Thursday, April 10, 2008
Having read through Michael Frost’s EXILES: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture last year, and re-visited again a few times this, it’s been really good to start a little bit of a dialog with Mike (thanks to the wonderful web), who’s proved to be a very gracious bloke indeed.
I’m glad to have received in the mail a copy of EXILIO - the newly developed small group resource based on EXILES – from Mike and Pete Horsley at Forge in Australia.
First off, in terms of presentation the material is excellent – aesthetically pleasing Facilitator’s Manual & accompanying Ignition Bible Study (12 week study on the book of Acts), well packaged DVD all bound together in “box-set” packaging which is attractive & practical.
Even more significantly the content itself is really good stuff – Scripturally sound and presented in an engaging & inspiring way by Michael, it explores in depth the themes of missional living outlined in Mike’s EXILES book, which has been having a huge impact in Christian communities in the West for a couple of years now. He uses an exilic metaphor for those “who wish to live expansive, confident Christian lives in this world without having to abandon themselves to the values of contemporary society”. While EXILIO understands and acknowledges that that today the West is no longer a primarily Christian society, it does not see that reality in defeatist terms, but rather informs & equips in a way that makes this scenario a huge adventurous challenge, with parallels in Old Testament exiles, and the accounts of the Early Church in the New Testament.
This study resource, though, is not simply an academic exercise (it’s important to know that although Frost lectures in a seminary, he has also been intimately involved in planting/leading a Jesus following community smallboatbigsea in the Manly district of Sydney, Australia – he’s a practitioner), and I think it demands quite a lot from the participants. Understand, though, that I say this not as a criticism, but rather as a commendation. As Mike says in the opening Orientation portion of the DVD, “the stakes are high”, and I find it hard to imagine a participating group not being extremely challenged - even changed – if they were to follow the recommendations of this course in terms of the material studied, the “big ideas” grappled with and the real tangible action to participate in. EXILIO is strong stuff.
On top of that, if you are deeply entrenched in Church culture, prepare to be shaken out of it. There are areas that might catch you unawares.
Cleary I haven’t really unpacked the core teaching contained in the course, so check out the site here (which I think is still under development) to learn more about EXILIO, or even read the book anyhow. It’s a great read – hugely stimulating. I’ve become convinced that it is a significant piece that anyone interested in the mission of the Church in the 21st can find helpful.
At some point soon - when I can assemble a group with the guts to handle it – I’ll try and run EXILIO.