There seems to be an ever-increasing darkness moving across our world today. A depravity has crept into our thought systems and has become, albeit unfortunately, the social norm under which we are operating. While Christians are on a collision course with this world, in the form of persecution, these times must propel us forward with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. We must continue to press into the darkness of this world with our hearts recklessly abandoned to God and his calling on our lives. This calling urges us to give up our very lives to see this message light the world on fire with the glory of God in the face of Christ. Many today have this calling but the question of how to accomplish this has muddied the waters for those who would faithfully answer the call. I believe that’s why books like Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will are desperately needed in the church today.
Caleb Bislow and Ted Cluck have written an almost manual-like volume which includes many “R” rated stories of actual situations happening today around the world. This book is filled with real stories which, as the authors point out are, “Gritty because dark, dangerous, and despised places are gritty.” This volume is not only a manual though; it’s a call to abandon the falsehood of nominal Christianity and step off the cliff of uncertainty. It’s a reminder that there is no better way to die than serving Christ.
This book is laid out in five sections, each building on the previous, and ends asking the reader to define ourselves in light of Gods glorious calling on our lives. Before we can get to the defining moment though, we need to back up and see where this unashamed, radical, and extraordinary life comes from. Caleb begins by introducing us to the back story of how he became an unusual soldier for Christ. He sheds light on a building in the middle-of- nowhere Nebraska building which houses all the unusual gear one might not find in most missionary head-quarters. With a fridge full of Red Bull and Mountain Dew the Unusual Soldiers begin their journey towards fleshing out their passion for missions and the unreached of the world.
Section two defines our need to step out of our boxes and encourages readers that there is no better way to die (Ch. 3) than to abandon the ordinary (Ch. 2) and embrace the ridiculous (Ch. 3). It is in these chapters where the Bible comes to the reader as a hammer in the manner it crushes our notions of living the easy life as Christians. The Bible calls us to abandon all for Christ’ sake on more than one occasion and we would do well to be obedient to all the words of Christ, even the hard ones. The conclusion of this chapter points us to a better life that is to come if we are obedient. “Truth be told, diving into ministry in dark, dangerous, and despised places will knock the wind out of your sails at times. Sometimes it will leave you wounded, confused, and broke. And it won’t always have a happy ending. However, let us never give up in endeavoring for Christ no matter what low blows we encounter, because the victories (whether big or small) always outweigh the defeats.”
After searching for unusual soldiers and embracing the ridiculous, Caleb and Ted really put flesh on the faces in section three. They move the readers from the training camp to the mission field by showing us the dark, dangerous, and despised places, through real-life stories of hardship and renewal. This section is where it became personal to me. After hearing the stories of the unreached, the hunted, the brutally murdered and tortured people Caleb has been in contact with, visions of Africa suddenly came flooding into my mind. I had nowhere near the same degree of contact that Caleb had but I was all too aware that the village where we were ministering had a furnace smoking in which children were sacrificed to their “god”. The visual smoke and the smell of flesh every time the wind blew our way reminded us that we were in a region of Africa which was largely ignorant or blatantly hostile to the gospel we held so dear. Caleb shows us the people in this section that no one else wants to reach out to and in the U.S. it’s largely true that we want missions in which we stay at the Marriott and minister in friendly locations. Opposed to such mindsets is the very gospel itself.
Section four introduces us to the how of mission, at least from the perspective of an unusual soldier. Perhaps the most important point this section is leaning towards is not doing mission work without the wisdom of those who have gone before and the necessary training it takes to complete the work of a missionary. Caleb calls us to take discernment when ascertaining whether or not this call is for us. He makes sure the reader knows that this call is not meant only for those who like extreme sports or like to jump off high obstacles, but for those who have heard the call of God on their lives to go to the nations with the radical message of Christ.
So now that we’ve come to the end what’s next? How does one come to the end of a book like this and not feel inched towards the edge in their view of missions? This book ends with a call to the radical gospel and a reminder that this mindset is quickly fading in evangelical circles. Our zeal for missionary training is waning but Christ does not falter. Though our missional theology may expire, Christ cannot and will not.
This volume was a helpful guide to stoke the fires of evangelical missionary work. Caleb and Ted call us to further the cause of gospel work among the unreached, abused, hunted, and despised. I found this a refreshing breath of mission-based stories which God has used to change the lives of normal soldiers.
Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will Caleb Bislow with Ted Cluck/Bethany House Publishers, 2013 Review Copy Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group