Book Study: Surprise the World! — Listen to the Holy Spirit

Surprise the World: LISTEN

In this series, we are looking at Michael Frost’s book, Surprise the World!, with its challenge to live surprising lives. He uses the acronym B.E.L.L.S. to describe how this might look. In our last two reflections, we covered the first two letters, which stand for BLESS and EAT. Today, we are looking at the third habit: LISTEN to the Holy Spirit.

Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit is crucial for our missional life. Frost tells us that we need to be attentive to the guiding of the Holy Spirit as we move out into the world to bless people and to eat with them. We need the Holy Spirit to help us in this crazy and complex world. We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to help us not to give into the two mission killers: fear and laziness.

It is easy to be afraid of what people will say when they find out that we are followers of Christ. Laziness tells us that we don’t have time and that we should take care of ourselves first. It is good to take care of ourselves as long as we don’t get stuck there. The grace of the Holy Spirit calls us into both/and rather than either/or.

We don’t just listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance. It is also about spending rejuvenating time with God. God’s call on our lives is more of a marathon than a sprint. To be effective, we also need to be centered. In his book Satisfy Your Soul, Bruce Demarest writes,

A quieted heart is our best preparation for all this work of God… Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God’s Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works… The goal is simply to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God.

The paradox of living a missional life is that for the extraverts, being a blessing to people and eating with them is a real blessing, whereas the idea of sitting quietly seems like a drag. On the other hand, introverts can enjoy the silence but dread the effort of getting out and being with people. Frost writes that while he appreciates the dilemma, we need to be balanced. We need both the action in the world, and the nurturing time with God. For those who are not used to time in prayer, he suggests picking one significant period of time each week in the presence of God. In this way, we step outside the frantic and harried nature of life, and we will have something to give those around us.

Here are his suggestions:

1) Set Aside a Designated Time

Don’t try to do this on the run or whenever you find time. Set aside a block of at least twenty minutes to listen to God.

2) Eliminate Distractions

The quieter and less busy the room, the better. If there is a distraction, then your mind will go to it. Turn the phone off.

3) Let God In

Start by simply enjoying God’s presence. If you find your mind wandering, use a short prayer to bring you back.

4) Follow God’s Promptings

The Spirit might bring something to mind, like someone’s name or face. Pray for them and be on the lookout for ways to be a blessing to them. Learn to discern the movement of the Spirit in your soul over time. Frost writes, “As we become more familiar with listening to the Spirit as a kind of weekly rhythm, we’ll also find ourselves becoming more adept at hearing the Spirit in real time, in the midst of encounters with our neighbours, as we bless or share a meal or otherwise get in the way of the people around us.” LISTEN.

(NOTE: These reflections are only meant to be a synopsis and study of Michael Frost’s work, Surprise the World! Our purpose is to encourage our readers with these great ideas. If you interested in going further, please go read the book. You can order it here:

This post contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. Thank you for your support.

Book Study: Surprise the World! — BLESS

Surprise the World: Bless

In this series on Michael Frost’s book Surprise the World!, we are looking at missional habits. What is wonderful about this book is that Frost gives us an easily understandable way to faithfully live out the Christian life. He uses the acronym B.E.L.L.S., which stands for Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Sent. The idea is that while we are not each called to be Evangelists, we are called to bless the world through our life.

God calls us to point people to the Kingdom of God through our actions, and if needed, our words. We do this by living surprising lives, lives that make people notice that something is different in the way that we live. What are these habits that people notice?

Living Blessing

The first one is BLESS. Frost challenges every Christian intentionally to bless three people every week. One person should be from within the church; one person should be outside the church, and the third person could be either.

To bless someone is one of the simplest things we can do. The word ‘bless’ originally meant a few different things. It meant to speak well of someone or to praise them. It also meant conferring material or spiritual well-being upon someone. As the word has evolved, we now use it in the sense of building people up, filling them with encouragement so that they can increase in strength and prosperity.

Frost puts it like this: To bless someone else is “anything that relieves their burden in life. Anything that helps them breathe more easily. Anything that lifts their spirit or alleviates their distress. It can be a small thing or large.” Blessing can take a number of different forms. Frost gives us three common examples to start us off.

Bless with Words of Affirmation

This is the simplest way to bless someone. It is as simple as sending someone a note letting them know that you have noticed something about them or appreciated something that they did. You can pick up the phone, or just say something in passing. People really appreciate words of encouragement. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” To affirm something about someone is to connect with them beyond the superficial.

Bless with Acts of Kindness

This is the simple action of doing someone a favour with no desire for acknowledgement or reward. There is an old Alcoholics Anonymous card which contains nine daily promises. One of them is “I will do somebody a good turn and will not get found out.” Obviously, it doesn’t matter if you ‘get found out,’ but the idea is to just do something nice as a principle. Is there a neighbour you can help? Someone in your family who is struggling? Is there somewhere you can volunteer? Everyone appreciates someone who gives.

