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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: "The Road to Missional"

TITLE: Road to Missional, The: Journey to the Center of the Church (Shapevine)
AUTHOR: Michael Frost
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.

'Missional' seems to be the word in fashion these days, especially among churches that want to jazz up their Christian mission and evangelism strategies. As Alan Hirsch in the preface puts it, 'if everything becomes missional, then nothing becomes missional.' Well said.

Frost makes a passionate plea to Christians not to confuse missional with evangelism or missionary zeal that focuses more on the strategies of conversion and numbers of converts. Missional is much more than that. For Frost, missional is both an announcement of the reign of God, and a demonstration of the love of Christ. It is alerting people to become more curious and interested in the gospel, just like movie trailers make people interested to want to see the movie.

  • "Mission is not primarily concerned with church growth. It is primarily concerned with the reign and rule of the Triune God. If the church grows as a result, so be it." (24)
  • "It is our automatic response to God's reign and rule, proven through Christ, revealed through the Spirit. Therefore, any collective of believers set free from the disorder of this present age, who offer themselves in service of the mission of their God to alert people to the new unfolding order of things, can rightly be called a missional church." (38)
Missional is not about evangelism, It is not about sending, but being sent. Missional is like slow cooking, where disciples incarnate deeply within the communities they are in or called to be in. No quick fix. No rush to pile up numbers of conversions. No snappy 'four spiritual laws.' Frost helpfully tells us what evangelism is and what it is not (46). 

Neither is 'missional' about adapting to the market requirements, where membership numbers and strategies to attract church attendance are key. Frost warns us about the dangers of turning missional into another marketing technique where consumerism tastes become primary. There is also a danger of adapting the church strategies to worldly capitalistic ideas. There is also a section of five fatal capitalistic flaws so well articulated by Michael Schluter.

Thankfully, Frost does not just do a good job at debunking the myths and erroneous ways to be missional. He points out basically three ways where missional truly reflects the reign of God in the world we are called to be. Firstly, missional is about the cause of Christ, in the Cross that is humiliated but triumphant. Through the cross, disciples reveal Christ in their identity and their works. Secondly, it is about 'breathing shalom' where the peace of God, hope in Christ, drives us toward bringing justice and reconciliation to a broken world. Thirdly, it is imitating the example of Jesus who 'moved into the neighbourhood' to live among the lost. 

My Comments

This is a very important book for all churches to learn from. Missional is not simply a concept, a marketing technique, or a programme on the church calendar. It is a way of life. It is a journey to the cross, through the cross, and from the cross. As churches continue to try to 'spice up' their outreach efforts with newer strategies, invariably, the idea of 'missional' will become a means to their ends. Frost has the foresight to use this book as a guide to help churches avoid being derailed from the true meaning of missional. I love the way Frost debunk the two major misunderstandings of missional thinking, that missional is neither a upgraded form of 'evangelism' nor a marketing gimmick to increase church membership. It is most crucially a lifestyle that flows out of the reign of God in each and every disciple of Christ.

The metaphor of a movie trailer is brilliant. I appreciate the list of applications toward the end of the book that provides ideas to kick start our creative department. Well-researched, this book is poised to make a big impact in the area of missional thinking, planning, and living in churches and Christian communities everywhere. If you have a Church library, this book is a must have.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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