Exiles: Living missionally in a post-Christian culture, by Michael Frost

Posted on December 5, 2009

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Reading this book could seriously change the way you think about church – and life. Frost starts by saying:

‘This book is written for those Christians who find themselves falling into the cracks between contemporary secular Western culture and a quaint, old-fashioned church culture…’

Does that feel like you? For seventeen hundred years, in the western world, we have lived with a ‘Christendom’ culture. Frost defines Christendom as:

‘…the religious culture that has dominated Western society since the fourth century. Awakened by the Roman emperor Constantine, it was the cultural phenomenon that resulted when Christianity was established as the official imperial religion, moving it from being a marginalized, subversive, and persecuted movement to being the only official religion in the empire.’

(Stuart Murray, slightly more caustically, says that in Christendom, the Church was ‘the religious department of the empire.’)

But for two hundred and fifty years, Christendom has been waning, and we now live in a ‘post-Christendom’ society. Murray describes post-Christendom as:

‘… the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story and as the institutions that have been developed to express Christian convictions decline in influence.’

Does this sound familiar? The trouble is that many churches – and many individual Christians – are still living with a ‘Christendom mindset.’ But Christendom is over, and we need to get over it. Followers of Christ need to learn again what it means to live as exiles in a culture that is not sympathetic to our faith. Being exiles is a dangerous situation, and it needs dangerous responses. Frost says:

‘Exiles are driven back to their most dangerous memories, their recollections of the promises made by Jesus and his daring agenda for human society. Exiles are prepared to to practice a set of dangerous promises, promises that point to the kingdom and are caught up with the prevailing values of the empire. Exiles will mock the folly of that empire by offering a dangerous critique of a society wracked by greed, lust, selfishness, and inequality. And finally, exiles will sing a repertoire of dangerous songs that speak of an unexpected newness of life.’

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Posted in: Missional Church