Michael Frost | Faith & Mission in a Disengaged World | Graham Joseph Hill

Michael Frost | Faith & Mission in a Disengaged World | Graham Joseph Hill
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hello and welcome to the global church project I'm Graham Hill Michael frost is an internationally recognized missie ologist and one of the leading voices in the missional church movement his books are required reading in colleges and seminaries around the world and he's a much sought after the International Conference speaker he's a church planter and college professor and the founder of the forge mission training Network with Alan Hirsch Micah frost is author and editor of numerous books many of these are received wide acclaim he co-authored the highly successful and award-winning the shaping of things to come micro Frost explores a missional framework for the church and discipleship in a postmodern post Kristen DiMera welcome to being missional you've written that we flesh the human experience what do you mean by that well oh I get got too heavy and philosophical right off the bat but effectively phosphors would say that after you know nearly 300 years of what's called the Enlightenment project or modernism which has been about kind of knowledge as the primary framework for for truth claims and perception in the world we have increasingly as human beings learned to live in our heads as a word so I mean you'll know that most people know that they're kind of the kind of the matter if you like of the Enlightenment was I think therefore I am and so the sum total of Michael frost is what he thinks and what he knows and he sense of consciousness and so therefore those sorts of things that we used to know in our bodies and those things that we used to hold as truth collectively a sense of connection to our environment those things are increasingly lost so knowledge now almost entirely resides in in thinking processes which is meant we're becoming Simmi defleshed but as I say so you know your dad used to know it was gonna rain because he's bunions are playing up or your mom used to know how to cook not because she she read a recipe because she she tastes stuff was a handful of this of a pinch of that that was embodied knowledge though we knew things and how our fingertips taste buds that's increasingly rare particularly in the West so I'm saying this defleshing process means this withdrawal into the processes of thinking and then when you add the internet to that it's as if knowledge operates in some disembodied space that I access through thinking now that's on evil or terrible but that has implications for life how do you think that's affected discipleship and church life today yeah I think it's chiefly led discipleship to to be reduced to the appropriation of knowledge and ideas and I mean when I when I talk this way I'm not wanting to say there's anything wrong with knowledge their ideas but I also want to suggest that there's something really valuable that's lost when I only live in my head I only know God in my head I only worship in my head I mean if you look at the way we worship these days there's a sense which I close my eyes I've disconnected from anybody around me I'm experiencing Jesus in my imagination there may be an effective emotional response to that it's all disconnected defleshed experience I mean I mean you'll know for hundreds of years Christians actually used to worship with their bodies they still kneel is to stand these to walk the Stations of the Cross these to go on pilgrimages so embodied are in flesh you know worship was just the order of the day it's how we in countered gods but now of course I can do a totally solo and it all happens in my imagination I'm going to keep saying the same thing over and over there's nothing wrong with encounter and got in your imagination my only concern is that if that's the only place we encounter him we lose touch with what it looks like to see God to know God to encounter God to represent God physically in relationship with others in place in the context of the world and I think something important is lost when when that happens you know disembodied or ex carnate age how do we got Christians leaving embody faith one of the steps I think would be to point this out so I've done you know I wrote a book called ex-con no it's called econo I wrote a book called incarnate which kind of highlights these kinds of things and I've done countless seminars and conference talks on this and the first step for a lot of people is like oh I didn't even thought about that I just assumed it was normal that discipleship was just Bible study and learnings of doctrine other was normal that worship was just something that happens in your in your imagination I thought it was reasonable that the kind of the best way to get Bible teaching was to listen to podcasts for my favorite preachers who might never met I thought these things were just normal and for many people they have become normal but just pointing out that there's nothing wrong with any of those things I just mentioned but the pointing out actually surely to be a follower of Jesus means to live an in fleshed spirituality we know that they're kind of the primary Christian doctrine is the doctrine of the Incarnation God takes on flesh and dwells among us that's not to minimize you know other doctrines but I'd agree with CS Lewis when he says that's the central miracle in history all miracles before the Incarnation effectively point to it or anticipate it and every miracle since flows from it and that includes the resurrection and so in that respect if the Incarnate God is at the very center of Christian spirit reality that a call to live in an in fleshed communal way would have to be kind of central to who we are what we do we have the incarnate ones in that sense now there's only one incarnation capital I but in the sense that we are seeking to emulate the work of Christ in this world seeing him as out as our Savior and our Lord and our model we can't be Jesus but we can't embrace the values of Christ and they are actually about being present being in fleshed touching healing community these kinds of things are are really important so how do we do it highlight the effects of the Enlightenment and the way over hundreds of years they have shaped a different form of consciousness and spirituality and then I'd suggest there are all sorts of embodied liturgical practices that are about getting into your body in worship they're about being much more engaged in community