That’s not quite author Elliot Clark’s instruction to 21st Century Christians living in America, but it’s close. His credentials as a long-term missionary and now trainer in Central Asia, coupled with the book’s record-setting commendations-to-book-length ratio helped to make this a compelling reading prospect.
Clark explores the parallels between the apostle Peter’s audience in his first letter as he points out that the “soft persecution” of social and professional ostracisation and a depriving of our cultural caché are not kingdom defeats to be cried over, resented or battled against relentlessly. Instead we need to see those things as a return to our more natural state as being somewhere between slightly and dramatically out of kilter with the attitudes of the world.
Be in awe of God, not afraid of people.
Love people, don’t love what they think of us.
At the same time, the challenge was well-aimed that we need to move beyond the invitational model of evangelism, where we expect people to come to events to hear someone else tell the gospel, and look to create opportunities to tell people the good news that they so desperately need to respond to. We have an urgent message, he writes, to which people must respond, and “If we continue the pattern of waiting for perfect opportunities, they may never come” (p.91).
Clark then gives an extended call to greater – and glad – hospitality. The kind that embraces folks we’re not that interested in having round to our house, rather than merely having friends round. He points out that for many people, becoming a Christian involves being rejected by those closest to them, so our homes become their homes and our family becomes their family – a foretaste of heaven, no less.
The (short – c.150 pages with generous margins) book is liberally sprinkled with anecdotes from his time in Central Asia – not to advance his case that we are in 1 Peter times because he takes that largely as a given – but to encourage us in how we should respond.
The writing is smooth enough to make it an easy read, and the content is chellenging without being formulaic, predictable or over-worn. The challenge to fear God as saved, redeemed, yet helpless-without-him people as a motivator to evangelism, for example, came across as fresh, as did the heavy emphasis on hospitality.
I recommend this to every Christian as an important read.
- Embracing exile
- The hope of glory
- Fighting fear with fear
- With respect for all
- Declaring his praises
- Visibly different
- The good news of home