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The Faith of Leap, Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage (Shapevine) by [Frost, Michael, Hirsch, Alan]
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3.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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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

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

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1290 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0801014158
  • Publisher: Baker Books (April 15 2011)
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  • Language: English
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Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Baker Books, 2011. 224 pgs.

In The Faith of Leap Frost and Hirsch encourage the reader to leave the idols of security and safety behind and live out our adventure with God. They remind us that faith always involves risk, that God calls us to make a leap for him and, in that leap, to have the "faith of leap". In order to develop these themes, Frost and Hirsch explore the difference between community and communitas, as well as liminality and how these things affect our churches and are lived out in our mission. Their final chapter then points us to our own communities as the places in which we live out this adventure through the "risk of neighborliness."

There is much to be praised in this book. Chapter five is clearly the highlight, as Hirsch and Frost directly assault our idol of security in an argument and encouragement to get over our risk-averse tendencies. Indeed, far too many churches and Christians are more concerned with safe-guarding their own existence rather than with being actively involved in the mission of God, no matter the cost. However, what these churches have lost is emphatically not their sense of adventure. What they have lost is their sense of calling. Thus begins my disappointment with this book.

In the preface Hirsch bemoans the fact that out of tens of millions of books exploring theology they were unable to find a single study on the nature of adventure itself. Assuming Hirsch was correct as he wrote this preface, he is still correct as I read this book, and perhaps with good reason.
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A book review by Heather Smyth
[...]

When I first saw The Faith of Leap I eagerly jumped right into the pages. I agree with the authors that as Christ followers that we are 'called to an ongoing, risky, actional, extravagant way of life 'a life resonant with that distinctly wild 'and yes Christlike 'faithfulness of their Lord and Master'. In fact, I believe that at times in my own life that I have lived out my own stories of great faith, in obedience to what God had asked of me, even when others questioned my actions. I have also walked alongside friends who have their own stories of great faith, patiently waiting on God to fulfill His promises. I have witnessed some great stories of faith. More than that, as I read the Biblical accounts of men and women who have trusted God in great faith, they resonate deep within me. The story of Abraham heading up the mountain to offer his son Isaac as sacrifice to God, the trusting, faithful response of Abraham to his son, 'God will provide a lamb, my son' and Abraham's response in naming the place where the sacrifice was made 'The LORD Will Provide' are foundational to my own understanding of who God is and my understanding of faith. I was excited to read of more stories of people who have lived out or are in the process of living out their own 'faith of leaps' and to be encouraged in my own faith journey of trusting God in obedience to what He has called me to.

In the end, I found this to be a good textbook about the theology of faith, but really, the reading of it was tough. When I think about my friends and the faith stories that they have lived out or even my own stories of faith, they are exciting and wild, filled with groaning and waiting for God to show up in the everyday-ness of life.
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The Faith of Leap has been overdue to be written and is the best Christian book I've read in the past decade. It addresses the gaping omission of the 21st century church -- the need for risk-taking faith. Risk has always defined the people of God. In fact, the Bible is nothing short of a collection of stories about the risks that God's people have taken. Yet today our churches are filled with comfortable, complacent Christians who do everything to maintain their security and protect their children.

Frost and Hirsch do a great job of developing a theology for risk-taking while challenging readers to leave their domesticated, middle-class existence and enter the adventure that God intended to be the centre of every believer's experience. Must-read material for everyone who wants to live on the cutting edge of God's mission.
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As found on my blog: [...]

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Baker Books, 2011. 224 pgs.

'All disciples of Jesus (not just a select few) are called to an ongoing, risky, actional, extravagant way of life--a life resonant with that distinctly wild--and yes, Christlike--faithfulness of their Lord and Master.'

Thus begins the book Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Teaming up once again, missional church frontiersmen Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost collaborate in challenging Western Christians to get out of the safety of the pew and enter the risk of the real world. And for them, such an approach to the Christian life is not optional.

The book's title - 'Faith of Leap' - is more than simply a play on words; it offers an important distinction: Risk and adventure are not merely actions we take once in a while when necessary (e.g. 'leaps of faith'), but rather encompass a posture we need to take to life in the world as followers of Jesus. Our whole lives must incorporate a faith that is willing to risk. I appreciated the emphasis on our whole lives, not just isolated actions. Echoing Stanley Hauerwas I suspect, the authors emphasize this whole life approach to life and mission: 'The church doesn't have an agenda; it is the agenda. The church doesn't have a missional strategy; it is the missional strategy.'

