship plays in the process of evangelism.
Chapter #11 should be read with Chapter 8 and Appendix #1. It gives excellent advice on how to “promote the gospel in daily conversation.” This is full of powerful and practical tips on how local church sports ministry coaches and participants can share Christ in their everyday relationships and conversations.
Chapter #12 tells a real life story that gives a living example of all the principles shared in this book and by so doing, ties the entire book together.
New Concept Found in this Book
I’m not sure it’s a totally new concept but Dickson’s call to distinguish between “proclaiming the gospel” (verbally speaking about the gospel) and “promoting the gospel” (actively being involved in gospel endeavors) is a most helpful distinctive. It is very reminiscent of Peterson’s delineations of “proclaiming the gospel with our lives and affirming the gospel with our words.” The importance of these clarifications can not be overlooked. It is vital for anyone who wants to “tell” the gospel, to first “live” the gospel.
Catch Phrases Worth Remembering
“Promoting the gospel” is certainly worth remembering because it empowers each individual Christian by setting them free to live out the gospel each and every day of their life. It provides a vision for how a person with the most stuttering of tongues can be effective in gospel ministry.
This is a must read for all local church Sports Ministers and for that matter all Christians. The chapter on how to promote the gospel in a pluralistic society is worth the price of the book. Chapters 8,11along with the first appendix will be greatly appreciated by anyone who is trying to personally engage in relationships and conversations with friends and family members who are not followers of Christ.
Other Complementary Books on this Topic
This book mirrors many standards in this genre and those should be revisited including: “Living Proof” and “Church Without Walls” by Jim Peterson; “Out of the Salt Shaker” Rebecca Pippert; “Celtic Way of Evangelism” and “How to Reach Secular People by George Hunter; Words to Winners of Souls by Horatio Bonar; “How to Bring Men to Christ” by R. A. Torrey and “Life-Style Evangelism” Joseph Aldrich.
Point of Contention
How can you contend with someone who is helping people to promote the gospel in relevant, loving and sensitive ways. Yet I would like to challenge Dickson on one main point. Dickson would greatly benefit from an understanding of how a Sports Ministry could greatly augment a church’s evangelistic outreach. Providing individual church members with a systematic missional based sports outreach would greatly improve evangelistic efforts. Such endeavors would be attractive to non-churched friends, co-workers and family members like little else the church has to offer. It is amazing to me how this is completely overlooked.
Recommendations for a Second Edition
Add a chapter on how Sports Outreach Ministry fits perfectly with the theme of this book.
Allow a co-author who is a Sports Outreach Director to co-write this chapter
Include a discussion guide that would enable local church and para sports ministries to contemplate these themes during staff and lay training.
How can a local church sports ministry use this book
As a thank you gift to volunteers in your ministry
As a small group discussion starter for leadership training
As a gift to your Sr. Pastor and elders
Where to get the Book –Visit smile.amazon.com
None – I don’t know John Dickson, nor is there any relationship between the author, publisher and myself or CSRM.