Kids are cute. Watching and helping them develop is, at times, hilarious. Our 2 year old son, Josiah, is saying more and more everyday. Most recently, in regards to his 9 month old sister Susannah, he has started saying that he “wuv’s sissy.” Each verbal affirmation is accompanied by a soft pat to Susannah’s back. Good times.
Although Josiah now has the ability to express his love for his sister in the abstract, he has not learned that love is specific. When Susannah reaches for any of “Josiah’s” toys she is quickly tutored by him that this is not appropriate. It’s always easier to love in the abstract without specificity.
Southern Baptists find themselves in a similar situation with regards to a Great Commission Resurgence. The staggering lostness of the world has brought Southern Baptists to their knees, pleading with God to use them in his kingdom advancement more effectively. By the grace of God, there is great support. Great Commission task forces, Great Commission emphases, Great Commission blogs, etc. are popping up everywhere. There is great excitement and momentum. That is, until the GCR gets specific.
The Question of Change
Although Southern Baptists, from the person in the pew to the heads of entities, agree about the need for a Great Commission Resurgence in the abstract, there is disagreement when the GCR gets specific. It’s always easier to champion a GCR in the abstract without specificity. After all, hardly anyone is against the Great Commission.
For instance, most recently, Pastor Ronnie Floyd delivered the progress report for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. While his report focused on broad needs, it did provide specific proposals for moving towards a genuine GCR. Floyd, very reasonably, argued that the SBC should make a number of changes in order to be more effective for the kingdom. In other words, representing the GCRTF, he showed with some specificity what a genuine Great Commission Resurgence could look like. The task force recommended meaningful changes in the ways Southern Baptists are trying to reach America and the ends of the earth with the gospel.
But, specificity in relation to a GCR has been met with great opposition. Recently, BP news highlighted the Alabama State Evangelism Directors response to some of Floyd’s presentation. Sammy Gilbreath believes that adjusting the funding structure between state conventions and NAMB, one of the areas addressed by Floyd, “would devastate us.” BP news also notes the words of Gary Swafford, director of the SBOM associational missions and church planting office. He states, “Alabama is a missions field, too. This will change the way we do church planting and eliminate major ministries across the state.”
The article continues by showing the many ways that the state convention and associations would be effected. Readers learn that many ministries would be cut as a result of the change. Amongst the many listed reductions, Bobby DuBois, SBOM associate executive director, notes that the “Baldwin association would lose the state’s resort missionary.” The article concludes with some words from Rick Lance, “there is no way Alabama Baptists can pay for all the ministries and missions now supported jointly with NAMB.”
Without a doubt, the article paints a grim picture. If Southern Baptists only read this article, they would probably conclude that the specifics of a Great Commission Resurgence actually hurt the Great Commission. The ministries that would have to be cut leave the reader with the idea that there would be no way to continue these ministries and, thus, these people would never be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, it would seem that the GCR proposal should be rejected so that the lost can be reached or the GCR should be accepted resulting in the devastation of the ministries of the Alabama state convention. It’s always easier to support a GCR in the abstract without specifics.
The Direction of Change
Like love, a GCR will be meaningless without specific action. And there will be disagreements over the specifics. These specifics, no doubt, will be weighty. Real change affects real people in real situations. Perhaps it will be helpful to keep a few things in mind as GCR discussions move forward.
First, somebody and something has to change. Is this obvious? Yes and no. Yes, everyone knows that somebody and something has to change. No, hardly anyone thinks that “somebody” is them and that “something” is their ministry. If Southern Baptists are not willing to look at their lives, jobs, and areas of influence with the same critical eye that they look at their least favorite ministry, then this whole thing will be superficial. Life is too short and Christ is too glorious to waste time thinking a GCR will happen when “other” people change. Somebody has to change in order for there to be a GCR and you’re one of those somebody’s (and so am I!). There can be no sacred cows, no untouchable aspects of your life, your ministry, or your job. All of these are precious gifts, but none of them should be treated as though they are on the level of Christ’s mission in the world.
