As I write this review we are a week into 2016. Many people have already had their resolutions wrecked on the reef where good intentions and harsh reality meet. Most of these New Year’s resolutions are about personal development: losing weight, exercising more, mastering a new skill, etc. What about making habitual changes that will make you a more compelling force for God’s Kingdom mission in the world? Can we pursue the sort of life change which will impact others?
Enter Michael Frost. A popular author, speaker and cofounder of the Forge Mission Training Network presents the five habits of highly missional people and a simple plan of how to incorporate them into your life. Surprise the World! exhorts us to live questionable lives–“the kind of lives that evoke questions from  friends, then opportunities for sharing faith abound, and the chances for the gifted evangelists to boldly proclaim are increased” (5). Frost argues that we are not all gifted evangelists, but we support the work of evangelism as we live the sort of lives that invite questions from our neighbors and friends.
So what are the five habits of highly missional people? Frost proposes the acronym BELLS:
- Bless— Words of affirmation, acts of kindness or gifts for at least three people per week (at least one who isn’t in your church).
- Eat–Eating with at least three people (at least one who is not in the church).
- Listen–Setting aside at least one period of time per week to listen to the Spirit in silence and solitude.
- Learn–Spending time each week learning Christ through the gospels, the Bible, movies and film, good books, etc.
- Sent–Journaling throughout the week about ways you have alerted others of ‘the universal reign of God through Christ.’
Conventional wisdom tells us it takes about six weeks to form and solidify a habit. At least that is what a lot of sermons tell us. Frost thinks otherwise. Drawing on the insights of Jeremy Dean (author of Making Habits, Breaking Habits), Frost suggests significant life change takes months of intentional practice (101). So he suggests structures of accountability he calls DNA groups (for Discipleship, Nurture, Accountability) which will hold each other accountable and encourage these missional habits for participants.
The gift of this book is its simplicity. Books on missional theology and ministry often present many fine ideas about what it means to be missional, often from a big-picture perspective. This book is super practical. It gives you a simple plan,–Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Sent–which is sufficiently challenging to live out.
For me, to intentionally eat with and bless people in and out of church each week, plus set aside time to listen to the Spirit, Learn Christ, and journal through my experience in sharing God’s reign would mean major changes and greater intentionality in mission (and I like mission already). There is enough structure and flexibility in how to live these habits out that it adaptable to whatever context. I also really appreciate the structure of DNA groups. I have little patience for accountability groups that focus solely on sin (as though that is the only thing important we have in common). Discipleship and nurture are essential as well for supporting the kind of life change that Frost suggests here.
I recommend this book for anyone wanting to live missional lives. This is a fantastic goal for 2016. However I would suggest, don’t read these book alone. Read it with a friend, read it in a group, read it with those who will disciple you, nurture you and call you to account as you pursue the goal of living a questionable life. Five stars:★★★★★
Note: I received a copy of Surprise the World! from the Tyndale Blog Network. I was asked for an honest review.