[Book Review] “Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians”

SentnessAbout a year and a half ago, I got the pleasure of meeting with about two dozen other young leaders at 11:00pm at night…in a hotel room… in downtown St. Louis. This impromptu gathering of student leaders had been organized to take place after the first day of one of the largest mission assembles in North America – the 2012 InterVarsity Urbana student missions’ conference. As I walked into the hotel room, my eyes made contact with a very gentle and very gregarious Australian man named Kim Hammond. He noticed me in part because I was carrying a newly purchased copy of one of his friend’s book’s, “Movements that Change the World” by fellow Australian mate, Steve Addison. Kim was quick to pull out his smartphone and ask for a picture of me holding the book so he could post it to his Instagram (Ha Kim, I’m still waiting for that photo tag). That’s the story of my first interaction with Kim and the lessons he presents in his new book, coauthored with Darren Crownshaw, “Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians” (IVP, 2014).

What I like most about this book, is that both men are missional practitioners and church planters from the land down under. They also serve with Forge Missions Training Network, so these thoughts aren’t merely empty theories. But rather they have been “forged” in the frontline trenches of ministry and years of experience.

In commenting on his Urbana experience, Kim writes in the introduction to his book “We need to help emerging leaders dream again about mission in the West. Forge functions like that– we gather living prophets and apostles and evangelist, along with pastors and teachers, to share their stories and learn from one another… The challenges of contemporary Western society demand that our paradigms for mission change (p.24).

“Sentness”, therefore is essentially a collection of stories meant to help Christians dream with God again. Stories come from the author’s personal lives as well as the lives of various missional churches across the globe. These first-hand accounts illustrate the shifts that need to take place in order for the Western Church to partner with the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the missio Dei. These testimonials, and the six postures they represent, are sure to spur the missional imagination required for a radical and incarnational approach to the grassroots, Jesus movements of the future.

After advocating that the Church repent and move beyond consumerism to begin believing the Good News of Jesus again, and living that belief out in behavior for Kingdom contribution, Hammond and Crownshaw show how biblical sentness also means Christ-centered servanthood. This high emphasis on a Christological focus to mission shows how an attitude for equipping the saints instead of entertaining spectators, releases Christians, or “little Christ’s” to partner in the mission of God.

What follows then are the six chapters that identify the corresponding practices of effective missional living. In brief, the six postures are 1.) Sent people, 2.) Submerged ministry, 3.) Shalom spirituality, 4.) Safe places, 5.) Sharing life, and 6.) Standing in the gap.

While each section contains a wealth of frontlines experience, my favorite parts of the book were chapters 7: “Standing in the Gap” for empowering pioneering leaders and the conclusion titled, “Starting Something New”. In this last portion, the authors state that “Like patches and wineskins, new moves of God, Jesus implies, need new forms and frameworks to make the most of them. Jesus’ lesson inspires us to ask what new patches and wineskins God might be calling us to imagine. And how can we empower a new generation of out-of-the-box practitioners to start something new?” (p.182).

Integrated among the personal stories are movie vignettes from popular films like “The Blind Side”, “Remember the Titans”, and “Dances with Wolves”. Examples from other current movement leaders like Dave Ferguson and the New Thing Network, Neil Cole of CMA, and Mike Breen from 3dm are also shared.

While Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, cofounders of Forge, wrote the foreword to “Sentness”, their presence is felt all throughout the book, via quotes and chapter epitaphs, that include references to Hirsch’s mDNA and Frosts BELLS method.

In the endorsement section to “Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians”, house church expert Felicity Dale references the Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich’s remark about changing a society by telling an alternative story. The effects of my hotel room meeting with Kim Hammond and Beau Crosetto, discussing the missional postures needed for American churches, sharing stories, and releasing the APE, has already changed the story of the city in which I live, and has replaced an old and helpless drama with the life-giving Gospel story of Jesus Christ.

Don’t just read “Sentness”, but assume the six postures of a missional Christian that this book preaches in your life, starting today!

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