Best Kept Secret (5)

In the next chapter of The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission ( ‘Jesus Friend of Sinners’), John Dickson unpacks 1 Cor 10:21-11:1 and especially 10:31-11:1.

This is challenging stuff that ties in with missional thinking & discussions that we’ve been talking about on this blog – and are trying to think through in the great wee church that I’m a part of.

31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.  1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

– Believers are to follow the ‘example of Christ’ as the ‘friend of sinners’. Jesus’ mission shapes ours and his mission was to the ‘unreligious’ or ‘lost’ in a very religious society. Dickson’s key point here is ‘Our entire life, including our social life, should demonstrate the Lord’s desire to have fellowship with sinners.’

– Paul follows the example of Jesus (11:1). Like Jesus he engaged in scandalous social interaction with sinners in becoming, like Jesus, ‘all things to all people’ for the sake of the gospel. Social interaction, especially eating with people, is an embodiment of the grace and welcome of the gospel.  A simple point: ‘Those who most regularly get into spiritual conversations with others are usually the ones with a wide circle of non-believing friends in the first place.’

And so a missional question: he asks

‘is your social life orientated towards the good of others – being with them, befriending them, doing good to them and speaking to them about Christ when opportunity invites?’

This is what Dickson calls a ‘salvific mind-set’. It is not adding mission or evangelism to busy lives or piling on unrealistic expectations on ordinary Christians to be superstar evangelists (this sort of unrealistic pressure only generates guilt and feelings of inadequacy).

Dickson does not spell this out, but what sorts of radical changes might be implied in both personal and church life to re-orientate all of life outwards to the mission of Jesus?

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9 thoughts on “Best Kept Secret (5)

  1. I wonder what Dickson specifically has in mind in terms of our “social lives” with our non-Christian friends. Should we go down the pub with our non-believing friends? Out to a club for a boogie? Only go to (more neutral?) restaurants/cafes? Only in peoples’ homes? It’s not always easy to decide where we draw the line on our social activities. Getting the balance right requires a lot of discernment and Christians will, no doubt, disgree about the options. What do you think Patrick? Just as a thought-experiment, where would you stand on those few examples I’ve just given?

    I like John Dickson. I’ll have to give in and buy the book.

  2. Jonathan
    I wouldn’t get too tied up with instructions / rules of what is OK or not. If I remember, John Dickson says something along those lines. that will differ for each person – their age, their culture, their context & relationships and their personality. The real question is an intentionality about orientating our lives outwards and not just individually and a love and compassion for others. That might mean a church looking at its ‘programme’ and doing a lot less of internal meetings to free people up to get involved and be a blessing in their local community (for example).

  3. Yes (as an aside, I wasn’t of course suggesting “rules” etc., but careful discernment). My concrete examples were only aimed at demonstrating the difficulty of moving from theory/intention to practice. I.e., what hermeneutic we employ and what we do practically as its outworking. That’s the crux. And it’s not easy to do either individually or corporately 😉

  4. There’s a tension isn’t there? – its vital to think theologically about what being missional means and how it works out in actual practice. But all the theory in the world won’t matter a whit if love, compassion for and relationship with others are not flowing from love for God.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I suppose we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if the love of God weren’t our shared assumption and foundation.

  6. I have read one entry and I am intrigued. I am ordering the book today.

    Too often we get so busy trying to look Christian we forget to BE Christians. Moving our faith outside the walls if the church is the only way to reach a dying world.

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