UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Exiles
Exiles Exiles
Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture

Michael Frost
ISBN 9781565636705 (1565636708)
Hendrickson, 2006

Category: Emerging Church & Postmodern Faith

A better subtitle for this book, I think, would have been A Missional Manifesto — because that's what Michael Frost is offering us here: a manifesto for Christians living in exile.

In exile? Yes, because that's where so many of us who are Christians in the 21st Century find ourselves, alienated from a church that seems to have lost its way and its founder's vision; and alienated from a society that tries to deny any form of spirituality that challenges its self-indulgent values. Frost spells out who the book is for at the outset:

This book is written for those Christians who find themselves falling into the cracks between contemporary secular Western culture and a quaint, old-fashioned church culture of respectability and conservatism. This book is for the many people who wish to be faithful followers of the radical Jesus but no longer find themselves able to fit into the bland, unsavory straitjacket of a church that seems to be yearning for the days when "everyone" used to attend church and "Christian family values" reigned. (p.3)

Just to be contrary, I started with the last chapter — the title intrigued me: "The Songs of Revolution: The Song: Jesus Ain't My Boyfriend". It's a powerful critique of those soppy contemporary worship songs that seem to be about falling in love with Jesus. Frost calls us to sing something more robust: not military anthems, but songs with substance, songs suitable for a revolution — because, he argues, revolution is what following Jesus in exile is all about.

The primary emphasis throughout the book is missional: pursuing a lifestyle that aligns us with Jesus' mission in the world. Frost gives us extensive lists of ideals and values which he believes that missional living requires as well as dozens of examples from exile communities. It's an approach that some will find helpful, though I personally found them both too many and too prescriptive, with an implicit suggestion that if you don't follow these rules or guidelines then you're missing the mark, not living an authentic lifestyle — echoing the very approach that has driven many into exile in the first place.

This is not a book to read in a hurry: there's too much in it. It's one, rather, to take time over, several months at least if you're going to reflect thoroughly on the issues raised, making it more of a journey than a simple book. But beware: this journey is no easy ride in the back seat of a Cadillac — it's an off-road ride in a 4x4 with a driver who's not afraid of either his vehicle or the terrain. Frost is a dangerous driver, and he'll take you places beyond your comfort zone. He's also a dangerous writer, writing straight from the heart, straight to the mind, no messing. Read it: you may not enjoy it, you certainly won't always agree with it, but you won't regret it.

Michael Frost: More Info | Publisher's Info Page

Phil Groom, May 2007

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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