Book Review – “EXILES”

Taking a little break from our non-violence series again today, I thought I would share another book with you that I recently finished.   I know that many of you have asked for some resources and helpful books to read regarding what we call “church” and hopefully the books I mention here will be of value to you.

exilesToday’s book is called, “Exiles” by Michael Frost.

This book is definitely one of the best books that I have read all year.  (Okay, so we’re only 6 months through the year, but I do read a lot).

The word, “Missional” is maybe the hottest church-fad word around these days.  In fact, I hear it all the time in staff meetings and among peers.

“What are we doing to be more missional?”

I hear church leaders asking this question all the time, but sometimes I wonder, “Do we even know what that means?”

The danger of “Missional” becoming the pop-church word is that it becomes absorbed into the programmatic paradigm of Western consumer-church.   “Missional” becomes just another in a long line of “cool” programs to get people into our buildings.  But mission is so much more!

If you really want to understand the concept of a “Missional Church” then this is required reading for Class 101.   “Exiles” is the missional handbook for a new generation of Jesus-followers trying to feel their way through a world that is broken and a church that feels irrelevant.

In his own words, the author says his book is written for:

“…those Christians who find themselves falling into the cracks between contemporary secular Western culture and a quaint, old-fashioned church culture of respectability and conservatism.

Michael Frost

Michael Frost

This book is for the many people who wish to be faithful followers of the radical Jesus but no longer find themselves able to fit into the bland, limp, unsavory straitjacket of a church that seems to be yearning to return to the days when ‘everyone’ used to attend church and ‘Christian family values’ reigned.

This book is for those who can’t remain in the safe modes of church and who wish to live expansive, confident Christian lives in this world without having to abandon themselves to the values of contemporary society.  This book is for those Christians who feel themselves ready (or yearning) to jump ship but don’t want to be left adrift in a world where greed, consumerism, laziness, and materialism toss them about endlessly and pointlessly.  Such Christians live with the nagging tension of being at home neither in the world nor in the church as they’ve known it.”

If any of those words describe you or what you have felt in regards to church and life, then I would visit Amazon.com immediately and order this book.

This book is broken down into four sections that deal with the “danger” of being a self-imposed exile in this world.   According to Frost, our primary citizenship and allegiance to the kingdom of God makes us EXILES to the power structures of this world.   Thus, these “self-imposed EXILES” continue their hope and heritage by clinging to their Dangerous Memories, Promises, Criticism and Songs.  Each section has its own unique points of interest and exploration.

Among his best insights is the idea that in trying to create churches with “deep community” we have pursued the wrong goal.   Of course community is good, but community for the sake of community, Frost argues, will ultimately fail.   Real community is formed by a group of people “exiling” themselves from the way of the world and serving in the trenches of mission together.

For Frost, a common mission forges the deepest community.  Authentic and meaningful community is essential, but it is the by-product of our involvement in a mission together.   Mission is the goal; community is what happens during the journey.

page30_4If the future of church is even remotely interesting to you, I cannot recommend this book more highly.   Michael Frost writes with a very direct and honest voice that will bring enlightenment to the casual reader as well as enough research and detail to enthrall the more intense studier.    

This book is a MUST READ!

If I could, I’d hold every American Christian’s eye-lids open to make sure they finished it.  🙂

My Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review – “ReJesus”

Today I am going to start another dimension to this blog experience.  Not another dimension in the sense that we are going to explore alternative realities of existence, although I did watch the new STAR TREK last night and it was absolutely phenomenal!  (ok, I’m an old school trekkie, I admit it).

star-trek-movieBut, I have been reading my eyeballs out for the past few years and have come across some excellent books that have helped re-shape my thinking about God, humanity, church and life in general.

Often now I as I talk with people someone will say, “wow, that’s crazy!  I never thought of it like that… How did you come to that conclusion?”

Now, on the one hand, I like those questions because it gives me an opportunity to address a whole system of thought that I think needs voiced.  But, on the other hand, so much has shaped me, I sometimes wonder where to begin.

Many of you have also wanted to do some thinking and reading on your own about these same topics and I have tried to recommend some good resources to you as I come across them.

page30_4Along this line, about a month or so ago, I agreed to join a viral-blog group for TheOOZE.com to read and write reviews for new books.   If you have never stopped by TheOOZE.com, I would encourage you to become a regular visitor.

Those of you who really know me know that I love to read and write and so it seemed like the natural thing to do.
As I have been reading, I have found several books to be not only interesting for me personally, but the type of thing I’d love to pass on to you, if you have the same desire to continually rethink your relationship with God and this life.

So, today is my first real review.  My hope is that I will be able to convey some of the content and purpose of these works in a way that might help you decide whether it might be a helpful read for you as well.

I sincerely believe that we are in the midst of great transition in the life of humanity on this planet and in the church, especially in the West.  The more of us that are rethinking the issues of what it means to follow in the life of Jesus in this context, the better.

So happy reading and thinking!  And as you read and think, please leave a comment and contribute your own “review” to the rest of our community.

Oh, and do yourself a favor and go watch STAR TREK!

Buy your STAR TREK tickets on Fandango here!

Buy your STAR TREK tickets on Fandango here!

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Today, I want to look briefly at a book called, “ReJesus” by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost.

rejesusFor those of you who are unfamiliar with these names, you should definitely pick this book up because they are among the most articulate and well-thought-out voices in the “missional theology” discussion today.  I would highly recommend nearly anything from either of these two authors to give perspective and depth to whatever you have heard called, “missional”.

At under 200-pages, I expected ReJesus to be a rather quick read.  I expected to find a popularized, easy-to-read summary of what it means to be missional.

