Since I spent a couple of days last week immersed in the teaching of Mike Frost at two different events run by the Evangelical Alliance, I’ve made a few scribbles, as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, to try and unpack the thoughts & ideas that grabbbed my attention.There was so much to take in that these notes should not be regarded as comprehensive or definitive in any way….it’s just a note of some of the things that impacted me.
It was good too to hook up with top fellah, Krish Kandiah.
First off, I guess it’s important to understand that I came to hear Mike having read a two of his books at least a couple of times each, and also having heard his friend and missional compadre Alan Hirsch earlier in the year. Essentially, I’ve already bought into the notion that MISSION needs to be the first organizing principal of Church……
Mike posed three big questions:
1. To whom shall I go?
2. Who will go with me?
3. Where will we meet them?
It was clear from the get go that Mike was not pushing a model (“I don’t have a model!”) or template for missional Churches to plug into, but rather was exploring the bigger picture of the reasons for Mission (Theologica, Cultural/historical and I guess what I would call the ethos of the Church) drawing on his conviction that God is a “sent” and “sending” God. Although Mike has an amazing head-knowledge about being missional, and is quick to acknowledge the influence of folks like Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch, for me it’s his experience as a practictioner in his own smallboatbigsea community there in Manly, Sydney that is the most telling. (note to self: If I ever get to Oz, must visit smallboatbigsea!) If you want to get more of a feel of the Manly vibe, you might want to check out this post from my bloggin’ buddy Hamo at Backyard Missionary.
Frosty is completely sold out on Jesus and a master story teller who’s passionate and emotive retelling of Scripture would be well worth listening to alone, even without all the great stuff he outlined about mission over the two days. I don’t think I can effectively summarize everything he said – I’m just not that good a writer, but I can recommend, once again, the books I’ve written about on this blog. (Search “FROST” in the blog search window, top left). Neither can I do justice to capture in a few clicks of my keyboard how moved I was when Mike was recounting tales of people’s responses when he’d asked them “so….you’ve never had a religious experience?”. To hear of the supposedly non-believing mother ponder the meaning of life, and where it comes from when – for the very first time – she draws her new born daughter to her chest, or the surfer who – feeling the huge undulating swell of the mighty Pacific before he caught that amazing wave – bristles with a knowledge that somehow, somewhere there is a force so much bigger than he can really grasp…is that not a religious experience?
I liked a powerful phrase Mike used about Jesus followers marinating ourselves in the Gospels, and the notion that we should be trying to be ever more like Jesus. Good advice.
Although Mike kept most of the stuff about smallboatbigsea on the back burner, it was good to hear little snippets about some of the stuff they did there in their own context and community. He talked about being more of an “infiltrating” Church than an “inviting” Church, so clearly they are more about seeping into the cracks and crevices of that particular stomping ground than simply setting up their Church stall and expecting people to come to them….inspirational. It was fascinating to hear that during the early days of smallboatbigsea they identified two hangouts – The Artichoke and the Ivanhoe Hotel – as somewhere where they could live out their “sentness”, not with an agenda somehow targetting unsuspecting non-Churched folks, but rather simply as part of this calling to a missional lifestyle…following the Missio Dei into strange places.
In fact, the third place – as identified in Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place – features often in Mike’s stories of the missional Church, with references to Pittsburg Hot Dog Restaurant Hot Dogma (which I understand eventually changed its name to the equally imaginative and witty “Franktuary”), the Four Olives Deli, again in Manly where Mike regularly breakfasts with two other guys who together form their Discipleship, Nurture and Accountability group, or DNA, to the kids life saver club, where parents sit on the decks drinking coffee chatting about their kids, life and the universe.
It’s this whole , expansive, and very rich life that makes the incarnational Church so…….attractive. Hope you catch the playful, subtle irony of that sentence! If the Missional is about “going”, then the Incarnational is about “going deep”.
I was also interested in the challenge to the notion that busyness in Church somehow equates with effectiveness. I loved Mike’s little illustration of the Pastors who’s dialog is often preceded with the greeting “How are you? Busy?”
Mike’s reply has become “Busy…I’m not busy, I’ve got all the time in the world…what do you want to do?”
This just goes to illustrate the power of the maxim “No time for relationships – no time for mission”…something important for me to bear in mind. In my local context we’ve been wrestling with this, so it was good to be reminded that if you release people from Church commitments – as we have done to some small extent – you must also model and provide missional opportunities….. stirring up latent missional potential.
“God is already at work in the places where you have been sent”
For much clearer and more eloquent unpacking of Mike’s talks, try here and here.