As biblical values crumble in our surrounding society, how should Christians respond? The natural reaction is fear, but Elliot Clark writes, Instead of whining and feeling sorry for ourselves because the culture is becoming unrecognizable, Christians should align their vision with that of first-century Christians. If opposition mounts to the place where it can be rightly called persecution, we are called to follow the apostles, who left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the disgrace of the name. (Acts 5:41)
In Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land, Clark walks the reader through the book of 1 Peter which teaches that suffering and social exclusion are actually the most normal thing in the world…. The Christian in exile is called to embrace the shame and social humiliation that come as a package deal with the cross. We’re to be first and foremost God-pleasers and not man-pleasers.
In Chapter Five he writes about an aspect of Christian living that is often ignored in modern circles – the need for holy lives. Holiness is not only the result of conversion, it’s also an embodied argument in support of the gospel’s veracity. Gospel declaration is linked to life transformation. But in America Christians think the gospel is more credible to others when they see us as most like them. We’ve come to believe that God is most glorified and people are most evangelized when the church is either hip and trendy or when it’s struggling, broken and weak. Now is not the time for us to try to make the Christian message fit into the world’s mold. We should keep Christianity weird. And in so doing, we just might reach our neighbors. (!)
As hopes diminish and fears increase, as opponents rise to power and our cultural influence fades, as we become outcasts and even refugees – it’s then, at this very moment, that the church will have an incredible opportunity for the gospel. (This is also one of Rod Dreher's main points in The Benedict Option.)
Clark offers a lot of food for thought in these pages. Most books about evangelism tend to say, “Do it this way and you’ll have success.” I appreciated Clark’s approach because his own experiences as a missionary in a Muslim country taught him there is no “one-size-fits-all” method. My only quibble is that he emphasizes witnessing out of fear (awe) of God and fear of the other’s eternal damnation. I prefer LOVE as motivation because it overcomes the other fears that Clark so eloquently describes in his book.