Surprise The World!: The Five Habits Of Highly Missional People, by Michael Frost
[Note: This book has been provided free of charge by Tyndale Blog Network/Tyndale Press/NavPress in exchange for an honest review.]
In many ways, this book is clever written and ought to appeal to believers who come from a social gospel perspective . The book provides a great deal of praise for people like Stott and Jim Wallis and N.T. Wright, who come from a more radical perspective. The book itself advocates an approach to Christian living that is deliberately designed to provoke question from others, something some of us happen to do well on our own but which some people would need the sort of help and encouragement that this book provides. In terms of its broad focus, this short book, which began its life as an online guide for churches wishing to promote “missional” thinking among their brethren, and which even with its appendices only takes up about 125 very small pages and makes for a very small and handy guidebook for those who want to be up-to-date on the practice of politically left-wing Christianity.
In terms of its contents, this book focuses on the five habits of highly missional people, itself an unacknowledged crib of Stephen Covey’s seven habits. The five habits themselves are simple and straightforward, and described with some Bible references, which are noteworthy and worthwhile, as well as references to various jargon that is less rooted in scripture and more rooted in politics and even occasionally New Age culture. The five habits are as follows: We bless people, both in and outside the church, we eat together, sharing meals with believers and nonbelievers, we listen to the guidance of the Holy spirit in private meditation, we intimately learn Christ as our leader and model, we see ourselves as sent by God to everywhere life takes us. Beyond these five habits and their explanations, the book advocates living “questionable” lives that are provocative and countercultural, the difficulty of learning new habits, and the development of groups of people to provide help in discipleship, nurturing, and accountability so that we fulfill what we have set out to do, and that resemble nothing more than small radical cells within larger congregations, along with some helpful appendices that include questions for discussion and engagement as well as resources for learning Jesus.
As might be expected, this book is a mixture of both very worthwhile and sound advice and advice that is less biblically sound. For one, although the book advocates a dual track for thinking about evangelism, the general track for members who are not considered to be particularly passionate or skilled in speaking about the Gospel are still given responsibilities that their congregational leadership may find somewhat excessive. Likewise, in the chapter on listening to God in private meditations, the author advocates the sort of undirected meditation that does not judge the reflection on anything, not even the scriptures of God, which makes his recommendation more of a Buddhist or New Age meditation than the sort of reflection that was found in the Bible (see, for example, Acts 9 and 10), where clearly the people having the vision were expected to respond to God and question, but obey, the will that God had for them. It is through an opening of the mind to spiritual influences without holding those influences accountable to the standards of God’s law that leads to people having the false belief of mystical revelations that depart from scripture, and is a particularly unwise policy to recommend. Despite this, though, the book is biblically sound to endorse that we show our concern for others in ways that are unexpected, so that we encourage others to ask us questions, and give us the opportunity to answer for the faith once delivered. More biblical doctrine and less pandering to unbiblical contemporary trends and fewer references to nonexistent Triune Gods would have made this a better book, though, although that is almost always the case with this sort of book.
 See, for example: