Inhabiting a Suburban Abbey


I’ve begun using the term “missional monasticism” to refer to our particular approach to church planting. Like the monastics and new monastics (you may have noticed that I have a whole series of posts reviewing books on this subject. Read the intro here) we have embraced a call to immerse ourselves in our neighborhood and community as a community of light and hope. However, unlike some new monastic communities, our calling involves an intentional engagement intended to form new worshipping communities among those who are not presently disciples of Christ.

But still this term “missional monastic” seems strange – even paradoxical – to some. Chris and I have been discussing some different options for not only living this life and inviting others to come and see, but also just helping people understand what we’re talking about. Here’s a short post I’ve been working on to introduce the topic – I’d love some feedback regarding how helpful this is (as a starting place for conversation, not a definitive thesis on “missional monasticism”) So, what do you think?


What in the world is Missional Monasticism???

You may already be familiar with the language of “missional.” Many people over the last few years have been talking about (and a few are even living) the call to join in God’s mission to reclaim, restore and remake all creation. Like many things which make their way into popular vocabulary there is sometimes misuse and overuse of the word to refer to anything new, flashy or “relevant.”

Strictly speaking, missional refers to the belief that all God’s people are called to participate in the mission of God – not just a few select “ordained” leaders; our participation in religion is defined by whole-life discipleship in the way of Christ.

The New Monasticism has gotten more attention lately due in large part to the leadership of folks like Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and others. Monasticism has a long history of prophetic voice within the Church. The Desert Monastics of the early Church were men and women who withdrew from the trappings of their culture in order to embrace a life of simplicity, prayer and service. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of monastics did not/do not see their calling to leave the world behind and hide themselves away. The call for monastics throughout the ages has been to embrace holiness for the sake of the world. The movement being referred to as the new monasticism is made up of communities of people who commit to a common Rule of Life. Many draw from the 12 Marks of New Monasticism. The purpose of such a commitment is not moral perfection or super-spirituality. The desire is to dwell in the presence of the Lord…on earth as it will be in heaven.

But what is Missional Monasticism?

Missional monasticism is one possible result of acknowledging that the call to discipleship in the Way of Jesus, participation in the mission of God and being joined to the Body of Christ are all one call with both immediate and eternal implications.

Missional monasticism is a commitment to whole life discipleship in community for the sake of the world…and it is a commitment that calls us to intentionally invite others to make similar commitments. Instead of extracting people from their community and inviting them to worship somewhere else, missional monastics help people discern how to worship, pray, learn, grow and serve right where God has planted them.

We are not seeking to come up with something novel and trendy. We are seeking to draw from ancient wisdom in ways that speak gospel to our present context and embrace the Kingdom of God which is both a present reality and our future hope.

When we read about the life of Jesus and the early Christian disciples we notice that there is a distinct lack of the dualistic views that are so prevalent today (ie, separating our existence into “sacred” and “secular”). To be a disciple of Jesus meant committing your entire life to a new Way. There was both an internal conversion of heart and mind and an external conversion to the Community of God for the sake of those still bound to the rules of the Empire.

We are part of a church planting movement. We invite others to follow this Jesus and then we walk with them as they invite others. We believe that the good news of new life should spread into new neighborhoods, coffee shops, office complexes and other gathering places. It does not require ministry budgets, building projects, finance committees or human constructed hierarchies (though it has worked like leaven within those places and will continue to do so).

It does require the people of God to follow Jesus into the neighborhood. We who are disciples in the new kingdom are all priests. As priests we have all been called to pray to God on behalf of the world and we discover that Jesus is already aware of them. We have been called to go out into the world on behalf of God and we discover that Jesus is already there.

Slowly we are beginning to hear the gentle whisper of God saying, “See those two over there? I love them and I’m doing great things in their life…go tell them I said hi.” The crazy part is when we go say “hi” and we distinctly hear the gentle whisper of God saying “hello” back to us… as if Jesus was there all along, waiting for us. Imagine that.

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Posted on April 28, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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