Bless with Gifts

We all like to get gifts on a birthday or at Christmas. But Frost challenges to go one step further. How about random gift giving? At the heart of love is the act of giving. Giving a gift is a symbol of love; that is why they are special. A gift doesn’t have to be big, but it requires us to be on the lookout for what others need. Is there a struggling family who could use a casserole? Is there a book that someone has been talking about? Maybe just a balloon for a small child? Whatever it is, it will be a blessing.

Bless with No Ulterior Motives

Frost is encouraging us to lead surprising lives. But he also adds a small word of caution here. While we bless people as a way of living surprising lives, we have to be clear that we are doing this for no other reason than to be a blessing. There is no agenda. There is no expectation. For instance, if someone takes your gift and never thanks you and throws it in the garbage, that is not your issue. We only want to be a blessing because we have been blessed so richly in Jesus.

How have you been blessed yourself? How have you blessed others? Add your thoughts in the comments.

(NOTE: These reflections are only meant to be a synopsis and study of Michael Frost’s work, Surprise the World! Our purpose is to encourage our readers with these great ideas. If you interested in going further, please go read the book. You can order it here:

This post contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. Thank you for your support.

Book Study: Surprise the World! by Michael Frost

Surprise the World book study

We have just finished a series on prayer; now, I would like to reflect on how our prayer life ‘spills out’ into our everyday lives. While prayer is always present in the Christian life, God is also calling us outward into the world to point people to the Kingdom of God.

This may sound like I am talking about evangelism. I am not, or at least not like we often imagine it. Michael Frost has written a splendid little book that is really helpful on this issue: Surprise the World. Frost is a missiologist from Australia and is one of the leading voices in helping churches understand their missional context. I am going to spend the next several reflections going through the main ideas in this book.

Being an Evangelist and/or Being Missional

The first issue he deals with is this question of evangelism and who is comfortable doing it. He knows that there are many evangelists who believe that everyone should be an evangelist. But he points out that “certainly the vast majority of Christians I know don’t feel much like evangelists.” He says that, contrary to popular myths, not everyone is called to this ministry, although some are. He goes on to say that if people ask about our faith, we should be prepared to answer. But most people are not comfortable intentionally striking up a faith conversation, and that is okay. That may not be your calling. And yet… to be missional is to point people to the Kingdom of God. How does that work?

Living Missionally

This is what he says: “Evangelistic mission works effectively when we are living generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christlike lives as missionaries to our own neighbourhoods – and when the gifted evangelists in our midst join us in sharing Christ with our neighbours.” For most us, the mission comes when we lead ‘surprising—and even questionable—lives.’ When I first read that, I did a double take because, for me, questionable means doing something that most people would disapprove of! Instead, he means that our lives should move others to ask why we live that way. The fact of the matter is that living a ‘fine, upstanding, middle-class lifestyle in the suburbs’ isn’t going to raise a lot of questions. It is just ‘normal.’

Surprise the World by Leading “Questionable Lives”

Frost considers the story of the rise of Christianity in the ancient Roman Empire. It is surprising that the faith should have grown at all because the Roman Emperors violently persecuted the early Christians. They expected that they could suppress the church so much that it would evaporate over time. Instead, they were shocked to find that it was growing by leaps and bounds. Many factors were responsible for this growth, but one of the key reasons was that Christians led ‘questionable lives.’

In the ancient pagan world, there was no concept of the dignity of every human being. The Emperors were quite content to have people starve and live in abject poverty. There was no charity as we understand it today. If the Emperor gave bread to the masses, it was to buy their support.

St. Francis caring for people with leprosy.

In this difficult environment, the Christians relentlessly out-loved the Empire. They fed the poor and invited them to their tables. They buried the dead whom others had left to rot. Christians took care of the sick when no one else would. When their neighbours saw that kind of love, they started to ask questions, converting by the thousands. The love of Jesus lived out was evangelistic because it pointed to the Kingdom of God.

Develop “Missional Habits”

Even though we inhabit a different time and place, Frost believes we can learn the same basic truth: we need to develop ‘Missional Habits’. These form the acronym B.E.L.L.S. (Bless others, Eat together, Listen to the Spirit, Learn Christ, understand yourselves as Sent by God into others’ lives), and they are a simple way to live out the Gospel in our everyday lives. In this way, we can live in a way that raises good ‘questions’ from those around us. We will look at each of these habits over the next five reflections.

Questions for Further Reflection

  • When you hear the words “evangelism” and “mission”, what comes to mind?
  • Have you known someone who leads a surprising, ‘questionable life’? How did they live that made you take notice?
  • How have you received and shown the love of Jesus?

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(NOTE: These reflections are only meant to be a synopsis and study of Michael Frost’s work, Surprise the World! Our purpose is to encourage our readers with these great ideas. If you interested in going further, please go read the book. You can order it here:

This post contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. Thank you for your support.

Mission to Missional

Imagining toward the future

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

— Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The future of the church will be shaped by Christian leaders who are daring enough to engage this cultural moment with a fresh missional imagination.

Winfield Bevins

I have been writing about what I think the future church will emphasize. A word we hear often is ‘missional.’ ‘Missional’ is an exciting approach to understanding the church. But what does it really mean?

Continue reading “Mission to Missional”