Featured Reviews, VOLUME 4

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

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The content of evangelism, then, is much more robust. Frost is not shy about biblical exegesis–word study, textual exposition, and biblical theology scatter the book. In chapter 2, he surveys usage of the Hebrew and Greek terms for gospel, and then summarizes those place where Paul self-consciously outlines his “gospel.” The gospel, according to Paul, seems to have much more to do with Jesus’ messianic life, crucifixion, and resurrection than with God’s wonderful plans frustrated by sin and a deus ex machina savior to bridge a hellish chasm to heaven.

From good news about a present and still coming kingdom, The Road to Missional leads naturally to witness and cruciformity. In contrast to churches shaped by the logic of the marketplace–branding and incentivizing faith–Frost posits a logic of martyria, of bearing witness. Reflecting on the way Jesus claims his actions bear witness to him in John 8 and Luke 7, Frost suggest that Jesus’ followers ought to testify to Jesus’ good news about God’s kingdom through their life together. He references Bryan Stone’s conclusion in Evangelism after Christendom that this witness by life together will be marked by truthfulness, clarity, and incarnation.

These marks gain a certain concreteness through a list of David Fitch’s concrete suggestions for missional church life. They take on flesh, though, in the incarnate life and obedient death of Jesus. In chapter 4 Frost writes, “[Cruciformity] is the shape of Jesus’ incarnation of the nature of God and also therefore the shape that Jesus creates for every aspect of Christian discipleship.” Cruciformity, though, denotes for Frost not sacralized self-sacrifice and suffering but an orientation and practice: “When we adopt a cruciform spirituality, we are necessarily drawn outward, toward ‘sinners,’ not away from them. The cross is the supreme act of engagement. It is God’s way of entering into the sin and brokenness of this world to redeem it and make friends with sinful people.”

In the final two chapters, The Road to Missional outlines what this looks like in real life.  Frost quotes Brad Harper and Louis Metzger in this regard: “The church is a community of people called to relocate, reconcile, and redistribute its wealth on behalf of all people–inside and outside the church, especially the downtrodden–for Jesus’ sake.” Borrowing from (yet again) N. T. Wright, Frost summarizes this as a daily life characterized by commitments to reconciled relationships, justice, and beauty. These are thin places where God’s reign break through.

And these places can show up anywhere! Frost quotes Martin Luther to depict this: “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays–not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. . . . God is interested in good craftsmanship.” But nowhere does this show up as clearly as when we consciously choose to live present to the world and the neighbors around us. In narrating the story of missionary and sometime biblical scholar Ken Bailey, Frost remembers, “Bailey once said to me, when the going gets tough, mere presence is a powerful expression of mission.”

As often as Frost cites a theologian or biblical scholar in The Road to Missional, he also offers the story of someone on the ground–a college student in Toronto, a pastor in Phnom Penh, restauranteurs in Echo Park. For me, these stories are the real signposts on the journey from not-yet-missional to the kingdom of God. N. T. Wright, David Bosch, Bryan Stone–they give me a language to describe what I experience along the way. But these stories, they give me hope for a kingdom still to come.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

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