So in this next series of posts, I want to engage with the question ‘why is new monasticism important’? Particularly when thinking about the state of the Church and the World and especially when thinking about Mission and Evangelism.
The greatest problem I think – is that people aren’t really living it and following the Christian faith – in that, we are called to live it out profoundly impacting our daily lives.
I think that in our current post-secular culture we are carrying the consequences of the violence to the faith as a consequence of modernity (period of time after pre-modernity impacting Europe from around the 15th Century onwards) and what has unhelpfully been called the ‘enlightenment’ when everything in culture was defined in relation to ‘truth’ as understood as the scientific method. Here faith then came about ‘thinking’ and ‘reason’ and ‘argument’ so that the more experiential and the essence of Christianity became a way of life modelled on following Jesus went into the background.
So even today – when people come to proclaim faith – or as in the Church of England more likely confirmation – then it is all about what you believe rather than how you live transformed by attempting to follow Jesus.
I think today Christianity has been largely commodified and now becoming or being Christian is relating to attending a worship service once a week and to do some form of 12-week induction course.
This seriously impoverishes the Christian faith and has limited depth. Unsurprisingly people are giving up on this commodified Christianity because it does not deeply resource you in the complexity of the modern world.
Instead what we need are examples of forms of the Christian Community that live out the Christian faith in depth – as a witness to the reality of God. Not because they are in anyway special – but more because real Christianity does not make sense if it is not LIVED.
This is why I believe so strongly in New Monasticism as a model of small missional communities, a form of fresh expression of Church, because it is one of the ways to focus on living the faith – not just talking about it – with a commitment to ‘prayerful or contemplative action’, to live a Rhythm of Life as a Community, where the focus then is on the New Commandment of Jesus – To Live God, learn to love ourselves to be able to love others and our neighbour. It is a form of missional community of ordinary people seeking to live counter-culturally and with a sense that none of life makes any sense if it is not about the context of a life following Jesus.
So my first argument here – is that we need profound Christian communities – living out the faith and not just talking about it – not getting sucked into institutionalised and stale expressions of the Church which have no life and too focused on thinking. And I believe that New Monasticism seeks to be this type of community because mission can’t be about beautiful media with beautiful people with glossy brochures and being cool – it is about the tough call to surrender to God your life, and to seek to follow a rhythm of life of prayer, of service, of study and of action – particularly as Jesus commanded – the poor and the stranger.
So if the Church is going to be effective in mission – we need living examples of doing this well – like Taize, the Northumbria Community and in many ways my own little New Monastic Community – the Wellspring Community in Peckham.
If there are no expressions of communities of deep faith – what then is mission and evangelism for? It can’t perpetuate the lie of a consumptive spiritual individualst journey that is numbing and I think ultimately does not take you to the depth of Jesus – real mission and evangelism has to occur for me on the back of examples of real Christianity being lived out profoundly as an example – to stand up to all the negative steriotypes of the Church, and to be an example of real Christianity in the eyes of some form of Conservative expressions of the Church which seem to have very little to do with Jesus’ example and teachings in the Gospels.
So my great hope is that New Monastic Communities become an example of a depth of Christianity because they are deeply LIVED by people who are less than perfect but yet are committed to the path of following Jesus as they stumble towards salvation rather any sense of earning it…
This is my hope … mission and evangelism make no sense if no one is really living the Christian faith in community by example.