Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost – A Review

In this book review, I first share a little bit about the author, then his thesis statement, a brief overview and then some of my thoughts on the book.

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.

THESIS
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.

OVERVIEW
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.

MY THOUGHTS
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).


5 Responses to Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost – A Review

  1. Jake Belder says:

    Sounds like a good read. I like tha acrostic he uses, and especially his emphasis on eating together with other members of our community. In recent years, I’ve really come to realize the importance of eating together, of sharing fellowship and a meal together. Not only is there a lot of biblical significance to it, but also from a practical standpoint, it serves to build far more intimate relationships. Especially in a culture that is so radically individualistic and self-centered, what better way to work toward building a real community.

  2. When I read this book, I was somewhat disappointed. Although the basics I really liked.

    The problem is that there was too much political talk for me. I think we all know how bad the politics of the US and the world are… but did not need to re-live it in the book.

    Malcolm
    http://www.twitter.com/mobilemalcolm

  3. jrwoodward says:

    Jake,

    Sometimes some of the most meaningful things can be quite simple, liking the habit you say of eating together. I am totally with you in that we have seen as our communties share a meal together in people’s homes, there is a greater sense of closeness, openness and vulnerability. What I have found to be helpful, whether it be the BELLS practices or others, is for communities to develop a common rhythm of life together, where we engage in a set of spiritual disciplines that help to form us more like Christ, so that together we can be his hands and feet.

    Malcolm,

    Hey, thanks for your thoughts. As far as the book being too political, it seems to me that an important function that we have as a people on mission is to engage in the task of bilingual theological reflection (recognizing the grammar of the dominant culture as well as the grammar of God) so that we can embody the good news in the context in which we find ourselves and join God in the renewal of all things. This by nature is a political task as well as a spiritual task.

    I think sometimes it helps to try and define politics. In popular speech, politics is the maneuvering of politicians to gain and retain power. But politics orginially meant the interactions of citizens in the polis, the Greek city-state. When Aristotle speaks of the human being as by nature a “political animal,” he is not at all suggesting that we are simply extroverted power-grabbers. His point is that our essential humanity is marked by our interactions with others in community. The English word politics derives from the Greek word polis, as in Indianapolis; it basically means to be a society of people. Anything involving humans living together purposefully is political, a polis.

    Jesus was political – (The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder is a crucial read here) and calls us to live under his polis, to follow his way. One of the questions that Frost and many others are addressing today is this: Has our citizenship of country replaced discipleship to Christ as the Church’s public stance?

    So, my question for you is how could he write a meaningful missional book without addressing politics?

  4. brad brisco says:

    JR, as a follow up to Frost’s book I purchased “Exilio” which is (as you are probably already aware) a course organized around the book. I haven’t used it yet for a group, but I did use a clip for some of my dmin project last week. The video sessions on the dvd are excellent. For those who are interested here is the link:

    http://exilio.forge.org.au/project.html

  5. jrwoodward says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for the excellent resource. I may post on that in the future, for those who may not read through the comments. Hope all is well with you.

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