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The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage (Shapevine) Paperback – April 15, 2011
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From the Back Cover
Put the adventure back in the venture.
So much of our lives is caught up in the development and maintenance of security and control. But as Helen Keller observed, "Security is mostly a superstition. . . . Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." And when our only experience of Christianity is safe and controlled, we miss the simple fact that faith involves risk.
In The Faith of Leap, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch challenge you to leave the idol of security behind and courageously live the adventure that is inherent in our God and in our calling. Their corrective to the dull, adventureless, risk-free phenomenon that describes so much of contemporary Christianity explores the nature of adventure, risk, and courage and the implications for church, discipleship, spirituality, and leadership.
"Very thoughtful and chock-full of insight and practical advice, this brilliant book reminds us that we can--in fact, we must--substitute another narrative for the security-obsessed one that normally drives us if we wish to truly live!"--Reggie McNeal, missional leadership specialist, Leadership Network; author of The Present Future and Missional Renaissance
"You've got two pockets. Stick in one of your pockets your Bible and in the other The Faith of Leap. You're ready. Now go."--Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University; author of One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow
"Hirsch and Frost use their manifold gifts to show us why and how adventure, risk, and courage are at the very heart of living life together in God's Mission."--David Fitch, author of The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission; B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary
"This is, in my opinion, Hirsch and Frost's best work to date and is must reading for anyone who wants to release missional movements."--Neil Cole, author of several books including Ordinary Hero, Church 3.0, Journeys to Significance, and Organic Leadership
About the Author
Michael Frost is vice principal of Morling College; founding director of the Tinsley Institute at Morling college in Sydney, Australia; and a Baptist minister. He is the author of Jesus the Fool, Seeing God in the Ordinary, and Exiles, and the coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come. He lives in Australia.
Alan Hirsch is founding director of Forge Mission Training Network and cofounder of Shapevine.com, an international forum for engaging with world-transforming ideas. Currently he leads an innovative learning program called Future Travelers which helps megachurches become missional movements. He is the author of numerous books, including The Forgotten Ways, and coauthor of Untamed and Right Here, Right Now. Hirsch lives in the Los Angeles area.
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Liminality is the term we use to describe a threshold experience. It is composed of any or a combination of danger, marginality, disorientation, or ordeal and tends to create a space that is neither here nor there, a transitional stage between what was and what is to come. As a result it is experienced as a place of discomfort and agitation that requires us to endure and push into what is to come. (p.19)
Part of the nature of liminality is that it is an adventure with an uncertain outcome that tests us, bonds us, and pulls out of us the genius of innovation and creativity. Necessity is the mother of invention. Most churches begin rather liminally, perhaps as a house church or some other type of plant. At the beginning those involved understand and participate in the adventure, but, unfortunately, most churches move as quickly as possible out of the liminal stage into safety, security, and equilibrium. This often changes the very nature of the church and causes the people lose focus, energy, and purpose - a slow kind of death.
The authors contend that God's mission or redemption in the world is the proper catalyst to bring life and meaning back into the lives of Christians. In other words, rather than being worship-driven attractional churches, we are called to be mission-driven servant churches.
We are the people born of the missio Dei. This means that the church is a result of the missionary activity of God and not the producer of it. The church is therefore defined by its mission and not the other way around. And this mission of redemption is not yet fulfilled; therefore, we are still on the Journey. As in our previous books, we say that Christology (our primary theology) determines Missiology (our purpose and function), which in turn determines Ecclesiology (the forms and expressions of the church.)...The church doesn't have an agenda; it is the agenda. The church doesn't have a missional strategy; it is the missional strategy. (p.21)
Quoting Hedrik Kraemer, the authors write:
...the church is always in a state of crisis and...its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it...The church "has always needed apparent failure and suffering in order to become fully alive to its real nature and mission."...And for many centuries the church has suffered so little and has been led to believe that it was a success...Let us also know that to encounter crisis is the encounter the possibility of truly being the church. (p.23)
Another quote is ascribed to Catholic theologian Hans Kung:
A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling...[We must] play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, live by improvisation and experiment. (p.24)
Being in liminal situations forces us to deal with the unfamiliar, which can light the fires of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Innovation usually arises out of a sense of need, even desperation, as organizations strive to keep the edge. Living systems theory maintains, rightly, that the sweet spot of innovation takes place on "the edge of chaos," or on what is called a "burning platform" - a situation where the organization is threatened with possible dissolution...This in turn can trigger the entrepreneurial spirit, because such displacement puts a person and an organization in an environment that creates the possibility of "opportunity recognition." One of the rules of innovation is Think like a beginner, not an expert. (p.48)
Movements happen when the church manages to shake off its collective fears and plunges into the mission of God in the world, where, while experiencing liminality and disorientation, they also get to encounter God and each other in a new way. (p.53)
Communitas in [Victor Turner's] view happens in situations where individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition, and marginalization. It involves intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging brought about by having to rely on each other in order to survive. (p.56)
Mission, then, becomes the driving or catalytic force behind community, one of the four main functions of the church. Since Constantine, the church has mostly been driven by a worship mentality, as it gathers once or more a week for music, singing, and teaching. Community and discipleship usually happen as the church gathers for worship. In this model, mission is something extra the church does when it is not meeting together, and is usually relegated to an elite group called "missionaries." But when mission becomes the catalytic force in our churches, everything else is heightened and comes in line with God's purpose for the church - to seek first the Kingdom of God and be his ambassadors of reconciliation.
