Surprise the World

I really didn’t set out to create an international movement. When I came up with the BELLS model described in this book, I thought it was just a simple idea our church could adopt to foster missional habits in our lives. I had no idea that churches right across the world —the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and goodness knows where else —would embrace it. But now it seems that everywhere I go I meet folks who tell me they are living out these five simple habits in an attempt to better fulfill the mission of God.

I partly blame my good friend Alan Hirsch. He regularly mentions BELLS in his lectures and seminars as an example of how churches can encourage missional living within their members. Although I have outlined the model in a couple of my earlier books, I have tended to be more coy about BELLS, preferring to encourage churches to create their own homegrown approach to missional living rather than expecting them to simply adopt our model.

But when recently the folks at the Exponential church-planting movement asked me to write a manual on how to do BELLS, I figured it was time to abandon my diffidence and go ahead and fly the flag. So the book you’re holding was originally an e-book posted on the Exponential site. I was delighted when NavPress then expressed interest in offering it in a paper-and-ink format, and set about expanding the simple format into a more detailed explanation of the BELLS habits and how they can work in fostering a missional lifestyle. I suspect the reason why people have embraced BELLS so quickly is that it’s such a simple, easy-to-adopt set of habits that do unleash essential missional values: engagement with neighbors, connection with each other, a deeper experience of God’s leading, a stronger understanding of the gospel, and a framework for identifying ourselves as missionaries. (I include a tracking sheet for these habits in the final chapter of the book.)

I’m not suggesting that BELLS is a magic bullet or anything like that. But it is a really handy tool for mobilizing Christians up, in, and out into mission. That is, up into deeper connection with the Triune God; in to a stronger sense of community with other believers; and out into the neighborhood.

The fact is that we all recognize the need to live generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christlike lives as missionaries to our own neighborhoods. We want to live our faith out in the open for all to see.

Unfortunately, some of us grew up in churches that expected something less from us. For a start, we were often told we are all evangelists, and we were expected to memorize prefabricated gospel presentations and to go forth and share that presentation with anyone who would listen. For a lot of us this was a mortifying prospect. For a variety of reasons (temperament, lack of knowledge, lack of relationship), we felt inadequate to do so, and we ended up feeling guilty about our lack of evangelistic zeal. Often, those who were confident enough to do it were so obnoxious in their approach that they turned unbelievers away in droves.

Even when we felt released from the burden of having to be gung-ho evangelists, we still got the impression that all we had to do was befriend our neighbors and colleagues and invite them to church to hear the preaching of the Word.

I have no doubt that some people have become Christians by being buttonholed by a wild-eyed evangelist with a tract or by being invited to church by a Christian neighbor. But I think both approaches are unfair to us. The former places too high a set of expectations on us —after all, not everyone is a gifted evangelist. But the latter reduces us to church marketers whose primary role is to advertise the church’s benefits.

Surely there is a way we can see the church as “an army of ordinary people,”[1] sent out to announce and demonstrate the reign of God through Christ, without expecting ourselves to be something we’re not or something less than we should be.

That’s where BELLS comes in. I believe the key is to equip believers to see themselves as “sent ones,” to foster a series of missional habits that shape our lives and values, and to propel us into the world confidently and filled with hope. These are the five habits of highly missional people.

Michael Frost, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016).











Josh Hunt ● www.joshhunt.com ● josh@joshhunt.com ● 575.650.4564 ● 1964 Sedona Hills Parkway, Las Cruces, NM 88011
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