being present with people opening the Bible together not just privately what does it look like to live in the neighborhood to know your neighbors to be committed to the purposes of God in in fleshed present proximate ways all of those kinds of practices are I think essential I think they're they ought to just be seen as standard operating procedures for Christians I imagine it has an effect on mission as well so notice mission applied in an expanded age versus incarnation or mission well I think incarnation or mission in an ex-con at age is about modeling to our ex-con of neighborhoods what an alternative way of living looks like I mean their neighborhoods as you'll know you know people don't even know their neighbors names they've kind of know them enough to maybe not at them as they're driving in and out of the driveway but once the the garage door comes down like you're in your her medically sealed environment we drive to shopping malls where we're not connected to our neighborhoods increasingly in many ways and yeah I think there's a yearning within many people in the West for something different to that and I think that for Christians mission ly to be the people in the neighborhood who are most connected to the environment they're most aware that our neighborhood has a creek that runs through it or a river that was there or that there's a mountain here or that there's there's good meat to care for the coastline or whatever situation you find yourself in Orient's is outward into the place or the space of which we're part it will also therefore orient us outward toward our neighbors there ought to be we ought to be the people who are introducing neighbors to each other we should be the ones who know them who are present in their lives in the midst of all of that of course when we're alerting people to the kingdom values of justice and reconciliation beauty wholeness those kinds of things now there's an evangelistic dimension to all of that but forever we want to jump to evangelism and say something to our neighbor before we've done any of that kind of outward engagement living an in fleshed embodied engaged form of Christlikeness under the noses of those who have not yet been set free I mentioned as you travel around in the space and other places you come across groups that are trying to intentionally move into the neighborhood or getting involved in placemaking can you think of any stories or examples of where that's being done creatively and well oh you have a countless countless I really like the the network in there mainly in the north okay oh I think they down down in London and places like that as well effectively they're moving 20-somethings into housing estates or public housing centers I mean I encountered a number of those guys where these people are leaving kind of well-to-do suburbs they're usually kind of middle-class well-educated kind of people but they're choosing to live in in working-class often very depressed high levels of unemployment high levels of non-english speaking neighbors and the like and effectively remember one telling me that she spent a year just nodding and smiling and saying good morning to her neighbors because they would walk down the hall past each other or in the street the normal thing was to you know drop your head and and so she would like you know morning in behind it just a year she said before neighbors starting started saying good morning and hello better than a year-long project just to get neighbors to look up and then beyond that of course it was a whole bunch of other relational things they did with sport and barbecues and family sort of stuff but I mean that's a fleshed Christlikeness that's like I see you I notice you I'm interested in you I love you I'm present you know you're saying something about the character and nature of God as a representative of that God in that neighborhood that's not a dramatic story but stories like that on what looks like to slowly take this calcify d fleshed disengaged neighborhood kind of start to crack and open a bit so that there might be possibility for us to a load people thought the rain if god looks like in in places like that but of course you know there's all sorts of projects about kind of community gardens and you know cleaning up broken neighborhoods and hosting meals and those sorts of things I heard a great story recently from a guy in Chicago he was telling me that he drove he went to his local Chinese takeaway store phoned the order went there to pick it up was waiting for it to be ready and he looked across as another guy waiting in the restaurant takeaway as well and he looked at they looked at each other like I think I know you but sort of little moment of recognition no that was it got the takeaway food went out to the car same with the other guy got in their cars drove off home he said he pulled into the driveway now were these takeaway Chinese food and the neighbors car pulled in right next to him and they got out of the car it's the guy from the restaurant and he said if I take away like Chinese food in my hand I looked over the roof of my car at him and he looked at me and we'd like nodded and then we just walked into our houses and I'd our meal together man that's that's suburbia like that's what people live with all the time now he was a Christian telling me that he said at that time I just did what suburban people do I just nodded and walked into the house he said but I've come to realize that that's not what Jesus would do like Jesus would like at least say hello Jesus would say why don't we share a meal together or you won't bring your family over or I mean these might seem like the incredibly simple little suburban things but I think they're actually central to what it is for us to ask what does it in flesh way of living like Jesus looked like and we often want to run some big program or we want to advertise some some new ministry that we've got going in our churches while there are people kind of dying in our neighborhoods from disengagement and loneliness well I see a bit about evangelism and it's relationships and we sat down how does the mission of God reshape our understanding and practice of evangelism well I understand that the mission of God is to alert everyone to his universal reign through Christ so for me the mission of guys were anchored or rooted in a fundamental assumption that God reigns through Christ and so figuring out what the reign of God looks like is is a kind of key project for any follower of Jesus which always