Exiles Part II

I wanted to finish my reflections on this book before heading off on a break.

So here goes…

In short I found Exiles a challenging and stirring read. I had heard Mike present some of the content of the book in oral form when he was with us in Perth earlier this year for the Forge intensive. The whole exile theme is a powerful one as it resonates deeply with the kind of people we Christians are now in this secularised world.

We no longer hold any power and even if we hope to again be the centre of society, reality is we not likely to re-occupy that position in the short term (if ever).

And yet there is something incendiary and potent about being the fringe group or the marginalised people that evaporates once you occupy the centre. Mike actually says that in many ways this is a preferred position for the church and a position where we can function best because it brings out the best in us.

I think he’s onto something there. There is a complacency and a domesticity that comes with power and influence, but when that is removed we are forced back to our roots of being the non-conformist, radicals who challenge the status quo and ask the hard questions, who return to the core of the gospel rather than being swept away by the lures of the world we live in.

Much of the book seems to revolve around how we can live in and amongst our communities yet also live differently to those around us – not in ‘Ned Flanders’ kinds of ways – but in ways that critique ‘the empire’, and in ways that subversively yet powerfully give people a sense of the gospel. Its the ‘in the world but not of the world’ theme that we come across in John’s gospel.

What struck me was the amount of social critique and social action Mike calls for as he describes the life of an exile. There is an interesting article on Our of Ur today asking if social action is becoming trendy. Its a good question as it does seem to be on the rise for many church groups. Are we going to fall into the trendy trap or are we really re-capturing something at the heart of the gospel?

For those of us who feel it is our calling to ‘swim upstream‘ Exiles does offer some solid practical advice. It’s subtitle living ‘missionally in a post-christian culture’ could as easily be ‘discipleship in a post christian culture’.

This is an interesting book for an evangelist to have written. Mike is widely regarded around the world as brilliant communicator and evangelist, but this book seems less ‘evangelism’ focused (if evangelism = some element of proclamation) and more about missionary living – of which evangelism would be a subset.

Its of interest to me because I am currently pondering whether there may be a gift of ‘evangelist’ as well as that of ‘missionary’. They would overlap in places but the evangelist gift would be more specific while the missionary gift would be broader based and more of the ‘apostolic’ ilk. While never in Frosty’s league I have done a fair amount of evangelistic preaching over the years and often with some ‘results’ (I won’t go there..). Up until recently I would have seen this as a significant component of my own gifting, but lately I’m not so sure. While I love talking about Jesus with people I don’t see people regularly coming to a point of faith because of our conversations – something I would imagine more the domain of the evangelist. Food for thought…

The part that really resonated with me was actually the section on communitas v community. Its not the first time I have heard it, but I sense there is stuff that we (Upstream) need to hear in there about the team effort and how we gel together with a common mission. We have a very healthy team, but don’t do much by way of stuff together outside of our team meetings. I imagine a shared project would be valuable for welding a deeper connection between us and those around us. But nothing is coming to mind and I’m not about to invent one!

I haven’t gone into great depth with specific content but rather tried to give you a flavour of the book as well as some personal insights. For those committed to mission and a life of discipleship I reckon its a great read.

If you want more indepth insights and summary of content then you can read Len’s stuff starting here, Jamie’s stuff here mummy returns the dvd and John’s interview with Mike here.

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