Missions Expert Says Churches Must ‘Keep Christianity Weird’ If It Wants to Grow

If the Church wants to grow, it must celebrate those who take eccentric actions to spread the faith, says Michael Frost in his new book about Church “rule-breaker” movements. 

In Keep Christianity Weird: Embracing the Discipline of Being Different, Frost, co-founder of Forge Mission Training Network, calls on pastors to use unconventional methods in their ministry to foster “greater creativity and innovation.”

“Could it be that the church has closed its doors to the misfits and rebels and troublemakers? Does the church make space for and foster the contributions of those who see things differently?” asks Frost in the first chapter of his book.

“… the broader culture increasingly recognizes the contribution of eccentricity to the greater good. But not the church. Just as business and education is fostering greater creativity and innovation, the church is in a phase of rewarding compliance and conservatism and suppressing eccentricity.”

Frost, who’s an expert on international church missions, cites multiple examples of groups within Christianity that exhibit the healthy eccentricity he supports, including the Cistercians, Anabaptists and Pentecostals.

“All the great Christian rule-breakers of history submitted themselves to rigorous instruction and discipline as part of their journey into eccentricity,” wrote Frost.

Below is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Frost about his book, Keep Christianity Weird.

CP: You say in Chapter 1 that the Church suppresses eccentric creativity. In what specific ways do you believe institutional churches do this?

Frost: All institutions do this, not just the church. In an attempt to maintain cohesion, they require a level of conformity by their members. To maintain this, they marginalize anyone who questions the status quo. It takes a concerted effort by an institution to encourage innovation and creativity.

Churches can then add a “spiritualized” dimension to it, by labeling these eccentrics as disloyal or claiming they are fostering disunity. In some churches, to even question the leadership is tantamount to attacking God’s anointed ones.

I think we need leaders who can tell the difference between fractious troublemakers and those who are clearly discerning the Spirit of God, calling the church to rediscover its vision as a genuinely alternative society.

CP: Do you believe there are churches in the modern day that do not suppress eccentric behavior or creativity? If so, which ones? Does it vary from denomination to denomination?

Frost: Some church planting movements value creativity and innovation. Not the franchise model in the U.S., but the rapid multiplication movements we see in Africa and Asia. That being said, I don’t think you could say any one denomination suppresses eccentricity less than the others. It varies from church to church, not denomination to denomination.

I mention that several “eccentric” movements have occurred in the church down through history — the Celts, the Cistercians, the Anabaptists and the Pentecostals. They are quite different in terms of ecclesiology and, in some ways, theology. But what they had in common was a radical resolve to obey God even if that meant sticking out like a sore thumb.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski