As I rule I don’t watch reality T.V. However, when it comes to “Kitchen Nightmares”, I am happy to make an exception. Not only does the show accurately depict the challenges and pressures of the restaurant business, it is an offers an unsentimental portrayal of human nature in all its ugliness and beauty. (At this point, I should add that I am thinking of the U.K. version of the show; the American version relies on sensationalism to drive the story). As a pastor I find that the stories in “Kitchen Nightmares” also echo the stories of many congregations who are reticent to change despite the realities of our postmodern, post-Christian culture.
If the statistics about the mass exodus of young adults from the church are accurate, then the church in North America is at a crossroads – continue down the path it took in the past ignorant of this fact or explore uncharted territory in an effort to remain faithful to the task of making disciples in the midst of an ever-changing culture. Those congregations that take the former path are like the restaurant owners of “Kitchen Nightmares” who operate in such a state of denial that they are unable and unwilling to see the current state of things. For them, a fresh coat of paint and a new menu will not be enough to change things – a change of heart and a renewal of passion are required in order to create a willingness to take the risk of journeying down the path of uncertainty.
Enter Michael Frost as Gordon Ramsay. Frost speaks with knowledge and conviction and refuses to pull punches in diagnosing the problems of the contemporary church, all the while doing so without uttering any expletives. Frost shares the same of kind of enthusiasm for the Church that Ramsay has for cuisine and helping struggling restaurateurs.
In his new book, The Road to Missional, Frost is concerned that the church is ignoring problematic trends that will inevitably and negatively shape the future of the church, trends that include the aforementioned exodus of young people from the church, the increasing number of un-churched people, the evolution of “missional” into a meaningless buzzword, and the harmful effects of the mega-church phenomenon.
Frost’s main point in The Road to Missional is simply this – becoming missional is not about making congregations more appealing for a new generation; rather, becoming missional is about equipping and releasing people to be the church in their neighborhoods, regardless of what style of worship they prefer of the size of the congregation. Becoming missional is all about tapping into the missio Dei in order to be a foretaste of the reign of God in Christ. Thus, becoming missional is not simply a matter of phraseology or programming – it is a never ending process and a “lifelong calling to service, sacrifice, selflessness, and effort”.
In a world of celebrity pastors, huge church buildings, slick marketing, and programming designed for every demographic, The Road to Missional is a much needed clarion call for the church to reclaim its identity and purpose as the hands and feet of Christ in our broken word. Frost also reminds us that we must cease our penchant for separating and opposing evangelism and social justice and see them as two sides of the same coin. Only then will we be able to fully participate in God’s mission to redeem the world and reconcile it to himself.
I highly recommend The Road to Missional, especially for anyone who is not already familiar with Frost’s work, as an accessible “guidebook” for what is means to become missional. Standing on the shoulders of Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch, Frost is theologically solid without relying on academic jargon. Moreover, as a Reformed pastor, I find Frost’s use of Reformed theologians Newbigin and Bosch to be especially helpful as I attempt to help my congregation become missional. Knowing that there is solid Reformed theology behind the call to become missional helps people realize the implications of their Reformed identity.
The Road to Missional is recommended for pastors, youth pastors, church leadership, lay members, anyone who is wondering or concerned about what this whole “missional movement” is all about, and for those who are tired/wary of doing church and ready to take the risk of becoming missional.
“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”.