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In 2008 I made a goal of reading an average of one book per week for the whole year.  Since I’m not a natural speed reader like my oldest daughter,  it took some time, but it was worth it.  I repeated the goal in 2009 & 2010, but didn’t get anywhere close for a number of reasons.  This year we’re giving it another shot.  And while writing book reviews is not something I do all that well (I think they make me feel like I’m in middle school again…except without all the pimple this time) I thought I’d try to at least write a brief review of the majority of books I read.

The first book of 2011 was actually a book written in 2003, The Shaping of Things to Come, ( Affiliate Link) by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch. I actually picked it up to read after hearing Gary Best (national director of Vineyard in Canada) mention it during a webinar on centered sets.

This is the second book by Frost that I’ve read, and in both of them, there is a lot that I love.  The Shaping of Things to Come deals with stuff like being a centered set rather than a bounded set organization; with being incarnational;  with looking at life from a holistic rather than a dualistic point of view.

And with each of these topics, there are dealt with as though they are core issues for churches to wrestle with, rather than as tangential to what we do as church…these things actually matter…a lot.  In fact there is so much in the book that I can point to & say, “if you’re looking for a good solid explanation of why our church works as it does, read this book.”  (we’ll have copies in the bookstore soon.)  Since we are in the middle of a message series on outreach/evangelism, this’d be a great book to be reading along as we go along.

Probably the biggest disagreement I have with The Shaping of Things to Come, is their discussion on being attractional or missional as a local church. While much of their book is about getting rid of “either/or” thinking, they very clearly pick a side when it comes to being missional or attractional.  So, while I’m not ready to throw out the attractional aspect of the local church, I think this is another area where we need to live in some tension and attempt to be missional and attractional.

If  you’ve read the book, or if you have some thoughts on the bounded versus centered set discussion we had on Sunday, I’d love to hear  from you.

About author / bob

I am a church planter living on Dublin's Northside. I also serve as Director of Marketing for Communitas International. I write about various topics that happen to be going through my brain.

  1. Steve S says:

    Great book, but I would offer some push back on the either/or of attractional/missional…

    I like both/and thinking, but not all things can be held in tension with each other. I think the church often speaks good theology but then communicates a 'hidden curriculum' of bad theology with their actions. In this case, I think being attractional is a huge failure on the part of the church to understand, implement, and faithfully communicate the gospel of the Kingdom…

    love to hear more thoughts on the book!

  2. bob says:

    Thanks for the comment Steve! I guess the question I'd ask is does the failure of parts of the church to be missional, discount being attractional all together? I don't see why we can't do both. We have people who have come to Christ & had their lives transformed because they googled us & started coming to church. We have others who only got involved here after years of being invited to dinners & parties in their neighborhood thrown by people @ the Vineyard.

    Just because some have not been missional, I don't think we throw out the attractional aspect…different people will connect in different ways.

    Love to hear more discussion on this topic!

  3. Erin says:

    Practically, what does it look like to focus on both?

    We came to this church after interacting with people here for a long time, what was attractive was not really what was on the calendar. We wouldn't have come to this church because we were looking for some good fun Christian events to attend – or even because of some certain style of worship. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we just never would've come because of that. We were so unreceptive to any type of church life. We weren’t seeking anything spiritually and were quite content in our disengagement.

    But, we kept hanging around people who came here, people who loved each other openly and without conditions. And we felt loved being around them, and never judged. It was hard to rectify the "Christian" part of their life with our perception of them for a long time. Meaning, "these people are great, but I don't understand the whole Christian thing." But I think that’s a little bit of the way God has worked in our life. I know that observing this group of people care for each other in a way that we didn’t have in our own life otherwise really made it easy for us, when we were so hostile to church culture & God, walk into a church for the first time in years.

    And, it could be a different entry-point for everyone.

    It seems like more than being an either/or argument or even an argument settled by saying it’s both, I wonder if they are dependent on each other. More interrelated. We will be attractive, because we are called to love & serve others. I'm just not sure we would have gotten past tripping over the "but they're Christians" part and actually grow in our relationship with Jesus if the community we found ourselves in didn't feel so warm, and accepting, and loving. To the point where tripping over the Jesus problem made us get to know him.

    I also thought of this passage from Life Together where Bonhoeffer quotes Luther:
    "Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther)."

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Book Review : The Shaping of Things to Come

time to read: 1 min