Book Study: Surprise the World! — Sent by Jesus

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 what this might look like. In previous reflections, we looked at the first four letters, which stand for BLESS, EAT, LISTEN, and LEARN. Today, we are looking at the fifth and final habit: SENT by Jesus.

This last habit is different from the other four. It is not so much about doing something as it is growing into an identity, which is to see yourself as one who is sent by Jesus. Who we are affects how we live. At the beginning of the Christian movement, all of the disciples were sent out to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. They understood that, while every Christian was not called to be an Evangelist, every Christian was meant to be an ambassador for Christ.

Over time, “missionary” came to refer to a select group of people who traveled to foreign countries as Evangelists to proclaim the good news of Christ. And that is important and necessary work. But back home, where most everyone was Christian, there didn’t seem to be much need of ambassadors for Christ. That was someone else’s job that happened somewhere else.

Called and Sent by Jesus

Part of the Missional movement is to help people reclaim their identity as being called and sent by Christ. Michael Frost invites us to take time during the week to claim this identity by reflecting on it by journaling. Even if we don’t journal, we might take some time to look over the week and see where we have been able “to alert others to the universal reign of God through Christ.”

He reminds us again that this is not about being an Evangelist. Not everyone has that gifting. Rather, by living this life of blessing, eating, listening, and learning, we are offering through our lives a glimpse of God’s love in action. Our lives point to the Kingdom of God when we live according to its values. Here are four of them:

1. Reconciliation

At the heart of our Christian faith is the great reconciliation between God and humanity through the cross of Christ. This greater reconciliation becomes the foundation for reconciliation to grow “between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, black and white and Asian and Hispanic, and so on.” The act of reconciliation is a core expression of God’s reign and rule. We announce and demonstrate God’s Kingdom through reconciliation.

This is why reconciliation between Indigenous and settler people has been so central to our mission in the Anglican Church of Canada over the last several decades. But we are also called to reconciliation in our own lives. We are called to allow God’s healing to infiltrate relationships where they are broken by anger, hurt, and unforgiveness.

2. Justice

In our baptismal vows, we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being,” as we respond, “I will with God’s help.” The church at its best has always looked for ways to help the marginal or disadvantaged. Christian greats such as William Wilberforce, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon led campaigns for the betterment of society. More recently, people like John Stott, Martin Luther King Jr., and Desmond Tutu have engaged deeply in causes around poverty and racism. When we work for justice, we work for the Kingdom of God.

3. Beauty

Beauty is a central pointer to the Kingdom of God. We can feel the presence of God deeply on a mountaintop or in a beautiful cathedral. Where do you experience beauty? Is it through a piece of music that deeply touches your soul, or the well-ordered cells under a microscope? How do we create beauty? How do we spend time encouraging beauty or experiencing it?

4. Wholeness

Jesus didn’t just talk about the Kingdom of God. As he worked to heal broken people, he showed us how much God wants wholeness for a hurting world. Some professionals—nurses, doctors, mental health professionals, and so on—are dedicated to wholeness in various ways. But everyone can further wholeness through acts of encouragement, blessing, and healing for people who are struggling. This is the deeper meaning of blessing others (missional habit #1). It might look like a listening ear, but it is also a sign of God’s love for that person THROUGH you.

Frost encourages us not just to do all of these things, but also to take the time to reflect on them. Reflecting on our experiences brings greater depth. We gain insight when we examine how we felt about a certain experience. We learn about ourselves by taking the time to discern how God is operating in our lives. Spend some time reflecting and identify where you have been acting for the Kingdom. This action will help you to see more opportunities as they arrive. Own your identity: God has called you and sent you.

(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. We encourage you to support your local independent bookstore.)

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