Part 2 to be posted shortly…
Baptist21 is grateful for the leadership and work of Douglas Baker, Editor of The Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma. The Baptist Messenger has led the way, as far as Baptist publications go, in highlighting the work of the GCRTF. Head over to their website and peruse a multitude of GCR stories and interviews. Baptist21 would like to highlight two recent articles of note concerning the Great Commission Resurgence and its recent progress report. The first a podcast interview with Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University. The other article to check out is an editorial written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
By Jacob Wright • March 18, 2010
In the Fall of 2008, voices began to surface across various places in the Southern Baptist Convention calling for renewal and revival in local congregations and in the agencies, institutions, commissions and entities found by Southern Baptists.
The phrase, “Great Commission Resurgence,” was originally coined by Lifeway Christian Resources President Thom Rainer; further defined by the Southeastern Seminary’s president, Danny Akin—in a Spring 2009 chapel address—“Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence”—and championed by Johnny Hunt, Senior Pastor of Woodstock, Ga., First, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Before the formal launch of the idea now turned movement, Union University President David Dockery convened two conferences in 2004 and 2007 on the Union campus which many believe served as the catalyst and a formal codification of Baptist Identity in this decade and Southern Baptist doctrine and polity in particular.
Dockery wrote a small book distributed at the Southern Baptist Convention titled Building Bridges (2007) and later wrote the book—Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal—a volume which has received widespread appreciation from all quadrants of the SBC. His newest volume—Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future—is a compilation of the talks given across the span of the two Baptist Identity Conferences held on Union’s campus.
For this special edition of the Messenger Insight, Dockery answers questions about the initial progress report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force first presented on Feb. 22 to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Louie Devotie Newton— What is a Baptist?; Baptists before Southern Baptists?; The Baptist Association—its past and future; From associations to state conventions; The Triennial Convention of 1814—Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice; William B. Johnson—Two Plans Considered: One Convention or Missionary Society?; Disagreement from the start—Was the SBC a replacement for state conventions?; The SBC Foreign Mission Board and Domestic Mission Board in 1845—their means of support and development; “Agents” among the churches—fundraising among Southern Baptists in the 19th Century; The 75 Million Campaign and the 1920 SBC Conservation Committee; The Origin of the Cooperative Program; E.Y. Mullins and the Business and Efficiency Plan of 1928; Constant Changes in the Cooperative Program—Who does what?; Albert McClellan—state conventions always the CP promotional partner?; The SBC Executive Committee, state conventions, and the Cooperative Program; GCRTF—Return the CP to the states —a change?; A merger of the two mission boards in 1914?; Competition between entities and agencies of the SBC?; GCRTF—authority over national/state convention?; GCRTF Demographic changes demand change to impact lostness; GCRTF— Implementation over many years; A 50/50 split between the state and national convention?; State by state CP allocations—one size fits all?; GCRTF—Funds to the nations; The Cultural Mandate, The Great Commandment, and the Great Commission; Great Commission Partners.
State conventions and preferred items for CP promotion; state conventions —closer to the churches; GCRTF—an attempt to weaken state conventions?; What are cooperative agreements between NAMB and state conventions?; Albert Mohler and Glen Land on cooperative agreements—channeled and untraceable?; Too much or too little accountability in cooperative agreements?; NAMB’s funding matrix; state conventions are to “budget accordingly?”; The GCRTF—casting an overarching vision; GCRTF —Future conversations are imperative; The final GCRTF Report—Details to be worked out by state conventions, agencies, and entities; GCR —Re-prioritizing a missional culture for the SBC; Has the SBC moved away “from the primacy and centrality of the local church?”; Nashville is not Rome—Bottom up not top down; GCRTF—Baptists not bishops; 70 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining; Stewardship education remains imperative; GCRTF—Recommendation #2: From whom should the NAMB “released” and to whom should the NAMB be “released”?; NAMB priorities —have they changed?; NAMB research error in reporting to the GCRTF—Will this change the final report?; Personal change in GCRTF members; The IMB—international missionaries on U.S. soil?; GCRTF—Movement toward one global mission board?; Great Commission Giving—the demise of the Cooperative Program?; GCRTF—CP designated/non-designated giving; CP not a priority for younger pastors—why?; Draper, Chapman, Henry —heroes of the CP; Union University, Baptist Identity Conferences, and the GCR; Johnny Hunt—Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal; Balkanization of the SBC?; Why remain a Southern Baptist and be committed to a GCR?; The Gospel to the nations.
By R. Albert Mohler Jr. • March 17, 2010
God’s people are never without an assignment, and the Southern Baptist Convention came into being more than a century and a half ago as a means of answering the call of the nations and mobilizing Southern Baptists for the Great Commission. Thankfully, we are still focused on that call. Strategically, we must ask if there is a way to do even more.
When Baptists came together to form the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, they left Augusta, Ga. with a clear sense of purpose, a unique Southern Baptist way of mobilizing for missions, and a brave commitment to move into the future together. Nothing less than those commitments is demanded of us now.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has been assigned to consider how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively in obeying the Great Commission. We face unprecedented challenges even as we see unlimited opportunities.
Let’s be thankful for this —Southern Baptists still believe in the Great Commission. While so many other denominations have experienced a loss of theological nerve and a decrease of Great Commission commitment, Southern Baptists have experienced a theological recovery that underlines the very theological convictions that brought the Convention into being. We know that there is no hope of salvation apart from Christ, and we know that those who believe in Christ will be saved. Of these truths we are certain, and this fuels our passion.
The great question for Southern Baptists now is this—will this passion be translated into concrete action and the mobilization of greater numbers of missionaries for the mission fields of the world?
The interim report of the Task Force is out, and I am encouraged by the interest and insights of Southern Baptists from across the country who, along with our missionaries around the world, have responded with eagerness, excitement and new ideas.
At the same time, it is clear that some areas of our report and intentions need to be explained and discussed further. This is why we released an interim report. We want to hear from Southern Baptists and to find a way to do even more, together, for the glory of God.
One particular aspect of recent discussions offers a good opportunity for all Southern Baptists to reclaim and affirm every good thing we do together in the service of the Gospel of Christ.
A key aspect of this is the relationship of the Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions. Outsiders often have a difficult time understanding the structure of the Southern Baptist Convention and our cooperative Baptist work. The SBC is not a national entity with state and local divisions. Baptist associations and state conventions exist on their own right and direct their own mission programs and work.
At the same time, the national convention and the state conventions must work together, rather than competitively. There is more than enough for all of us to do, and it will take all of us doing all within our reach if we are to be faithful in the future, even as we look to the achievements of the past.
We do not want to weaken or marginalize the state conventions. To the contrary, we want to see the state conventions play an even greater role in the future.
I am the product of Southern Baptist work at every level and in every context. In my childhood and youth I had the privilege of belonging to two churches that were deeply involved in the SBC and Baptist work at every level. I attended choir festivals and clinics conducted by the local association. As a boy, one of my chief ambitions was to attend Royal Ambassador camp at Lake Yale, the assembly of the Florida Baptist Convention. I attended a Baptist university deeply connected to its own state convention.
I made my profession of faith in Christ after hearing the Gospel preached in Vacation Bible School. I first experienced a call to ministry while sitting in the auditorium of the state convention’s assembly—a nine-year-old in an RA t-shirt and camp shorts who felt, quite unexpectedly, that God might be calling me to full-time Christian service. I was propelled in ministry and theological education by a state convention college. As president of its student ministerial association, I traveled with the university’s president to the state convention meeting and sessions of its state missions board.
Later, I received my theological education at The Southern Seminary, where for 17 years I have had the experience of serving as president. I have been across this nation and in far regions of the globe where I have seen first-hand the commitment and faithfulness of Southern Baptist missionaries, church planters and other Great Commission workers.
I would never put my name on any proposal that would weaken any aspect of our work together. I want Southern Baptists of the future to have ever richer opportunities than I knew.
We hear the call of the nations; we feel the energy of younger pastors and Baptist leaders at every level who call for us to do more, not less; we are determined to bring a report that will thrill and unify Southern Baptists at every level.
So, we have work yet to do. We asked Southern Baptists to suggest what they thought needed to be changed or adjusted in order for us to work more faithfully together. We received an earful—all valuable and graciously offered. Our report reflects these suggestions, and is driven by sense of urgency.
The bare facts speak for themselves. In the United States, Southern Baptists are falling behind in reaching the great cities, ethnic populations and underserved regions. We must do what it takes to redirect all of us toward greater faithfulness. Around the world, there are more than 5,000 unreached people groups. We know the Great Commission, and we know our task. Are we willing to do whatever it takes to move us into greater effectiveness and faithfulness?
That question will be answered first in the hearts of individual Southern Baptists. Next, it will be answered by our churches. Eventually, every aspect of our denominational work will give its own answer.
We know what that answer must be. We must be willing to do whatever it takes. I am convinced that Southern Baptists will answer this call—and I am also convinced that we can only answer it together.
The Great Commission Resurgence will never happen if it is not embraced by Southern Baptists who are deployed for the Great Commission in every dimension of our work, from the Southern Baptist Convention to every state convention and association.
I am so thankful for the commitment and generosity of Oklahoma Baptists. I am humbled by your commitment and invigorated by your vision. I am thankful for the visionary leadership of Anthony Jordan, and I deeply appreciate his personal words of encouragement and counsel to me and to the Task Force.
Our work is not yet finished—not by a long shot. But we are determined to arrive in Orlando with a report that the Southern Baptist Convention will eagerly embrace. Pray for us as we work to that end, and give us your best thoughts. It will take all of us working together to make this happen.
It has been years now since I was that boy in t-shirt and camp shorts at Royal Ambassador camp, but I still have the same excitement to be a part of what Southern Baptists are doing at home and around the world. Let’s move into the future determined to do even more, together, for the glory of God.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of Southern Seminary.
One of Baptist21’s Contributors (Nathan Akin) was published in the Global Missiology Quarterly. His contribution is entitled, “AN EXAMINATION OF MICHAEL FROST’S EXILES: LIVING MISSIONARLLY IN A POST-CHRISTIAN CULTURE” (click here for the full PDF)
Baptist21 is posting the full article in 2 parts.
Part 2 -
Frustrations with the Book
However, there are some frustrations with this work. He rightly critiques the church in the west for being captured by modernity, but he in turn needs to be careful that he is not captured by Post- modnerity. I think in some ways you see this effecting his hermeneutic, as he seems to be egalitarian. Another big problem I have is with his social views. I think he rightly critiques the church for being far to little concerned with the poor and helpless, but in all this political rhetoric that I am hearing from this so-called “new evangelicalism,” it is frustrating not to hear them talk about abortion. Frost barely mentions abortion and really gives very little of a moral judgment of it. If we are going to be about the poor and defenseless, as this left agenda is calling for our conversation has to start with babies being killed in the womb. Indeed, fighting for abortion, orphan care, prostitution of children, oppression, and defending the helpless should all go hand in hand. I think this creeping agenda needs to be very careful to not sell their souls to the left as they most of the time rightly accuse conservative evangelicalism of selling their souls to the “right.”
In addition, he is writing a work about Ecclesiology but never mentions church leadership (other than to degrade it as being a trained professional that is always a man, this seems to forget that Paul used an awful lot of ink speaking about characteristics of an elder), regenerate membership (or membership at all for that matter, though it seems the Author of Hebrews is concerned about our involvement in the Church), church discipline, or Preaching (other than to again degrade it as being a monologue by a trained professional).