Two key concepts in developing their proposal are liminality (ch. 1) and communitas (ch. 2), terms borrowed from the field of pyschology. Liminality literally means 'a threshold,' which related to Christianity is said to describe the current cultural situation. The church is in a time of transition.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0xa34df7bc) out of 5 stars 33 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa34f9948) out of 5 stars Another must read from Frost & Hirsch May 17 2011
By Bradley J. Brisco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Over the past several years I have read every book that Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost have written individually and collectively. I have probably been most influenced by Hirsch's "The Forgotten Ways", Frost's book titled "Exiles" and their collaborative work, "The Shaping of Things to Come." Having just finished their latest book, "The Faith of Leap", I believe it may just be their best work to date. They present a theology of risk, adventure and courage that will challenge the reader to step boldly into participating in God's mission with a renewed sense of purpose.

One element that I have always appreciated about Hirsch/Frost is the way they bring together applicable material/research from a wide range of disciplines (sociology, science, business, history, etc.) and filter it through a theological/biblical lens. This book is no different. Every chapter is replete with wonderful insight, illustrations, and encouragement to engage in mission in a way that will propel the reader out of the typical self-concern to other-concern, from "holy huddle to venturing out into God's world." After reading the first chapter I tweeted that it alone was worth the price of the book. However, reading further, I discovered that I felt the exact same way with each subsequent chapter.

To fully engage in God's mission and live the life He intends for Jesus followers, we must embrace risk and adventure. Hirsch/Frost provide excellent instruction on a range of topics to help the reader do just that. They unpack the critical issue of developing "communitas" rather than simply "community." They deal with the importance of overcoming "risk aversion" and the dangers of individualism in the realm of risk taking, and the related damage caused by our pursuit of safety and security. They provide practical insight for a church to move from complacency to developing a sense of urgency for God's mission. There is also an extremely helpful discussion in one of the final chapters titled "Missional Catalysis" in which Hirsch/Frost illustrate perfectly the need to understand mission as the organizing, catalyzing (and even revitalizing) principle of the church. There is much in each of the seven chapters to encourage the reader to understand risk and adventure as an indispensible component of a life with Jesus. You will certainly not be disappointed with this excellent addition to the missional church conversation.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Just set down The Faith of Leap by Frost and Hirch. What Frost and Hirsch have done is created a theology of risk and adventure for the church. Sure, Eldridge and others have addressed the idea of a bold adventurous faith, but it seems that one needs to by-pass the church and live out that adventure as an individual. Drawing from the writings of Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, the authors outline, not just what the adventure can be...but should be as a missional church. After all, "When all our church ever expects from us is attendance and tithing, we hardly feel as though our lives are at stake." I read a lot of books and after picking this one up I couldn't set it down.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa34f9dd4) out of 5 stars Into the Arms of God April 6 2012
By Roger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
How many kids remember their dads saying, "Jump! I'll catch you." What a thrill for a child both to fly and to be safe at the end of the flight! Fast forward a few years, when perhaps the most common complaint one hears from church kids is that church is boring. I rarely disagree with them. Does that surprise you coming from a pastor? Regrettably, American Christians and their leaders have fallen victim to two insidious forces--centuries of tradition and decades of prosperity. Neither tradition nor prosperity are inherently harmful or evil, but either may easily revert to idolatry without many even suspecting their mistake. It is so easy to accept the way things are and the way things "have always been" without ever examining those things more carefully. Then, when a young person or even a less compliant adult finds these established customs unpalatable, we react like they were challenging the gospel itself. Most of us are long overdue in looking at the situation more closely and more honestly.

Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost cut to the heart of the problem in The Leap of Faith: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Their premise cuts to the heart of what it means to be a Christian community of gifted disciples who are truly committed to reaching others for Christ, with the clear suggestion that such a community is not simply a "safe place" for worship. Rather they would restore the sense that living as a believer is living on the edge, a kind of adventure that takes risks and that requires courage in living it.

Personally, I have been troubled for some years regarding the word "peace" as it is almost exclusively understood among believers. For most, it is serenity or quiet, closely related to security. As the nearly predominant understanding, it omits almost totally the idea of peace that comes from ending conflict or warfare. Instead of becoming blessed peacemakers, Christians are often merely conflict avoiders, pretending to be serene in the face of unreconciled, broken relationships and varying degrees of strife. In the quest to avoid controversy, the Church has become rather tepid and sadly pointless. Jesus said we must "make disciples" wherever we go. His is an edgy, challenging mission, but we have settled for occasionally asking a neighbor or co-worker to our less than exciting church (unless we can afford glitzy entertainment with a spiritual message).

As Hirsch and Frost explain, the remedy is not programming adventure any more than it is to program worship. Just as worship must arise from the hearts of those in the pew, not the efforts of the leaders in front, so must adventure arise from a genuine pursuit of authentic, Biblical mission. The Faith of Leap is one in the Shapevine series that seeks to mine, creatively, the best ideas from missional, emerging church, church planting, urban ministry, and simple church movements. In this, knowing that searching occurs when something important is lacking, they recognize the legitimate elements that have driven such thinking but, in this book at least, avoid the questionable aspects.

