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Book review: "Evangelism as Exiles" Elliot Clark

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Evangelism as Exiles: Life on mission as strangers in our own land

by Elliot Clark (2019, The Gospel Coalition)

$18.99 From Reformers Bookstore, $11.99 on Kindle, or free loan from James’ library

You might feel that $19 is a lot for a small(ish) book. But while this book is not huge, it’s certainly worth buying, and more worth reading.

More and more, Christians in the West are feeling like the recipients of 1 Peter, as our culture not only sees our faith as outdated and irrelevant, but is becoming more open and vocal in its objections and opposition to the Gospel. What does it sound and look like to be both living our faith, and speaking the good news of Jesus as we are increasingly pushed to the fringe? That’s the question Elliot seeks to answer.

Elliot Clark worked as a missionary in Central Asia (that’s the part of the world with all the ‘-stans’), and he writes from both his family’s experience of being Christ’s ambassadors in a foreign country, and the experience of many Christians they knew in that country who faced exclusion and persecution from family and society because of their faith. More importantly, he writes from what the Bible says about Christians sharing and living for the Gospel in a world that is not our home. Each of the short chapters is based on a passage from 1 Peter, a letter written to Christians who were particularly feeling the pinch of being strangers in their own land. This would be a great companion book for anyone who happens to be studying 1 Peter in Flinders ES small groups this semester!

He covers some really important topics, from thinking about our own attitudes and understanding of the hope we have in chapters 1-3: ‘Embracing Exile’, ‘The Hope of Glory’, ‘Fighting Fear With Fear’; to how we think of and relate to our non-Christian neighbours in chapter 3: ‘With Respect For All’; to how we communicate the Gospel through both word and deed in chapters 4-6: ‘Declaring His Praises,’ ‘Visibly Different,’ ‘The Good News of Home’.

His approach is both deeply biblical, and very practical, using examples from his own time in Central Asia, and applications to our own culture (obviously he speaks to an American context, but most if not all of it is transferrable to Australia). It’s not just a how-to book on evangelism: this book will help shape your heart and mind so that evangelism can start to become part of your lifestyle.

Some memorable quotations:

‘…the antidote to a silencing shame is the hope of glory, the hope that earthly isolation and humiliation are only temporary. God, who made the world and everything in it, will one day include us in his kingdom and exalt us with the King, giving us both honour and also a home. We desperately need this future hope if we want the courage to do evangelism as exiles.’ (Page 33)

‘In a world teeming with reasons to be terrified, the only rightful recipient of our fear, according to Peter, is God. So as we consider our heart disposition in speaking with our neighbours and friends about Christ, we must keep this distinction in our minds: We fear God, not people. We aim to please him, not others. We seek his approval; he alone deserves our highest respect.’ (Page 63)

‘…Christians have adopted a kind of false modesty in our evangelism. We never presume to suggest that we’re actually holier than someone else. Furthermore, we think our Gospel is more credible to others when they see us as mostly like them. We’ve come to believe that God is most glorified and people are most evangelised when the church is either hip and trendy or when it’s struggling and broken and weak… we want to be inwardly transformed without showing any outward change. We don’t want to stand out. It’s as if we’ve lit a candle but are trying our best to hide it under a basket. But the whole point of a lit lamp is that others will see it (Matt. 5:15)’ (Page 120)

‘We should keep Christianity weird. And in so doing, we just might reach our neighbours.’ (Page 155)

Flinders ES- James

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