I think that his ecclesiology is to loose and that makes sense since he says he is calling for a “liquid church.” I also have some frustration with his thoughts on the “neo-apostolics.” Though I think the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention rightly has a mentality similar to this African Church Planter mentioned previously, this movement seems to miss the fact that Paul calls for no “recent convert” to be in a place of leadership. These rapid growing movements run the danger of syncretism because they place baby believers in places of leadership. He tries to quell concerns about heresy showing up in movements like these, but does so with no documentation or writing to back it up. Regardless, I think we have something to learn here about not relying on books, seminaries, buildings, conferences, and the like. And we can learn from the strategy in place, but we just need to make sure that the Missionary/Church Planter sticks around and pours his life into those people until they are healthy enough to lead a church. Healthier churches will beget healthier churches.
What We Need to Learn
So what do we have to learn from missional/incarnational stream? I think a good deal.
1. To Be Missional- (by missional I mean considering ourselves missionaries in the culture we live and by implication finding the places in or culture where the lost are and engaging them there, as Jesus did.) We have to learn that all our programs, though there is nothing inherently wrong about them, distract us from being like Jesus and engaging the Lost where they are. That might mean less programs at a church building and actually engaging the lost at the “third places” Frost mentions.
2. We Don’t Go To Church, We Are the Church- “Being the Church” is not a one-time a week “event” on Sunday morning. We have to remove ourselves from our insulated “Christian bubble” that is most of our churches and engage the tough, dangerous places where the lost are waiting.
3. We are Called to be a Missional-Community- We are to love one another, serve one another, be about “undefiled religion,” be on mission together, and I would add what he leaves out, worship corporately together. This will help us navigate the small pathway between syncretism and sectarianism, but that is why we are to do this in community and hold one another accountable.
4. We Must Break Down the Secular/Sacred Divide- We must begin to see all of life, every activity as an act of worship. That will change how we work, play, live, and think.
5. We Need to be Much More Dangerous- We also need to learn to have a much more dangerous mentality, in our singing and in our critiques of the host culture. A sissified Jesus and love songs to Him will not cut it. Instead, we are to engage the tough places and dirty places.
6. We Will Avoid the “Showy” Mentality of Much Modern Church- We must learn that large shows that pander to our consumer nature will not create the kind of disciples that
are ready to suffer for the faith. Instead, we are called to something much more radical than tanks on a stage; we are called to follow in the footsteps of the meek Nazarene.
Baptist21 is excited about putting on a GCR panel discussion during a Wednesday Chapel hour at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a critical time in the life of our convention. The GCR Task Force preliminary report is causing much buzz, and this will only increase as we move closer to Orlando in June. This panel will seek to address the issues being raised so that there is great clarity when the final report and recommendations are given at the annual meeting.
- What: A panel discussion about the Great Commission Resurgence and the Task Force Report.
- When: Wednesday April 28th at 10AM-11AM
- Where: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Binkley Chapel
- Also Participating:
- Why: No doubt the GCRTF Report delivered by Ronnie Floyd to the Executive Committee has raised many questions and concerns. This panel will be focused on the Task Force Members bringing answers and clarity to these questions and concerns. What is the report about? And what will be the consequences if the report is adopted in Orlando? These questions and more will be answered.
Most likely the event will be live-streamed on the internet. This will allow those unable to attend in person to watch what is happening. This will also allow you to participate in the panel Q & A. The Task Force has openly asked for the questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. of Southern Baptists. This panel will give Southern Baptists an opportunity to present these to Task Force members. In a future blog we will give an opportunity for Southern Baptists to submit questions for the panel members to answer during the panel. We also hope to give opportunity for questions to be text messaged in during the panel. Stay tuned and make every effort to be at the panel if you can!
