The Road to Missional

Recently I asked, “what is missional?”

After reading Michael Frost’s latest book The Road to Missional, I have a better idea.

Seeking to clear up confusion around the term “missional,” Frost offers a clear presentation of key concepts for how churches can become missional. The problem of the concept’s growing popularity, as Alan Hirsch points out in the preface, is that “when everything becomes missional, then nothing becomes missional.” Basically, talk is cheap. And so far, for many, the church and missional has been primarily a shift in language only.

As the one who first coined the term, Frost wants more than words. For the church be missional, it has to be more than “just another way of saying get-out-there-and-invite-your-unsaved-friends-to-church, which it is definitely not.” This traditional paradigm for the church’s role in the world places the impetus on us. And wrongly so. Frost clarifies the alternative: the church is missional only in its relation to God. Mission, then, must start with the Missio Dei - “the reign of God.”

When the church is about us, mission can turn into a mere sales pitch amidst the competing marketing of anything and everything. Frost labels this the “market-shaped church,” where evangelism - sharing the good news of Jesus Christ - measures itself in terms of efficiency and initial impact, instead of acknowledging the “slow” work of alerting people to God’s work in the work. The chapter “slow evangelism” is an incisive challenge evangelicals would do well to hear (and respond!).

For the church to be truly missional, Christians must give up control, being reminded of the mandate to follow the way of Jesus as Lord and not just Savior (much more could be said about this important point). I think Frost’s phrase, “triumphant humiliation,” is genius in describing this way of Jesus (probably my favorite phrase in the book). In suffering, Jesus brought life through his resurrection. Humility brought triumph. The same is true for the church today. Mission, then, is about “participating” with God, not being gods ourselves. Instead of complex strategies to reach people, the church is with people in their day-to-lives (Frost offers some helpful practical ways the church can be present with the people around them).

I’ve read a lot of books on the missional church. I’ll admit, I was skeptical in reading another. The discussion can become a bit redundant (boring even!). Not so here. The Road to Missional is the best summary of the missional church I’ve read. It’s accessible and readable, but without compromising a rich theology and conceptual foundation. As well, Frost writes with integrity. He’s personally wrestled through the subject matter himself. To be sure, liabilities exist in any summary project such as this (e.g. Frost’s critique of pietism needs more clarification), but such points don’t detract from the greater value the project. Here we have clarification and inspiration on a topic (the church and its mission) so many confuse, abuse, or simply ignore.

Thank you Michael Frost!

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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