I have known Mike Frost for about twenty years. We met at Morling Theological College and completed our B.Th. together, and even then he was a high flier. He is a qualified teacher, an expert communicator, a gifted artist and an effective leader with a keen mind which has only improved over time. He has authored several books, is a sought after speaker in Australia, NZ, USA, Canada and the UK, and for all his criticism of the established western church, has chosen to stay in it as Professor of Evangelism and Missions at Morling Baptist Theological College in Sydney.
The book is neatly divided into four parts namely:
1. Dangerous Memories, of who we are and the fact that:
- God will rescue his exiles,
- Jesus was a radical exile, and
- Jesus is our example!
2. Dangerous Promises, covering the ability to
- Be authentic,
- Serve a cause greater than ourselves,
- Create community,
- Be generous and practice hospitality, and
- Work for righteousness.
3. Dangerous Criticism, because we have an obligation to critique the host nation in terms of:
- The environment, and
4. Dangerous Songs covering:
- Worship at the altar, and
- Revolution – Jesus Ain’t My Boyfriend!
I read this book while on exile in the Middle East Area of Operations, as a member of the Australian Military, surrounded by an Islamic host nation, and cooperating with might and force of the US military machine. Obviously, my context may have influenced my receptiveness to this message, but I firmly believe that the western church needs to be rocked out of its complacency to see the implications of being part of a Post-Christian world as Mike Frost paints it. He describes his purpose in these words:
“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, limp, unsavoury straitjacket of a church that seems to be yearning to return to the days when ‘everyone’ used to attend church and ‘Christian family values’ reigned”.
That is me! Maybe that is why I am a military chaplain and not the pastor of a church! The culture of the Australian Defence Force is unmistakedly “Post-Christian” and in this book Frost gives some very helpful tools to work with in that environment. His foundation is solidly Biblical yet he is not limited to the traditional interpretations of scripture that have encouraged the church to align itself with power and authority.
Mike’s style of writing is easy to read, thought provoking, and dare I say entertaining! He uses stories from a wide range of sources from “Watership Downs” to “the Simpsons” and is as comfortable discussing the merits of Renaissance art as ecological issues of the 21st century! There is deep theological interaction with past and present authorities yet without losing touch with the practical implications of how we do theology in a Post-Christian world. We are exiles here but we have an ongoing role to play, which does not involve hiding in a Christian ghetto and praying for the end to come!
So what should we be doing? In Mike’s words “Hold on to the dangerous memories of God. Keep making those dangerous promises. Keep practicing that dangerous critique of the host empire. Keep singing those dangerous songs. Our day will come.”
If you are prepared to have your cage rattled – read this book. It is a mere 327 pages of hard hitting challenge to the status quo. It is a breath of fresh air for those of us who minister outside the established church (though ordained and recognised by it) who continually grapple with exilic issues that our colleagues ministering inside the church can’t even see! This book has given me some helpful tools to help me survive and flourish in exile, while reminding me the pitfalls of getting too comfortable here.
Chaplain Ian Whitley