Baptist21 would like to make our readers aware of Global Missiology. Global Missiology is a quarterly publication of contributions from international researchers, practitioners and scholars who have a global perspective. This quarterly was founded in the summer of 2003. Global Missiology’s purpose is to provide a quarterly publication with a commitment to the world-wide mission of the Church and the biblical mandate to “make disciples”. It is, by design, a venue for electronic, interactive exchanges among researchers, practitioners and scholars who have an international scope and global concerns. GO CHECK IT OUT
One of Baptist21’s Contributors (Nathan Akin) was published in the Global Missiology Quarterly. His contribution is entitled, “AN EXAMINATION OF MICHAEL FROST’S EXILES: LIVING MISSIONALLY IN A POST-CHRISTIAN CULTURE” (click here for the full PDF)
We will post the article in two parts here at Baptist21:
Part 1 –
Though some Evangelicals are uncomfortable by the term “missional,” we have a thing or two to learn from the stream of church labeled by some as missional-incarnational. In particular, I think we have much to learn from Michael Frost’s Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture. And though I certainly have issues with some of his thoughts, there is a good deal to learn and seek to implement in our churches from this work. In particular, Evangelicals1 need to hear what he has to say about Christendom, his critique of some of the “trendy” ways of doing church, Incarnational-Mission, “Third Places,” “Communitas,” and “Liminality.”
Highlights of the Book
In chapter one, Frost analyzes Christendom and what he deems the “institutionalized church.” Frost points out that Christendom, brought on by the Edict of Milan, ushered in a church that was no longer dynamic and revolutionary. Instead, the Church became institutionalized and a place that everyone by birth became a member. He says, “The death of Christendom removes the final props that have supported the culturally respectable, mainstream, suburban version of Christianity… wherein church attendance has very little effect on lifestyles… with the death of Christendom the game is up. There’s less and less reason for such upstanding citizens to join with the Christian community for the sake of respectability or acceptance… leaving only the faithful behind to rediscover the Christian experiences as it was intended: a radical, subversive, compassionate community of followers of Jesus” (p.7-8). Unfortunately, many Evangelicals are still living as if in a Christendom context, which leaves us with nominal Christians worshiping in nominal churches. We have to seek ways to overcome this mentalitys by making discipleship as costly as Jesus says it will be and by instructing our people, that church is not a one-time event at a building on Sunday. But therein lies the challenge and the blessing, if we will break free from this we may see more radical followers with authentic Christian lives that are both attractional and missional, and that is what Frost is calling us to.
In the next chapter, he tells us what will move us past the stranglehold of Christendom. He says it will happen through recapturing the radical nature and person of Christ. This means, according to Frost, that we must rid ourselves of the effeminate Christ of our culture. He says this will make us missional, being where the lost are, as we seek to be like the one who hung out with sinners. He also points out that the life of Christ helps us shatter the divide between the sacred/non-sacred. I think this is essential to Southern Baptist life, because we have for too long seen Sunday as the day of “worship” and then the rest of the week something else. So, for example, evangelism becomes something we “do” rather than a life we live, and we see evangelism as merely getting the lost in the church door on Sunday. We see church as the place where we wear our “best” because we want to honor God on that day with our “best,” and as a result, we set up a life that sees the other days of the week as having little to do with God or His presence in our lives. In addition, we rarely engage our church community outside of the church building, and so we certainly do not reflect the community aspect of the church in the book of Acts. Instead, we must see all of life as worship and the church as something we “are” not something we go “to.”
In chapter 3, he delivers a stinging critique of some modern, “hip” ways of doing church. He tells the story of an innovative pastor who thought Frost would be impressed that their church had recently driven a tank on stage as part of the Sunday morning festivities. He simply asks the questions, “Do you think Jesus would do such a thing… Driving a tank into the pulpit might be cool (well, it would certainly grab everyone’s attention, I suppose), but is it a reflection of the Christ?” (50-51). He continues, “If you cant picture Jesus driving a tank or pouring millions of dollars into new church-building projects, then you are forced to allow the dangerous ancient stories to judge the insipid contemporary ones” (51). He says much of these kinds of activities demonstrate that we are captivated by the culture.
Instead of these huge attractional shows, we must be about “Incarnational Mission,” being where the lost are. An Incarnational approach will contain four elements:
1) Active sharing of life 2) Use of the language and thought forms of those we are sharing Jesus with 3) Preparedness to go to the people 4) Confidence in the gospel being communicated by ordinary means of servanthood, good deeds, and loving relationships.