Most churches are mainly audiences and any member of an audience is dispensable. As soon as you know you're dispensable, the impetus for attendance is lost....Liminal churches are more like repertory theater companies...For a liminal church, there needs to be a similarly common ordeal, and everyone needs to be committed the challenge collectively. Without significant levels of buy-in or stake holding by the team, the possibility of significant levels of innovation and energy are reduced. (pp.99-100)
In this model, mission catalyzes discipleship.
We have a friend who says she believes churches should get Bible teaching "on a need-to-know basis." In other words, a church should open their Bibles together and learn from Scripture according to the contextual challenges and ordeals they are currently facing together. Sadly, many Christians don't "need to know" what they hear each Sunday, and so they retain very little of it. (p.119)
I don't fully agree with the above thought. As a Bible teacher, I understand the need for people to have a solid foundation of Biblical truth so that they are prepared for what life throws at them. However, I do agree that more of our teaching and preaching should be designed to equip people for actual ministry. In fact, I believe teaching should happen in the midst of actual ministry, in an apprenticeship format. Jesus taught truth and modeled ministry. Then he sent his disciples out to teach and do ministry. Real discipleship must include involvement in ministry or it is only instruction, not discipleship.
We are called to teach people to do everything Jesus commanded, not just know about it.
And remember unused truth is lost truth...If our congregations are not engaged missionally in the ongoing work of serving the poor, feeding the hungry, challenging society, preaching the gospel, and responding to unbelief, they will have little need for our teaching. (p.120)
Regarding the function of leadership in the liminal church, the authors refer to a book entitled, Surfing on the Edge of Chaos:
It is so counterintuitive today for a leader to push his or her church toward chaos [liminal uncertainty] when everything within them tells them to move back to the center, to stability...Real leaders ask hard questions and knock people out of their comfort zones and then manage the resulting distress...The role of leadership here is to continually unsettle the community, holding its feet to the fire of mission and marshalling the God-given potential that emerges in times of dissonance and uncertainly. Part of the key to effectively "surfing the edge of chaos" involves helping community members to overcome the toxic levels of risk aversion currently present in our churches. (p.131-2)
Frost and Hirsch point out that Jesus brilliantly addressed the problem of risk aversion in his disciples with these familiar words: "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 16:25 (ESV)
Jesus knows that if we can be freed from our aversion to loss, our whole outlook on risk would change...We are averse to loss much more than we are attracted to gain. But this was an aversion that Paul had abandoned by the time he wrote to the Philippians. For him all was gain, because he had lost his life for Jesus' sake...part of the key to understanding why many Christians seem so loss-averse...[is because] for many of them their relationship to Jesus is located in the pledge of life, not the life they pledged. (p.136-8)
In other words, many Christians come to God as consumers rather than as servants. God is seen as a divine servant catering to our needs and desires, instead of our Master and Lord for whom we lay down our lives. God help us!
