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

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The End of Christian America

[great article link at the bottom of this post!]

Until recently, I lived in the most “unchurched” region of the country.

Now apparently, that designation has switched (very slightly) from the Northwest part of our country to the Northeast (though really “church” hasn’t been popular in either region for years).  But, whether we are first in “lack of churchiness” or second, if there is one thing I know it is living in a post-Christian religion environment.

Newsweek coverWhich is why it interested me to read several articles recently that seemed to indicate what many of us have thought for years, that the rest of the country is catching up to us… in godlessness, that is.   [see “The End of Christian America” and  “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”]

Recent studies find that American people are exiting the Christian religion in greater numbers than ever.  Be it evangelical, mainline, etc, America is losing it’s religion.

So what does this mean?  Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask.  Many people think that it isn’t exactly ideal.  I have heard many well-meaning preachers proclaim it as the beginning of the end; the ushering in of Armageddon.  Ahhh, you premillenialist friends are always looking for the signs of the end, aren’t you?  =)

But, it isn’t among just preachers.  There is panic among many everyday Christians.  There is fear that what has been the driving force of morality in this country is going to erode and leave their children depraved and godless.  I have sat in a pew next to many parents who feel this tension all too keenly.  Even in Seattle (where we have a several decade head start in living in this environment) the church (generally), is characterized by great fear in this arena.  It seems as though this decline in the Christian religion–at least in the form we are accustomed to–can only be a bad thing.

Now, before going any further, I’d like you to know that I understand this fear.  I think I understand why many of my brothers and sisters, whom I love, feel this way.  It is indeed scary to see the moral/religious fiber of your country shaken.  I can sympathize with this uncertainty.

christian_america2However, I think our fear may be causing us to behave strangely.  If you read this blog, you know that I often call-out the apparent un-Christlikeness of the church.   In doing so, I am not meaning to say that I don’t believe in Jesus.  I do.  I believe Jesus has opened the fullest and most meaningful way of life for all people.  I want more people to experience this life, not less.  And, I am not trying to say I don’t believe in the church.  Christians don’t necessarily have bad intentions.  I simply think we need to be very careful and think extremely critically about our methods of communicating a message.  Too often, the methods have become the message.  Too easily we believe that we should use any means necessary to convey our point and “the ends justify the means” should never be the attitude of Christ’s people.  Especially as it relates to the fear of “losing our Christian nation.”

Fear of the end of Christian America.

Because of this fear, we have seen (I believe) many Christians behaving in ways that do not show love.  Whether it is the polarizing political attempt to legislate Christianity, the stereotyping generality of protest signs or simply the attempt to shame those who are perceived as the danger through our bumperstickers, t-shirts and slogans.

Because of fear we have reacted poorly.

But, perhaps, we do not need to fear this decline so much as we have thought.  Maybe what we feel we need to protect doesn’t need protected at all.  Maybe, the cause of Christ could be advanced in a much more meaningful way if what we are scared to lose was really to disappear.

You see, living in Seattle, I have heard for as long as I can remember about how non-churched this region is.  I grew up knowing that I was among less than 10% of my local population that attended any type of church each week.   I heard these statistics as a teenager, while in Bible college and beyond in ministry.  I was taught that I was the only beacon of religion in a depraved land.

But, as I’ve hung out with people, got to know them and seen many of them make decisions to follow the life and example of Jesus with their lives authentically, I have learned that these statistics are a bit misleading.  The reality of my interaction with people in this “godless” land is not as dire as I had been made to believe.  In fact, while we may be declining in religious fervor, I have found people here to be more spiritually open to discussion than ever before.

Almost no one that I meet anymore is unwilling to have a spiritual discussion with me, as long as it is honest and not aimed at “converting” them.   And though this seems strange to some of you, I actually think that the message of Jesus is finding more traction in this culture that we fear than in the one we felt comfortable in previously.  It is almost as if the dismantling of the “civic religion of Christianity” is helping people to rediscover the Jesus behind this cultural influence.

church_stateOf course we all know people that would label themselves “Christian” though they make no attempt to follow and model the life of Jesus.  This country, since its beginning, has been labeled by the same generic label, “Christian.”  It has become a cultural and national label rather than an affiliation with the personhood of Jesus.  This faux Christianity, I contend, has actually made it much more difficult to lead people to authentic relationship with Jesus.  And to see it decline, in some odd sense (to some of you) gives me great hope for the future.

I believe we live in the greatest moment for followers of Jesus in the history of our world (and country).  I believe that this decline is preparing the soil (and has already) for a much deeper commitment to Jesus in the hearts of people than we have seen in our lifetimes.   It is not a day for fear, but for great expectation.  It is a great day to be a follower of Jesus!

I have included a link below to a blog by Greg Boyd.  His excellent blog lays out several reasons not to fear this decline.  Hopefully, it will be very helpful to some of you.

“Don’t Weep for the Demise of American Christianity”

But he also has two excellent books on this subject.  The second of which just came out last week and is fantastic.  Both of these books should be required reading for Christians in America.  If you haven’t read them, please consider picking up a copy this week.

themythofachristiannation

myth of a christian religion