But, while the book is clearly written and very understandable, it was anything but a quick read.  I found myself reading paragraphs over and over, not because the authors didn’t write clearly, but because there were so many thoughts to explore and rethink in every sentence.

This work is clearly more than a popularized summary of what it means to be missional.  This is a concisely written missional theology manifesto.  It has depth of thought and intentionality that went beyond my expectations.

ReJesus is a book aimed at redeveloping Christology as the center of the modern church.   Or as they state it,

“to reinstate the central role of Jesus in the ongoing spiritual life of the faith and in the life and mission of God’s people… it is an attempt to recalibrate the mission of the church around the person and work of Jesus.”

Michael Frost

Michael Frost

The critique of the writers is that the church has, over many centuries, gotten sidetracked from the person of Jesus to a system of morality, liturgy, ritual and theology/philosophy.   Hirsch and Frost both argue that though these other things may not be necessarily bad, that our first call is to follow the life pattern of Jesus.

In this return to making Jesus central they challenge us to re-evaluate how our personal relationship to Jesus should look, how our church organization should function and work, what our preaching should focus on, and the type of things we teach and model that should prized.  It is a call to ACT and LIVE like Christ, not simply WORSHIP and THEOLOGIZE about him.

In one very excellent chapter, they even challenge our personal picture of Jesus in light of the gospels.  We are taken on a journey through the art that has depicted Jesus over the many centuries to see the impact that it has had on forming our perception of him.

Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch

This is an excellent book.  It draws heavily on critiques of Christendom from Soren Kierkegaard and Jacques Ellul (who wrote another excellent book titled, “The Subversion of Christianity”).   It is full of quotes from both of these excellent thinkers  and is obviously heavily influenced by their work.  Both Kierkegaard and Ellul are brilliant but difficult to read, so this book may be a good source to make sense of their ideas without the extra effort.

In the end, this is a book I would highly recommend for anyone wanting to seriously wrestle with the issues that church faces in today’s culture.  I would caution that it is not an “easy read,” so if you’re looking for something a little more popular, look elsewhere.  But, for those of you who wanna dig in, get dirty and start thinking, this is the book for you.

MY RATING:  3.5 out of 5 stars

What is “Missional?”

I know it seems obvious, but I’m a dad all the time now.

My daughter, Paytyn, was born five months ago. She is the most beautiful thing i have ever seen. And don’t get me wrong, I love being a dad. It’s just that there is an amazing realization that has begun to sink in: I’m a dad at all moments. No matter where i am. No matter what i’m doing. No matter what i thought my priorities were or should be at the time.

The truth is i have many roles and responsibilities in my life. Any given day i may be a counselor, friend, husband, co-worker, preacher, video game buddy, computer technician, event organizer, blogger, or marshmallow eating contest director. Such is the life of a youth pastor.

But no matter what particular role i am playing each day, father is the role that i am constantly and consistently. I can no longer put down that title or role for the day. Or even for the hour. I am always somebody’s dad, no matter what else i am to many other people.

When i’m changing diapers in between church services that i am the preacher for, i am reminded that my first role is not preacher, but dad. When i’m holding my infant daughter, bouncing her in my arms as i speak to my students, it is evident that i am always daddy. As i put down the xbox controller to cradle Paytyn as she wakes up, i realize that even in my leisure i am still a dad.

I am always somebody’s dad.

It’s funny isn’t it? We so often think that our life is separated into carefully designed fragments. Work time. Home time. Friend time. Church time. But, when you’re somebody’s dad, there is a very consistent reality through every slice of that pie. You are a daddy. Regardless of what time slice you think you should be in, you are always daddy.

It reminds me that the same is true in my relationship with God. Too often, i am lulled into thinking that my spiritual life is just another of the many slices of pie that make up my life. I participate in that slice for 1.5 hours on a Sunday, and move on to the next slice.

But what if God is desiring more than just a small slice of my life? What if God wanted to invade every moment? Every role? Every responsibility? What if God didn’t want my attendance at a church service so much as He wanted to be invited into attendance in the everyday moments of my life?

In the strange book of Hosea, God explains quite clearly what He longs for most from us as people. Hosea 6:6 says, “For i desire steadfast (or consistent) love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Or as Eugene Peterson has interpreted it, “I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.”

Maybe God is saying that there is very little difference between the sacred and the secular. In fact, maybe he is saying there isn’t any difference at all. He is your daddy during home time. During work time. During golf time. During any time.

The word “missional” has come to mean a lot of different things recently. It has become a popular word used by many Christians interested in being “cutting edge.” However, it isn’t really a new idea. It isn’t the newest fad in an often fad-driven church. It is an awareness of the great desire of God from the beginning.

Whatever else “Missional” means, it begins with the idea that the entire pie belongs to God, not just a single slice. It means we are approaching life with a holistic and unified mission: “to glorify God in every thing we do.” It means we are living with one identity in mind: we are always Somebody’s child.

Interestingly, “Daddy” is a title that God uses for Himself over and over again in the Bible. In the book of Hosea (particularly chapter 11), God refers to the people of God as His children. It seems that for God, whatever other role He may be involved in playing, the role of Father is always at the forefront. He is many things, but He is always “Daddy.”

And so, as i finish this blog, off to change another diaper, I know that from now on I will always be somebody’s daddy. But, even more fundamentally, in every moment i am always Somebody’s son as well.

May you find fulfillment in the wonder of your true identity. May you find that wherever you go, whatever you do, you are always the child of God. And most deeply, may you find yourself surrendering every moment of your existence to His great mission in your life.

Many others have chosen to write on the word “missional” today, click on these great blogs to read more:

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
DoSi
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Grace
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner