The Missional Monks Story

Exploring the Collision Between the Missional and the Monastic…

Collision is absolutely the right word.

We’ve seen collisions between missional and monastic, academic and pastoral, theoretical and practical, sacred and secular, extroverted and introverted, general and specific, Calvin and Hobbes…As all of these collide we begin to discover that many which seemed independent of each other are actually one and the same (especially Calvin and Hobbes).

Even the initiation of Missional Monks was itself a collision of sorts. The whole missional “thing” has been a big deal for me for quite some time now. However, while at SMU I discovered the movement referred to as a “new monasticism.”

Chris Chappotin (my friend who initially planted Christ Journey) and I had talked about the lack of resources for people who were already involved in missional church planting. Much of what we encountered – good though it was – seemed focused on describing missional life or convincing people of its validity – which is certainly needed. However, as people who’d already stepped out onto the edge, we were looking for help beyond, “You should do this.” Our response was basically, “Yes, we get it, we’re in…now what?”

So, we did what came natural…we talked to ourselves. After several late nights, talking in our living rooms, on the phone and in a booth at Denny’s, it occurred to us that we should be recording these conversations. That was where the idea for the podcast was born. Then we discovered Nomad, a podcast out of the UK which was trying to accomplish many of the same goals we were discussing. We appreciated their approach of interviewing a leading thinker/practicioner, then following up with “in house” processing of the discussions.

In the Summer of 2010, we decided to begin our own podcast. With the recent collision in our own world of missional and monastic, I proposed Missional Monks as our name. In his discussion of the “Missional-Incarnational Impulse,” Alan Hirsch says that if missional is our sending then incarnational is HOW we are sent. This same principle applies to the missional-monastic impulse. Missional is being sent together, Incarnational is HOW we go and Monastic is how we go TOGETHER.

While this connection seemed clear to us, others responded with some confusion. We were immediately told by some that missional and monastic don’t go together, they represent two opposite ends of the spectrum. This confusion arises, in part, from a misunderstanding of the monastic impulse – it is less about a monastery than it is about ordering our lives around God TOGETHER. Drawing this understanding out for folks has had the added benefit of painting a picture of how we can reclaim the discipleship posture in our passive-consumer driven culture.

Today I’m more convinced than ever of three things:

1) The monastic component reclaims a powerful and compelling aspect of faith, largely missing from Western expressions of “church.”

2) Both Missional and Monastic commitments are very difficult – especially in sprawling suburban contexts – but this is all the more reason why they are needed.

3) Not everyone will be ready, willing or able to order their life in monastic-type community with others…and that is okay.

When we began the Missional Monks podcast we had no idea how quickly it would begin connecting with folks from all over the US, Canada and even the UK. As conversations on twitter, Facebook and email picked up in response to the podcasts, I began thinking about ways to bring these various conversation partners together. At the same time, I needed an online platform for Communitas and my doctoral project…viola, missionalmonks.com, which initially consisted of what you now see on the “Network” page.

Now, I’ve completed my doctor of ministry. The podcast has been on hiatus for a while, but I am hoping to fire it back up eventually. I’m a certified coach, I’m willing to fill in preaching for churches in transition and preachers who are out of town, my work with The Missional Wisdom Foundation has developed into a full-time position, I have a one day or weekend Seminar in Missional Living, a 6, 8 or 10 week course in the Missional Imagination, and the 6 month Communitas experience…so how can I bring those various equipping and collaboration efforts together in a meaningful and manageable sense?

…Missional Monks.

No longer just a podcast and an online social network, Missional Monks is now operating as an equipping organization, incorporating these various aspects. At this time we aren’t seeking to do anything overly aggressive or full-time, but this is a vehicle to provide resources as needs and situations arise.

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