Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost – A Review
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Frost is an author, practitioner, speaker and professor in the area of missional ecclesiology in the post-modern West. He has written or edited eight books. He is the founding Director of the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling Theological College in Sydney and the missional architect of smalboatbigsea, a new innovative church in Sydney, Australia. He also helped to establish Action Against Poverty, a local aid agency.
In Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture, Frost contends that if God’s people are going to live faithful to God in the Post-Christian West, then we need to live as self-imposed Exiles who engage in dangerous disciplines.
Building on the work of Walter Brueggemann, Frost leads us through four dangerous disciplines that he calls us to engage in so that we might live faithful to God in our Post-Christendom context in the West. First he calls us to engage in dangerous memories, where we recall the radical and disturbing agenda that Jesus has for the world as the first exile. He then calls us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Secondly he calls us to engage in dangerous promises, where we learn to live out the way of Christ in contrast to the dominate culture of empire. Some of these practices include being authentic, serving a cause greater than ourselves, creating missional communities, being generous and practicing hospitality as well as working righteously. Thirdly, he calls us to enter into dangerous critique where we resist assimilation into the dominant culture and give prophetic critique to the powers that be. And lastly, he calls us to engage in the practice of singing dangerous songs, songs that speak of the unexpected newness of life, instead just singing love songs to Jesus, he calls us to sing revolutionary songs.
I appreciate the basic emphasis on Frost’s work and the importance of following Jesus and living as Exiles or what Hauerwas and Willimon call Resident Aliens. The whole idea of not assimilating into our culture, but cultivating contrast societies as the people of God is an important message for us to live.
Frost mentions Pecks four stages of community – “pseudo-community, where false niceness reigns and all members are on their best behavior trying to fake community as best they can without raising important issues or expressing their true frustrations with each other; chaos, when the skeletons finally come out of the closet, and the masks of pretense are stripped away; emptiness, a time of quiet and transition; and finally true community, marked by both deep honesty and deep caring” (107). But of course Frost doesn’t stop there, he goes on to suggest that “aiming for community is a bit like aiming for happiness. It’s not the goal in itself.” (108). He then calls us to engage in communitas – the challenge and “ordeal” of following Christ and serving Him and His Kingdom.
I appreciated the practicality of the rhythm of life developed by his community smallboatbigsea, summarized in the acrostic BELLS. Bless. We will bless at least one other member of our community every day. Eat. We will eat with other members of our community at least three times each week. Listen. We will commit ourselves weekly to listening to the prompting of God in our lives. Learn. We will read from the Gospels each week and remain diligent in learning more about Jesus. Sent. We will see our daily life as an expression of our sent-ness by God into this world (150,151).
While much more could be said about this book, I really appreciate Frost taking the time to talk about exiles at the table and at work for the host empire, as well as the issue of corporations, caring for creation and helping the oppressed (Ch. 7,8,9,10,11).