Faith of Leap

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Baker Books, 2011. 224 pgs.

“All disciples of Jesus (not just a select few) are called to an ongoing, risky, actional, extravagant way of life--a life resonant with that distinctly wild--and yes, Christlike--faithfulness of their Lord and Master.”

Thus begins the book Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Teaming up once again, missional church frontiersmen Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost collaborate in challenging Western Christians to get out of the safety of the pew and enter the risk of the real world. And for them, such an approach to the Christian life is not optional.

The book’s title - “Faith of Leap” - is more than simply a play on words; it offers an important distinction: Risk and adventure are not merely actions we take once in a while when necessary (e.g. “leaps of faith”), but rather encompass a posture we need to take to life in the world as followers of Jesus. Our whole lives must incorporate a faith that is willing to risk. I appreciated the emphasis on our whole lives, not just isolated actions. Echoing Stanley Hauerwas I suspect, the authors emphasize this whole life approach to life and mission: “The church doesn’t have an agenda; it is the agenda. The church doesn’t have a missional strategy; it is the missional strategy.”

Two key concepts in developing their proposal are liminality (ch. 1) and communitas (ch. 2), terms borrowed from the field of pyschology. Liminality literally means “a threshold,” which related to Christianity is said to describe the current cultural situation. The church is in a time of transition. Words like “danger, marginality, disorientation, or ordeal” describe the Christian life in the 21st C. (or at least they should). And naturally, in a time of unpredictability people are drawn together, not by choice, but because of the situation. This is called communitas. “The bonding is deep; people get to need each other, they get to know and rely on each other.” While I’m not a big fan of new terms, the concept is true to the biblical account: God’s people are on a journey - all people, really - and significant circumstances create significant bonds. My lingering question - not easily answered - is this: should Christians go out and seek this “liminality” all the time (the author’s suggestion) or simply be ready to navigate it when it comes along?

The rest of the book (ch. 3-7) provide rationale and examples for Christians to accept risk and adventure in theology and practice. The authors draw from a variety of disciplines and stories to make their case, which begins to get a bit repetitive after awhile, I’ll admit. For the church to be truly missional, we need to take risks, be heroic and overcome our fears. All helpful themes, for sure. I’m just not convinced they needed to fill a whole book. I’d rather see risk and adventure explored alongside other aspects of theology and Christian practice, not as a concept by itself as the authors propose here. Perhaps an essay or chapter in another book would have been more appropriate.

The book's greatest strength is probably the repeated emphasis on risk and adventure being for the whole church not just individuals. In an age where personal taste and individualistic spirituality reign supreme, Hirsch and Frost do well to assert that navigating the unpredictability of faith and mission in the 21st C. is not a solo endeavor. I wholeheartedly agree.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone engaged in the missional church conversation who are wanting a little more motivation or rationale to risk implementing missional concepts in your church. 3.5/5.

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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