To derive a "theology of risk," the authors focus on two terms, previously unfamiliar to me--liminality and communitas. Liminiality refers to "a threshold experience,...composed of any or a combination of danger, marginality, disorientation, or ordeal and tens to create a space that is neither here nor there, a transitional stage between what was and what is to come" (page 29). It is not danger for danger's but instead an environment where the creative, corporate effort to sustain genuine outreach keeps people from getting comfortable and then working only to satisfy their desire for ease and safety.

By operating in a liminal environment, people discover something greater than community that is little more than a description of a class of people; instead of "huddle and cuddle," communitas develops "in adventurous mission and liminal discipleship" (page 84). This is the true sense of brotherhood that soldiers find in the dangerous of the battlefield and others discover in pursuing a quest. Living in genuine mission-driven liminality, believers become interconnected in communitas.

The authors do an outstanding job of drawing together the threads of church life to create a different image that the one we often see. The are not sanguine in assuming this transformation will occur based merely on a new paradigm; wise leaders will draw the people into liminality and guide them in fashioning ministry appropriate for their own community. They will also recognize the ease with which people will be tempted to settle back into a new comfort zone, so that constant vigilance will be needed.

As I began reading The Faith of Leap, I was excited to see someone offering a fresh vision of church life for the many young people that I've always enjoyed teaching and encouraging. At my age, I was not looking for adventure; I was never attracted to mountain climbing, sky diving, or underwater exploration. Ironically, I realize that I have been drawn into liminal adventures, simply by pursuing the work to which I believe God has called me...especially Biblical peacemaking and, lately, tutoring refugees and internationals with a goal toward creating a school to teach them English. Just as I never sought to be nonconformist--what my generation claimed their conformist rebellion was--but merely tried to follow Christ, I have found myself to be both a genuine iconoclast and adventurer (but no threat to Indiana Jones!).

Part of the disappointment for those like me is that congregations fail to embrace the missions that arise within them, beyond the duly appointed, official program. Pastoral leaders often bring their own priorities, apart from any sense of community or neighborhood need or gifting among the people. I have left on a couple of occasions where it was clear that the leaders were more interested in drawing me into their vision and had little interest in mine. The authors strongly advance an alternative view where everything rests on the people's gifts and the neighborhood's needs. In this paradigm, mission, worship, community, and discipleship all are integrated by mission.

As I have so long believed that pastors must be or become a part of the neighborhood, not transients waiting for their next step up professionally. Churches must reject the idea of ministry that occurs only in the building, and instead to become engaged in their neighborhood. Fighting with their neighbors over parking or prostitution is not allowed. Sunday must stop being the only expression of church life, largely led from the front; rather people will return from a week engaged in sometimes risky mission activities to find refreshment, worship the God who has taken them safely through their mission adventures, enjoy the communitas among fellow travelers on their quest, and disciple those coming to Christ. Motivated by the love of Christ that rejects fear, believers will find adventure much closer than a faraway mission field.

I've already written too much, but it is wholly inadequate to summarize The Faith of Leap. I found it to be an encouraging and thought-provoking book, but I struggled to read it, almost as if I was being drawn away into other activities. I believe this is an important book, and I'm likely to read others by Allen Hirsch and Michael Frost, as well as exploring related resources on the Internet. Today's American Church is largely in retreat; the culture has taken an anti-church posture and enjoys mocking us and our beliefs. Christians may still represent a majority, nominally at least, but ours are no longer the dominant view. We will not take back the culture or restore our influence through the ballot box. A comfortable, passive church will fade into oblivion, practicing a religion less and less Biblical or effective. We need to become the bold, adventurous church described in Hirsch and Frost's The Faith of Leap.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa34fe1b0) out of 5 stars "The Faith of Leap" by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch June 15 2011
By Andrew Demoline - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage. Baker Books, 2011. 224 pgs.

In The Faith of Leap Frost and Hirsch encourage the reader to leave the idols of security and safety behind and live out our adventure with God. They remind us that faith always involves risk, that God calls us to make a leap for him and, in that leap, to have the "faith of leap". In order to develop these themes, Frost and Hirsch explore the difference between community and communitas, as well as liminality and how these things affect our churches and are lived out in our mission. Their final chapter then points us to our own communities as the places in which we live out this adventure through the "risk of neighborliness."

There is much to be praised in this book. Chapter five is clearly the highlight, as Hirsch and Frost directly assault our idol of security in an argument and encouragement to get over our risk-averse tendencies. Indeed, far too many churches and Christians are more concerned with safe-guarding their own existence rather than with being actively involved in the mission of God, no matter the cost. However, what these churches have lost is emphatically not their sense of adventure. What they have lost is their sense of calling. Thus begins my disappointment with this book.

