America Christianity is relatively safe. We worship in comfortable buildings with people who believe as we do. Our churches operate within more than adequate budgets with tried and true programs for every age of person. We are free to share our faith publicly. We are free to distribute and read God’s Word without reprise. Wrapped up in all of this institutionalized safety is the individual Christian taking fewer and fewer risks for, and in advance of their faith. We choose safety over danger, average over extreme, comfort over chaos, and the known over the risky.
I recently finished Caleb Bislow’s new book “Dangerous; Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will”. Bislow is a former youth pastor who left behind his job with the church, which he considered to safe, to pursue a call to go to places no one else has. Bislow is now part of Kingdom Building Ministries where he oversees a program called Stranded. This program is a missionary training program for Christians who want to be, as Bislow says, “radical”. This training is meant to be a week-long simulation of ministering to the lesser-known and less-safe places in the world; all from a pasture in Nebraska.
The book chronicles Bislow’s personal journey(s). It is the story of his personal journey from safe and comfortable to the “dark, despised, and dangerous” people and places of the world. Bislow recalls how the vision of an African boy standing in front of an airplane holding a staff served as the genesis of his calling to, and burden for, the people of Africa. A significant portion of the book (sections one and two) covers the events of Bislow eventually preaching to the Maasai people of Africa; quitting his job, fundraising, securing travel and guides, and the difficult journey the Maasai. Section Three, treacherous Territory, is the best of the book. Here, he draws attention to the people around the world who are rarely helped and most often forgotten. There people are the Unreached, Uncontacted, Restricted, Hunted, Convicted, Infected, Marginalized, Discriminated Against, and the Enslaved. Bislow shares his trips to these people groups (lepers, gypsies, prisoners, refuges, and prostitutes). I appreciated this section greatly as it highlighted many of the desperate people whom the civilized world has forgotten. In sections four and five, Bislow demonstrates the ways in which these people can be reached and calls for more Christians to leave what is safe and live dangerously.
As much as I would not like to, I can’t help but describe “Dangerous” as oversimplified, unbalanced, prideful, self-glorifying, and corny. As Bislow travels the world and reaches out to these isolated people groups, he rarely mentions the difficulty of the travel. I have traveled overseas on mission trips and nothing goes as smoothly as the author describes it. It seems to me that from his writing all went well all the time. He doesn’t mention the negative responses to the gospel invitation from those he spoke with. This leaves the book unbalanced. In my opinion, this book feels like a “been there, done that” type of work from the author. I would like to have read more about the challenges he faced on the ground and how they were overcome. Instead, the reader is given simply get on a plane to Africa with what one chapter calls a “backpack, burden, and a Bible”. I’m afraid that Bislow’s thrill-seeking expeditions do not recognize the missional framework that is necessary to sustain long-term disciple-making processes among these people groups.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”