over the last year i have read quite a lot of books and i have also been sent quite a few books. i never ever guarantee to review them but usually would like to. there's only ever been two that i have thrown in the bin as i thought they were so awful (which shall remain nameless). my problem like so many others i suspect is busyness. but post christmas and before terms kicks off fully with students i am under the illusion i might find time to review a few. i'm going to try and do one a day for a few days and see how i go. some reviews may be a sentence, others more full - we shall see.
so first up the road to missional by mike frost. i've become more and more a fan of mike's work over the years. exiles is definitely up there as one of the best books on mission in the west in the last ten years. it's been a favourite book of cms pioneer students and that's in spite of it being rather ominously large.
i quite like the word missional but mike is at pains to point out in this (much more distilled and slimmer than exiles) book that anyone and everyone is now using the word to describe their church or what they are doing. and it's in real danger of losing its bite and being domesticated as a way of tweaking a church to make it better and to make it grow. i suspect this is more of an american problem...
what mike wants to do is it use it to describe a whole paradigm shift that reorientates the church around mission. that mission is then focused on transformation in the world and not obsessed with church for church's sake.
with a hefty influence from david bosch and lesslie newbigin he opens up with a chapter on the missio dei calling for mission to be much more than evangelism. the metaphor of the kingdom of god is closely aligned with what mission is about. he suggests a core question is what the reign of god might look like in our own neighbourhood and where we might see evidence of it and join in with what we sense god might be up to.
evangelism is then unpacked some more. i think lots of us have had bad experiences of evangelism so i welcome conversation about it that shows that there is nothing wrong at all in good news, and nothing wrong in sharing good news. but it does require a rethink of what the gospel is and what might be ways of sharing that story with friends and neighbours.
then he tackles head on the church's co-optedness into the logic of the market - with faith individualised, commodified, pacakaged and sold by ceo type church leaders running churches on the lines of big businesses attempting to grow market share. this seems to be addressing a particular segment of the church in north america (it is an american publisher) but we have all experienced and to some degree been co-opted by this kind of thing i suspect. mike paints a vision of a different kind of church that is quite inspired - it did remind me of his chapoter on missional community in exiles which i also loved.
other chapters explore the cross as a paradigm - counter to a culture of success; shalom - such a brilliant way of thinking about justice, beauty and healing; and simply being neighbourly - i.e. focusing outwards to neighbours and community as the heart and locus of where christian faith is embodied and make flesh.
he concludes the book explaining in a long sentence that he is going to keep using the 'm word'...
to describe the wholesale and thorpough reorientation of the church around mission, a mission that includes evangelism but more: a mission that is anchored in alerting people to the rule of God through Christ and which can never be reduced to the recruitment of new attendees at our meetings; a mission that hopes in the ongoing work of God to redeem all things and set everything right in accordance with his will; a mission that by its very nature must be lived out incarnationally, in close proximity to those to whom we've been sent; a mission that is cross shaoed and calls its followers to the disciplines of sacrifice, service, love and grace; and a mission that delights in beauty, flavour, joy and friendship, that lifts us up and fills us with the same fullness of life we see in Jesus.
if you like that sentence you'll like the book. it's a good distilled summary. it's a meaty popular style of book. i'm still not sure it's up there with exiles and the shaping of things to come but that may be because i am more oriented around being missional now myself so the impact has lessened than when i read those two books.