In the preface Hirsch bemoans the fact that out of tens of millions of books exploring theology they were unable to find a single study on the nature of adventure itself. Assuming Hirsch was correct as he wrote this preface, he is still correct as I read this book, and perhaps with good reason. What you do not have here is a serious study of the nature of adventure - "its role in shaping our thinking about God, our experience of life, or our participation in mission, church, or discipleship." (13) Instead, you have a recasting of Christian mission in the language and framework of adventure and risk. In doing this, Frost and Hirsch draw on excellent sources, and yet they seem to fail to learn many of the lessons therein.

One of my favorite quotes on this subject, which appears in the introduction, comes from The Lord of the Rings. I am sure you know it. Frodo and Samwise are approaching Mordor, discouraged, hungry, tired, and ready to finish their quest and die. Samwise then says to Frodo:

"The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of stories went out and looked for because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually - their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd be forgotten. We hear about those as just went on - and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same - like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?"
We can learn many true things about adventure from this quote. Adventure is not something you seek but something that happens while you faithfully answer a call you did not look for... strike one. Adventure is not something that those in it often find enjoyable or desirable, but what you must do in being faithful.... strike two. Adventure is not, primarily, about deeds of daring-do but about trudging on, faithfully, through difficulties.... strike three.

Perhaps there is a reason for there not being any sustained and serious theological examination of the idea of adventure. Perhaps it is because Tolkien got these three truths exactly right. If adventure is not something you seek but, instead, something that happens to you, then whence this book? If adventure is not enjoyable or desirable, when rightly understood, then why are we trying to dress it up otherwise? Further, why would we encourage more of it? And if adventure is about faithfulness in the face of difficulties then why would we try to embed adventure in our churches instead of embedding faithfulness and perseverance?

The answer, I think, also lies in the same quote from Tolkien. People who hear adventures, instead of living them, think of adventures in ways which are unrealistic and wrong. This is further compounded by Hollywood. We watch adventure movies in which hours, months, or years of training are compressed into a montage of flowing images put to catchy music (you can't beat classic Rocky for this) so that we can quickly move on to the 'adventure' part of the story. Of course, the same is true even in biblical stories. Joseph spends years toiling away in obscurity, remaining faithful and persevering, before any 'adventure' occurs. This is the way of real life.

A serious theological study of adventure would have to include a study of our cultural distortions of adventure, our misplaced desires for impossible levels of excitement, and our inability to maintain the years of faithfulness necessary in preparation for whatever 'adventure' God may have for us. It would also involve many of the things Frost and Hirsch included in their book, such as an attack on the idol of security, a calling out of Church's lack of mission, and an examination of how 'adventure' is part of community formation. I suppose that what I am saying is that this book contains only half of the story. In so doing, this book can, unintentionally I am sure, be setting people up for disappointment and disillusionment. If we come to Jesus for adventure and find, instead, that we are called to years of faithfulness in which we, ourselves, may or may not see any of the fruit of our labor then our expectations, false though they were, will have been dashed on the hard rocks of discipleship and we may, in some ways rightly, feel ripped off and move on believing God did not deliver on his end of the bargain. Of course, grace will lead many through this problem despite the damage we will have done, but that is no excuse. When we falsely represent the call of Christ, and what to expect in answering it, we are playing an incredibly dangerous game.

Does the church need to stop being so risk-averse? Absolutely. Do we need a missional understanding of both church and God? Most assuredly. It is while encouraging these that this book shines. However, in order to overcome these problems what the church does not need is a renewed 'sense of adventure' or a desire to be heroes. What we need is a renewed call to faithfulness, a renewed understanding of our Lord, and a renewed willingness to carry our cross for Christ. While these were touched upon throughout The Faith of Leap they fell well behind the focus on adventure.

Conclusion: 2.5 Stars. Not Recommended. In terms of missional churches, understanding God, or theology there is nothing new here. It is simply re-framed material and, in my opinion, re-framed in an unhelpful and dangerous manner.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa34fe294) out of 5 stars A Inspiring Work on the Missional Church Jan. 13 2012
By J.S. Peter Beck III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because the title was intriguing and I like other books written by Alan Hirsch. It started off a little slow, but ended with a bang, and is certainly worth the time and effort to read and study it. By the authors' own admission, this was a book that began as work on mission and communitas and morphed into being a treatise on adventure and risk taking. The subtitle is "Embracing a theology of risk, adventure, and courage." Frost and Hirsch show how the church is called to embrace a culture of liminality in order to complete its mission of bringing God's kingdom to our communities.

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