The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church

by Michael Frost

Paperback, 2003





In a time when the need for and the relevance of the Gospel has seldom been greater, the relevance of the church has seldom been less. The Shaping of Things to Come explores why the church needs to rebuild itself from the bottom up. Frost and Hirsch present a clear understanding of how the church can change to face the unique challenges of the twenty-first century. This missional classic has been thoroughly revised and updated.


Hendrickson Pub (2003), 236 pages


(71 ratings; 4.2)

User reviews

LibraryThing member shannonkearns
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first (because there was some really bad stuff) and then we’ll get to the helpful stuff:

* The book advocated reparative therapy for gay folks at least once. Very not okay. Very not helpful. Very not healthy. DO NOT CONDONE.

* The book took a very
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successionist viewpoint towards Judaism. They said they were trying to root New Testament thinking back into a Hebraic mindset, which on the one hand I get, but often it came off feeling like they were trying to say how Christianity was better or had taken over for Judaism which is offensive.

* While attempting to root the newer Testament into a Hebraic mindset (their terminology) they completely ignored that it was written by occupied people in occupied Rome. Rome barely gets a mention and ideas of empire don’t get mentioned at all. This is especially distressing in light of their very good critique of the established church (the call that Christendom) as theology about Empire would have fit nicely with their overall critique, given it more weight, and helped this book to be even better.

* Like many other books written for an evangelical audience (or at the very least authors that are hoping to make money from evangelicals) they try so hard not to offend that they end up repeating themselves over and over and over. I get it. You’re theologically sound. MOVE ON. I don’t want to hear for the fifth time about how you really do believe in (insert evangelical sacred cow here) so as not to offend a fundamentalist. It just irritates me. Either your argument stands up or it doesn’t. Don’t pander.

All right. Now that that’s out of the way, there are some very good and helpful insights in this book. Let’s turn to those, now:

*Their assessment of the problem rang really true for me. Maybe it’s a case of preaching to the choir, but they articulated very well much of my discontent which church as “business as usual”. One of the beginning quotes that really resonated with me was: “The contemporary traditional church is increasingly seen as the least likely option for those seeking an artistic, politically subversive, activist community of mystical faith.” (page 6)

They spend a lot of time defining what they mean by a “missional” community. I know that term has become quite a bit of a buzzword lately, but I find it to be a helpful term in some ways. They say, “An emerging missional church on the other hand has abandoned the old Christendom assumptions and understand its role as an underground movement, subversive, celebratory, passionate, and communal.” (pg 18) I really appreciate this description, especially the inclusion of the term “subversive”.

Their description of the Christendom was spot on for me (although I probably would have been a bit more harsh). The Christendom church is one that puts a lot of emphasis on buildings and programs. The idea is that if we could just get people to come to us they would see how great we are. Those churches spend a lot of time and money on maintenance of facilities and programming. They see themselves as a part of the establishment. Instead the church should be missional: Out in the community, incarnating the love of God.

“To impact a post-Christendom culture, the church much jettison its wealth, side with the poor, speak up for the wronged, and live as a kind, loving community.” (pg 54). Amen.

There is much more to say on this first point, but let’s move on.

* I really appreciated their section on leadership. As someone who has been struggling with how to do leadership in a non-hierarchical manner, I found their treatment to be refreshing. They call for “APEPT leadership” which is Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher from Ephesians 4. That passage talks about God gifting different people for different things. The genius of APEPT is their call to make sure that ALL of the “offices” (for lack of a better word) are continually represented.

They break down the descriptions like this (pg 174 and following):

The entrepreneur= the apostle (this is the person who gets stuff started, the big dreamer, the go-getter)
The questioner= the prophet (the person who questions the status quo, the one who agitates for change)
The recruiter= the evangelist (the people who draws people in, communicated the message well)
The humanizer= the pastor (the person who cares for the community, holds things together)
The systematizer= the teacher (the person who translates the message)

Sometimes people embody more than one gift, but the community only really works well when it has all “offices” represented. These giftings working together keep the community from getting too stagnant. It will keep the community thriving and growing.

Overall this book was helpful. I would skip the entire section on “Messianic Spirituality”. I found that section almost worthless and filled with theology that I didn’t agree with at all. But the beginning and ending sections were quite good and I learned a lot.
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LibraryThing member patl
An exciting look at missional churches in 21st century culture and beyond. I'll reread this one many times over.

The only reason I gave it 4 1/2 instead of 5 stars was because the book starts out better than it finishes.
LibraryThing member rodney1960
I have never read a book that so angers and delights me, frustrates and clarifies, imagines daring possibilities and condemns worn-out inevitabilities. I return to this book again and again. I find its primary thrust so confronting and irresistibile that I am drawn to it like the midday sun.
LibraryThing member JimKubiak
Thought provoking work regarding the changes needed for the post modern church. An excellent book that will challenge your thinking!
LibraryThing member lschmitt
this book is about restructuring the church to meet the needs of non-Christians. The church must move out of the building and into the working public.
LibraryThing member gwhittick
I loved this book. It paints a very clear picture of the fate of the Church if we carry on doing what we've always done, and shows how Christendom-era thinking has become irrelevant and unhelpful. It goes on to illustrate how the Church needs to become mission-oreinted again, and that that mission
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orientation needs to be thoroughly incarnational and culturally contextualised in nature. Their analysis of the type of leadership needed in the future is, to my mind, spot-on. While the book is unsettling to any of us involved in church leadership, I believe it does point the way to an approach to missional thinking and action that we ignore at our peril. While a number of reviewers seem to regard it as for the "emerging church" I believe it applieas across the evangelical spectrum.
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