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Friday, April 20, 2018

"Surprise the World!" (Michael Frost)

TITLE: Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People
AUTHOR: Michael Frost
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2018, (132 pages).

We have heard of the popular "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." That bestseller by Stephen Covey has spawned a host of other books about systematic ways of self-improvements. What about being missional? What about good habits to cultivate in spreading the good news about the kingdom of God? Author and leading missional advocate Michael Frost calls it the "Five Habits of Highly Missional People." Just to be clear, missional is not some updated version of conventional missions. Neither is it program to train missionaries. Being missional is about being Christ wherever we go. It is a refreshing new paradigm in understanding how to evangelize and to share the gospel.

Frost distinguishes the two different kinds of evangelism. The first is the gifted evangelists who are able to proclaim the gospel without fear or intimidation. It is a common misunderstanding of evangelism that every believer as an evangelist. While everyone are called to evangelize, not all are gifted with the gab of evangelism. After all, Paul does mention in his letter that evangelism is one of the gifts. At the same time, there are some who are gifted evangelists who could boldly proclaim clearly the gospel without fear or intimidation. The second kind is for the rest of us,where we are to be "evangelistic believers." By this distinction, believers who don't feel like they have the gift of evangelism need not be guilt-trip every time the word evangelism is mentioned. Instead, they could be encouraged to do whatever they can in the direct or indirect declaration of the gospel. This second group learns how to provide "gracious answers" to questions posed by unbelievers. Remarkably, this two-fold approach to evangelism helps us not to behave as if we must but to do whatever we can in the task of evangelism. Those who are gifted are urged to be faithful to exercise their gifts to the fullest potential. Those who are not given such gifts are encouraged to be faithful in other ways that helps spread the gospel creatively. This book is written more for this group. Frost introduces his BELLS model as the five habits of highly missional people.
  1. BLESS (Value Generosity): People who would live generously by blessing three people each week.
  2. EAT (Value of Hospitality): Those who practice hospitality by eating with others frequently
  3. LISTEN (Value of Spirit-Led): Those who learns to listen to the Holy Spirit
  4. LEARN (Value of Christlikeness): Those who learn to live more like Christ
  5. SENT (Value of Missional): Those who see themselves as missionaries in the making first to our neighbourhoods and then beyond.
Frost allocates one chapter to each of the five values. After describing each habit, he lists the reasons for it and draws up the limitations of each habit. With biblical support and illustrations along the way, he builds upon each habit with a call to go forth and practice. He concludes by reminding readers not to treat these habits as a short-term project but a longer term lifestyle. If the former is true, he would have subtitled the book as "Five Effective Steps of Highly Missional People." Instead, he uses the word "habit" which needs to be intentional; regularly practiced; and adopted as a way of life. Frost wants us to "inculcate these habits as a central rhythm" of our lives. He ends the book with practice pages for the individual and follow-up discussions for the group.

My Thoughts
1) I am pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of the model. The BELLS acronym is such a clever way to help readers recall the five habits. This showcases how effective the author is as a communicator and author. Simplicity is the key to revolution. We live in a "Too Long Didn't Read" (TLDR) world where many lack the patience to read beyond a certain number of paragraphs. Communications for the new generation must cut straight to the chase. This is even more important in a world inundated by busyness and constant distractions of being connected. Simplicity is the key to effect communication.

2) I like the way the habits unfurl the missional values of generosity; hospitality; Spirituality; Christlikeness; and Missional Living. The active verb used in BELLS are supported by biblical values which are timeless and applicable everywhere. The practice of even one value would be a large step in the long obedience in the missional direction. Readers are free to apply any of these habits in any way. There is no compulsion to follow them in the order it is presented in the book. While it is always good to read from cover to cover to get a sense of the big picture, when it comes to applications, one can begin anywhere, preferably from the habit that we feel strongest first. Depending on how God guides, we can optimize all of them in appropriate ways.

3) Finally, as the author suggest, the building of a habit takes time. Thus, we should not pick up this book and be too quick to put it back on the bookshelves. Practice it regularly. Memorize the BELLS model and remember the individual missional values for a time. Until we can remember it easily, it will be hard to practice it. That is why the instructions at the end of each chapter is an important exercise. Whether we do it in 40 days more or less, we need to do it actively. Then and only then can we move BELLS from print to the head; from the head to the heart; and from the heart to the hands.

Though this book is also available as an ebook across the Internet, I would recommend using a printed copy so that we can write our own notes in it, especially the accountability pages toward the end of the book.

Michael Frost is a leading voice for the missional movement. His books have been well-received by churches, seminaries, and schools. He is founding principal of Morling College and co-founder of Forge International Mission Training Network. He is author of the bestselling book, "The Shaping of Things to Come."

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of NavPress, Tyndale Publishing House, and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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