Exiles. Living Missionally in a post-Christian culture by Michael Frost produced one of the most animated discussions about a book that we have had since our group's inception! Though most of us did not manage to read the whole of it.. Several of us had problems with the very title, as we understood to be in exile to mean having been banished, much like the Israelites. We did not, then, see ourselves as banished from the world; indeed we felt we belonged to the world as it was God's world. Perhaps it is those who do not know God who are exiled! As Peter pointed out, this could be a case of the difference between American definitions and English, as Anne (who is American) agreed with the book title that to be exiled meant making a home in a different country or culture to one's own.
The premise of the book is that we are exiled from the post-Christian world by our faith and Frost saw the Church (still so wedded to Christendom) as a stumbling block to the sharing of the teaching of Jesus with this world. Everyone's response to this was that it was a challenge to our congregations to examine the extent to which we were showing the Way of Jesus to the communities within which we live. Frost went so far as to say that there was often no need for a church meeting weekly, or at all, if believers were practising incarnational theology, being Christ in the world. He then visited a whole lot of different areas where our actions as Church did not fit in with the Way of Jesus: in table hospitality, pursuing truth and justice, environmental issues, fair trade, consumerism etc. This was all good strong stuff and we liked it, but he did not seem to some of us to be saying anything new.
Towards the end of the book he seemed to be suggesting that we were to incarnate Christ for the world not in order to show love and compassion for its own sake, but in order to convert everyone to Christianity; to be incarnational in order to be missional (to use his terms). This did not sit comfortably with those of us who felt, while we should offer faith to those who were lost, confused or seeking, we did not need to 'missionise' any who had already found God through their own faith, whom we should love for love's sake.
There was plenty to talk about, to agree or disagree with, which made it a stimulating focus for the group; we also laughed a lot!