Book Review – “Surprise the World” by Michael Frost

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One aspect of being a Christian is to reach out to the world and try to show them the love of Christ and lead them to Him.  There are many books on how to do this.  Some take a more methodological approach, teaching us steps to evangelize.  Others are more inspirational, trying to work up more of a desire in us to evangelize.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read one quite like one I received from Tyndale Publishers and NavPress.

Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost is in a category of its own.  Rather than teaching us a method for sharing the gospel or trying to excite us and remind us of why we should, Frost’s book goes more to the heart of the matter, helping us develop habits that will naturally lead to an increased desire to share Christ and the ability to so more naturally.

Frost is quick to point out in the book that not everyone is gifted as an evangelist.  We are all, however, meant to be evangelistic as we live our lives.  Frost explains that

“the biblical model is for leaders to (1) identify, equip, and mobilize gifted evangelists (who then take a leadership responsibility for the church’s evangelism) and (2) inspire all believers to live questionable lives.  If all believers are leading the kind of lives that evoke questions from their friends, then opportunities for sharing faith abound, and chances for the gifted evangelists to boldly proclaim are increased.” (p. 5; italics in original)

I agree with his take on this.  We are all to be evangelistic, looking for opportunities as they arise, while some are more gifted to evangelize in more major ways.

To help believers live a questionable life, Frost offers his acronym: BELLS.  The “B” stands for “bless”; the “E” stands for “eat”; the first “L” stands for “listen”; the second “L” stands for “learn”; and the “S” stands for “sent.”  Each of these is more fully fleshed out this way:

  • If you bless three people every week, you’re going to become a very generous person.
  • If you eat with others, you’ll develop a greater capacity for hospitality.
  • If you foster the habit of listening to the Holy Spirit, you’ll become an increasingly Spirit-led person.
  • If you’re learning Christ, it’s fair to assume you’ll become more and more Christlike.
  • If you’re journaling the myriad ways you’ve been sent into your world, you’ll increasingly see yourself as a sent one, or a missionary in your own neighborhood.  (p. 23)

Chapters 3 through 7 take these ideas and dig deeper into them, explaining why the author recommends them and giving practical ways to live them out.  I found the chapters on learning and being sent to be especially good.

As one reads, Frost explains that the idea is that these things become habitual, things that we normally do without thinking.  As with any habit, it takes time and effort to move from it being something new that we have to remember to do to something that we do as a natural part of of our lifestyle.  As we live these ideas out, the world should take notice that something is different about us.  In light of this difference, a way may be opened for us to share the gospel with them.

Chapter 8 encourages us to form a group of three people who are in agreement to live the material in the book out.  This small group meets for “Discipleship, Nurture, and Accountability” (Table of Contents).

The back of the book contains a form to use in the small group, some questions for digging deeper as one studies the book, and an appendix with recommended books and movies on learning Christ.

The book is a small book, at 104 pages of the main text (125 with the form, questions, recommended resources, notes, and section about the author).  It is a quick read, but it is also a book I can see revisiting more slowly to think through the recommendations.

If you are struggling with a way to grow in your evangelistic living, I would definitely recommend reading Surprise the World as a way to help you.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.  

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