amazes me because it feels to me as though you could go to just about any church and ask them hey what is the gospel and they might have a you know a fairly reasonable cracker telling you whatever their particular version of that might be but my guess would be he could get at most Christians and say hey could you explain to me what the reign of God looks like and my guess is most another clue we haven't even given them a language that there are no kind of key concepts Pentecostals might say are the reign of God is about healing and you know ecstatic experiences of God or evangelicals might say what it's about his resurrection and the dead door but by and large if our job is to participate in the mission of God and the mission of goes to alert people to the fact that he reigns through Christ then it would follow that our job is to help people see the reign of God and if we can't even explain it we can't even have categories to understand it and then we haven't even thrown six and got started in the game like when we're stuck so for me if the if the mission of God is to alert people to his universal reign through Christ and we have been invited to participate in that work but to me it just follows that we would do that in one of two broad ways we would show people what the rate of God looks like and for me that that would be categories like justice and reconciliation beauty wholeness those sorts of things that would include healing it would include ecstatic experience the presence of God would also include feeding the poor and clothing the naked it would also be about reconciling people to each other since at the very heart of what we were saying the gospel to be is reconciliation between God and humankind and then that would also have repercussions racially socially within families and the like we would want to we would want to show what it looks like hey my job is too lonely to the right of God here's what it looks like looks like justice and reconciliation and those sorts of things but I would also say just as David Bosch says that unexplained deeds do not in and of themselves constitute the mission of God so I can't perform acts of justice or seek to broker reconciliation or bring about wholeness without ever explaining to somebody that that actually is an indication of the reign of God and that requires words so this line that people often say that Saint Francis said preach the gospel always and if necessary use words well I think it's David Bosch again says to that of course words are necessary like it's ridiculous to suggest such a thing unexplained deeds in and of themselves don't constitute the mission of God so evangelism for me is explaining what the rate of God looks like identifying Jesus as king and calling people to to bend their knee to offer all of their life under the kingship of Jesus now don't you want to explain that in ways that would make more colloquial sense but in that sense I would say that announcement and demonstration words and actions are so integrated it's ridiculous to try to separate them out do you do deeds first and then words or word that's not the way my life operates it's this fluid interaction of actions and explanation which is seeking to alert people to God's rain I mean that's what evangelism is like it's not just down to kind of guilt and shame and Jesus can respond to that and kind of reductionist understanding of Jesus as that has the south to your personal existential kind of crises I would say that Jesus is much more than that he's King and he's fashioning a world and leading history to its ultimate end and our job is to create four tastes of that show be what that looks like explain that and and invite people to respond to the kingship of Jesus often as churches and theological colleges they're good at identifying and developing the pastoral and the teaching gives how do we get better at identifying and developing the Apostolic the prophetic and the evangelistic gifts it's not going to keep on talk about evangelism okay okay just sort of change of subject well I think that's that's going to require a complete overhaul in many respects yeah I think that you know I do have a commitment to the fivefold understanding of leadership I'm possibly not as what's the word as systematic about it as some writers are like Neil Colin Alan Hirsch and Jo wood of those people it's like they've really worked this into a system my view would be that I think that leadership ought to be a plurality I don't think there to be a single pastor I don't think it should be a hierarchy with a senior pastor Associates and deacons and elders and then the congregation but I do think that leadership ought to be a canoe operating within the community and I do think that those five gifts ought to be present and active and so therefore I do think that the Apostolic the evangelistic and the prophetic ought to be operating in the life of that leadership community now whether there's five people or through your eight of ten or twenty I mean you know that's entirely up to individual churches but the idea that there's a senior pastor or a CEO style pastor I think we are starting to move away from that and we're I'm happy about that churches so they're seminaries and colleges of course have been fashioning curriculum around training pastors and teachers as as you've suggested and I think that helping to identify equip and and release apostolic and evangelistic leadership is is shameful how can we do it it has to just be fed through the curriculum well probably made more Epis Tallaght and prophetic lecturers and teachers colleges ok evangelism you written that we need to practice slow evangelism what does that look like and what are you talking about there you know what I'm talking about there is that I think that there was in the 20th century speed and efficiency were really kind of key values in all sorts of ways but including an evangelism so it really was how can we get a gospel presentation down to this very speedy kind of presentation which evokes a particular response and then recruit somebody into our churches and so you ended up with tracts and formulaic approaches to a to faith sharing like four spiritual laws or two ways to live bridge to life any all of those kinds of things and so what I would say is that that's fast evangelist attack and I sit on a plane with you we've got you know an hour till we land how can we get this out fairly quickly and there are all sorts of reasons why speed and efficiency for evangelism became high values but I