Featured Reviews, VOLUME 4

Featured: The Road to Missional – Michael Frost [Vol. 4, #26]

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Frost introduces The Road to Missional with the declaration, “If the missional conversation is over, it occurs to me that it probably hasn’t really ever been had.” You might follow up a statement like that in at least two ways: naming the dead-ends and by-passes that have prevented the missional conversation from happening or getting on with the conversation itself. Frost does both, but he definitely places more emphasis on the latter. I think I detect these dual emphases in the title. “The road to missional” might either mark out the wrong turns we’ve taken or it might map out how to get to missional from our “not-yet-missional” starting places.

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Frost calls the project a “small guidebook–a list of indicators,” yet each chapter opens into a conversation much more broad and deep than the usual fare of ministry how-to manuals. Manual or guidebook may be an entirely inappropriate category for The Road to Missional. As I read each chapter, I gradually realized that I was being led moment-by-moment to a theological re-visioning, welcomed into a new way of hearing the Bible’s story.

Still, this is a street-smart work. Frost is fully aware that none of us start down the road to missional tabula rasa; we’re all always already stepping out from other conversations. In fact, the conversation around the terms and practices and faith represented by missional has been particularly contentious–we all probably have some pre-formed opinion or gut reaction when the term comes to us. Frost therefore weaves his constructive presentation of “the missional” around what I take to be common subversions, misperceptions, and reactions.

In chapters 1 and 2, Frost disambiguates the shift into a missional paradigm from simply a revived emphasis on evangelism. He by no means writes off evangelism; instead, he inscribes it within the bigger missio Dei. Frost cites David Bosch, author of the of the seminal Transforming Mission: “Mission is more and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is the alerting people to the universal reign of God through Christ.”

That our activities, evangelistic and otherwise, are a subset of our participation in God’s mission may be something of a truism in missional circles. But Frost develops and fills out this claim, drawing in T. F. Torrance, Leslie Newbigin, and, yes, N. T. Wright to make his argument. Evangelism, as the activity of offering every person a clear and direct challenge and invitation to reorient their lives within the world that God is renewing according to God’s desires through Christ–this activity is a critical moment in our task to demonstrate, like movie trailers, the reality of God’s reign. The life of the church is to be the first fruits, the intimations of the harvest yet to come, of the kingdom of God.

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