Leadership looks to unleash the missional capacities in the people of God. Living systems theory generally teaches us that leaders should disturb, but not direct, their organizations. This means that leaders have to remember that in living systems, things happen that you cannot predict, and, once they do, those events can set off avalanches with consequences that you could never imagine. You can disturb a church by embracing the risk of taking it into liminal space and remaining there until the God-given potentials of the people are accessed...Missional leadership isn't about social engineering or barking orders to compliant underlings. If there is any manipulation involved, it is about manipulating the environment to unleash the congregation's latent missional potential - its apostolic risk-takers, its prophets, and its pastors...It's important to realize that leadership can't dictate outcome...The trick is to create a design that allows a community to face issues squarely, to learn from itself, to come up with its own solutions to its problems...Taking the risk of leading a community of believers into mission and then daring to believe that in such a chaotic environment new solutions will emerge from within the community itself is often a step too far for many church leaders. But we are convinced that embracing such a risk is essential.(p.148-151)
Of course, all the above must be done with a complete reliance upon God.
The next to last chapter addresses the missional church's call to neighborliness.
A missional church sees itself as a sent community, and where incarnational mission is the organizing function, social context becomes an extremely important matter. In effect, a missional church identifies itself to some considerable measure as God's gift to a town or village or neighborhood...A key issue for any group willing to embrace the risk and adventure of mission is to dare to believe that they have been sent to say home. That is, that home might be the very best place for them to serve, and the missionary call to "go" might still apply, but it is a going deeper, not a going away. (p.184)
The authors suggest that we should see our locality as being "genuinely important to our missional calling." It is as we have discovered at Liberty Church, we are called to pastor the neighborhoods in which we live, as well as go to the nations. Perhaps churches to consider relocating to the neighborhoods they serve, or even to abandon buildings altogether in order to force a congregation to think "outside the four walls."
Short-term mission trips are fine as far as that goes, but they are often manageable, bite-sized experiences to compensate us for the fact that we should see our own homes as mission fields, our own neighborhoods as liminal spaces, our own culture as the sphere of adventure to which we've all been called. (p.201)
Referring to Jesus' parable of the mustard tree, they write:
...the mustard tree is a sprawling, bushy shrub that sends out this massive unruly root system. It can be harder to uproot a mustard tree than a far taller cedar. Stuart [Murray Wilkins of Urban Expression in the U.K.] said when we look for signs of the kingdom, we often look for the big things, but maybe Jesus saw the kingdom as spreading and persistent. Stuart's advice was not to try to plant massive churches but to cultivate churches with deep roots, - like a spreading weed that will not go away. A lot of traditional church-planting strategies are aimed at cultivating cedar-like trees. But if we take our neighborhood more seriously and engage more seriously in relational proximity and cultural exegesis, we could end up planting mustard bushes, deeply rooted and vastly spreading. (pp.201-2)
The book is loaded with examples of groups and individuals who have launched various expressions of missional kingdom work around the world. I feel sure that you will be inspired by this book and highly recommend it.
Seeing God's Smile
I found The Faith of Leap to offer a very important contribution to the conversation about building community-- the necessity for an orthopraxy that calls us to embrace risk in our pursuit of "koinonia." All too often, at least in my own experience, churches have bemoaned the lack of community, and struggled to come up with a remedy for this problem by focusing on bringing people together as an end in itself. The point I came away with is that there is an inevitable link between "liminality" and "communitas": that one will not be sustained without the other. The authors argue convincingly that when groups of people come together on an adventurous mission in this world (the kingdom of God as Jesus revealed it) their lives will also, out of necessity, be drawn together in mutual dependence and trust.
This book literally transformed my thinking about "Christian community," and I highly recommend it for any and all who are passionate about the mission of the body of Christ in this world.
This book, again, came at a time when I needed to read something like this. The Faith of Leap can be summarized by this quote on the last few pages: "Christianity is an adventure of the spirit or it is not Christianity. We must repent of our obsession with safety and security and do the task that only we as Jesus's people can do."
It is a book full of inspiring, radical language. As the subtitle claims, this book is about "embracing a theology of risk, adventure, and courage." And both Frost and Hirsch make a strong case for why we must embrace these aspects.
I'm convinced. Christianity has become complacent and dull for many, and we must seek to provide opportunities for followers to participate in "liminal" experiences and build true "communitas" regardless of where or what church community you serve in.
All in all, this is a great read and one that I'd recommend to anyone. I am more inspired to embrace a theology of risk because of this book.
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The subtitle of The Faith of Leap is "Embracing a theology of risk, adventure & courage."Read more