Based on his thoughts of incarnational ministry he introduces the term “third places.” Third places are where people regularly hang out with friends and let their guards down. So, first place is home, second place is work, and the third place is bars, coffee shops, cafés, and more. He is calling for the believing community to engage these places. He points out that the problem with church is that we fill the week with so many programs that our members never engage these 3rd places. Instead, we need to meet and form relationships with the lost in these “3rd places.” That may mean doing something like putting your children in a community basketball league instead of an “Upward’s” basketball league, or having small group times at local coffee shops and engaging the management and patrons.
In chapter five, Frost introduces two concepts that are worth the book, “Communitas” and “Liminality.” He says of communitas, “communitas denotes an intense feeling of social togetherness and belonging, often in connection with religious rituals, in which people stand together ‘outside’ society, and society is strengthened by this” (110). He believes that this communitas is stronger than just community. He believes community for its own sake eventually breaks down or I would add in church, community moves to sectarianism. Instead, he says this a call for community that is strengthened by the Mission. And this is where he introduces Liminality; liminality is caused when a group of people is moving between two stages. The example he uses is that of the boys becoming men in an African Culture who are taken outside the camp to be taught the ways of men in their society. They are in a liminal stage in which they are no longer part of society as they were, nor as they will be, but instead, “In the period of liminality, the initiates progressively achieved a release from conformity to general norms and experienced a profound and collective sentiment for each other. This sense of ‘supercommunity’ also included or was stimulated by the quest for and presence of a sacred space, god, or spirit…this wonderful experience of interconnectedness between initiates ‘communitas’” (109- 110). Other examples of Liminality can be the kind of bond formed by military platoons, sport’s teams, and missionary communities. He breaks down the differences between community and communitas, community is inward focused whereas communitas is about social togetherness outside of society. He continues, community is focused on encouraging one another whereas communitas focuses on the task at hand, community is a safe place whereas communitas pushes society forward, and finally community is something to be built whereas communitas is experienced through liminality. He points out that practically speaking churches will begin to sense liminality as they engage in mission trips together and church planting. These must be missions that are tough to undertake and demanding, but bring the community together around a radical sense of mission. Unfortunately, Christendom Christianity values safety over mission and liminality, especially with our teenagers. He concludes the chapter by indicating that many churches have it backwards, thinking they have to get their stuff straight before they get on Mission, and instead they need to get on mission to get stuff in order. I think the importance of Liminality for our people is that it should move us from non-missional to missional and from community to communitas. That will help us form a radical bond and a radical sense of mission that will energize our churches and as we engage in these tough liminal mission endeavors it will break us from our nominal, Christendom Christianity.
In chapter 6, entitled “Fashioning Collectives of Exiles,” he tells of an African Native who church plants. He reports that this man simply shares the gospel with many people until he has a group of fresh believers and then turns them into a church. He says movements like this are “popping” up all over the world and he labels this group “neo-apostolics.” He says these groups are spreading rapidly in places like Africa and China, and they are doing so without seminaries, books, and conferences. Although, again he never really points out what these churches look like (will say more about the neo-apostolics in the “Frustrations” Section below)
In the next few chapters, Frost challenges believers to be generous, practice hospitality, and work righteously. The next section calls for mercy ministry action. He calls for believers to critique and work to stop injustice around the world, he calls for believers to practice creation care, and finally to protect the oppressed. The final section critiques the passivity of our times of worship and the nature of our songs in worship. Finally, he criticizes our view of God and Christ. He rightly asserts that too much of our worship focuses on our reactions to God or how God makes us feel, rather than focusing on the nature and attributes of God. In addition, he deconstructs the idea of treating Christ as our boyfriend. He says that only when we see the relationship as committed like a strong marriage rather than an infatuation will we be able to be the insurgents to within the host culture we need to be.
There is much more to the book, I have only interacted with some of the highlights. It is worth the read and should challenge you as you think about how we will “be” the church in an increasingly post-Christian age.
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