think it's important that we also recognize that for the most part most of the people that we're going to evangelize if we're serious about evangelism are going to be neighbors and friends and colleagues and the parents of kids who play with our kids with whom and we'll have ongoing long-term multiple interactions and I think we've got to start to think about evangelism as being a magnificent slow-cooked meal not something that you can kind of whack in the microwave and cook in 30 seconds and so I would say as we were saying before that engagement in the mission of God is alerting people of the reign of God the reign of God actually is unfolding inexorably and slowly and then that regard showing us on the reign of God looks like actually takes time so what I say show that what it looks like as if we could show that what it looks like in its completeness anyway but showing of what traces of what the reign of God looks like you can't just like package that up and there it is it unfolds in people's minds and perceptions and so therefore I would say evangelism is probably best served up over multiple conversations over an extended period of time occasionally of course we do meet someone who's just at the end of their existential rope and wracked by guilt or overwhelmed by failure and needing war and what is the answer well I wouldn't say also you can't have that we need to take years to explain that of course you would say maybe you need to you know look into the world that King Jesus is creating in your life yeah there are answers and they can be quick but I'm saying that they ought to come in the context of a commitment to an ongoing relationship with that person wasn't being for the cross – the initial paradigm for holiness what I have a cruciform view on on mission and holiness I think that that our lifestyle ought to be shaped by the cross but I don't mean by that it should just be about you know sacrifice and suffering what I mean though is that we ought not to shirk sacrifice or sufferings so we've talked about mission or advantages of being a you know long-term project well I think to be shaped by the cross is to say I'm willing to empty myself in the service of others and I'm I'm willing to do it over extended period of time I'm willing to suffer I'm willing to empty myself I'm willing to give I'm willing to extend myself all of that is inherent in that in the cross so it's not just I'm willing to be miserable and you know that classic old joyless pietistic kind of lifestyle but rather it's to say yeah it is a bit of a pain in the neck to do this and it would be easier just to get my Chinese takeaway drive into my driveway and not have to worry about my neighbor or those things would be more convenient but to be shaped by the cross is to say well I don't even ask what would be convenient I don't it's not a question for me what would be safer or what would be what would be more easy for me the questions I ask always are know what is the cross calling out for me and that would be as I said extension willing to suffer to sacrifice to empty oneself to give oneself in the service of others the cross therefore is a metaphor it's it's the downward road believing that that's the only room by which we eventually rise to the top but it's also a paradigm it's just a way of looking at my world in a world where everyone's asking where my next holiday be or should we buy some investment properties honey or should we renovate the kitchen we're asking you know where are the naked where the hungry where are the lost were the broke and where the lonely that's that's that's what it is to be shaped in a cruciform way in one of your chapters you also talked about the importance of breathing Shalom into relationships and neighborhoods and contexts can you describe what you mean by that well Isis takes shallow you know which is easily translated as peace but I just take it to be that that idea that the world is going to out of whack sinners entered it it's there's a fissure through the world it's kind of clicked out of place and you know it's not hard to explain that to anyone people just look at the world and think yeah something's wrong here it's not just that you've got a black heart and don't you feel the need to be forgiven it includes that but it's also like our neighborhoods aren't the way they should be our planet is broken there are tsunamis and tornadoes there are airplanes crashing there's wars everywhere I mean people just like oh it's it's out and i would say Shalom there's God's work of setting everything right it's like repairing restoring and reconciling which will ultimately be completed in the return of Jesus but in the meantime I do actually think God is preparing the world he's he's he's bringing it to a point where in the return of Christ everything that is separate so the breathe Shalom is to be one of the agents that God uses in the process of creating four tastes of what this rightness looks like so that rightness includes no poverty that rightness influence no violence that rightness includes the world like the planet repaired that arrived us includes absences of conflict and hatred but also that ripeness includes fellowship hospitality generosity joy beauty to breach alarm I think is to hold the best inner parties in town but not to be blunt you know to to celebrate and and and enjoy life the most but not to be licensures breathing shallow is about being the most trustworthy and hospitable and generous and loving people in the neighborhood that's that's what that means so it's not joyless and pietistic it is outward oriented but no there is it just like someone said to me once all what is being a choice like drinking craft beer and planting can hear Lee Gardens and it's like well if that was the impression we gave you we did a bad job because it's not just about like drinking beer and planting gardens it is actually a discipline it is actually about about not being license it's not being drunkard not being a glutton not good then how could that be setting things right but it is actually about showing people what redeems joy redeemed pleasure as well as redeemed justice and reconciliation look like what the frost thank you for joining us at the missional how are ace the club research project is located at WWE global church project calm on our website you'll find a wide range of interviews and resources for colleges universities and churches I look forward to your company next time from me good bye

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