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Wanna Hang Out?

There isn’t anything else going on April 5-6, I checked.

So break open the piggy-bank, dig under the couch cushions and come see me in Fort Worth. Wes Magruder and  I will help you figure out once and for all what missional and monastic have to do with each other. We’ll also be talking about the Missional Wisdom Foundation’s experiences with forming missional communities. I’m quite positive other people will say good things too…but mostly, you don’t want to miss Wes and me. 🙂

Find out more about TransFORM at their website.

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Conversation with Jon Huckins

jon huckins

Click to visit Jon’s site

As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t know Jon Huckins before picking up Thin Places a couple months ago. I drove Rachel a little crazy as I read her passages from the book. I’d come running into the living room, “This section is almost exactly the same as the beginning of the theological foundations chapter in my dissertation!” …and then she would sit patiently as I read paragraph after paragraph. She said, “Sounds like you two would get along really well.”

The copy of the book I purchased also came with a DVD of video vignettes for each chapter. These excellent clips provide a fantastic glimpse into the content of the book, but also into the hearts and lives that fill the pages the pages. The book’s publisher, The House Studio, has made the following available to the public…so I’ll share it with you here.

I was very excited when Jon not only accepted my Facebook friend request, but generously agreed to respond to some questions about Thin Places.

So, without further ado, blah blah blah, here we go.

Bret: In our experience, many (though certainly not all) Christians who are drawn toward more decentralized approaches to faith are often carrying a lot of “rejecting the structure” baggage.

This becomes a lens through which they filter so much of what they encounter. The “I’m done with organized religion” statement can become a rejection of anything that reminds them of past structures. Have you seen this as well? If so, what has been most helpful in assisting them toward a generative rather than negating outlook (focusing on what they ARE about rather than what they are NOT about).

Jon: Yes, this is certainly a reality we have experienced quite often in our time of forming missional-monastic communities that look quite different than the traditional church structures many of us have experienced.

While the discontent did give birth to much needed renewal and new life in the Church, it is certainly not sustainable, nor the point of forming missional-monastic community. Something we have focused on is being constructive rather than deconstructive, while celebrating and supporting the Church in all her forms.

A movement can’t move if it is primarily based on dissatisfaction. We must be fueled out of a holy satisfaction that comes out of people living as they have been called to live for the good of the world. Also, as we have rooted in neighborhood and invited non-churched people into our communities, the DNA of our communities has evolved to being more concerned with who we are than who we aren’t.

Bret: I love the idea you describe of radical invitation. In particular, the story of Darren and LaDonna struck chords of harmony with our own experiences. It is so easy to get stuck in between – where our friends have come to trust a community of Christ followers, but have remained hesitant about jumping in wholeheartedly as disciples themselves. What would you say to those who are simply afraid to extend that invitation out of fear that it will “scare off” their friends?

Jon: I think a lot of it has to do with transparency and identity. If we are going to cultivate relationships that allow for shared life and mutual invitation, we have to be transparent about how we live and who we are living for. That’s where identity comes in. If I am first a follower of Jesus and second part of a community that is committed to following in his ways together my whole reality is shaped around that. In the same way that I would want my friend to be transparent about the stuff that matters most in their life, I must offer them the same. From our experience, people are more intrigued by the particularity and intentionality of our way of life than scared off by it.

Bret: In the chapter on contending, you talk about a commitment to “gently calling one another out” when habits of communication tear down rather than build up. How does this translate into situations with those who have deep seated emotional problems or even mental illnesses which make healthy communication difficult?

Jon: Great question and one that probably needs individual attention for each person and community that is experiencing their unique realities. With that said, a big piece of covenanting to a missional-monastic community is the discernment process that precedes commitment. There needs to be space and expectation that each person will be open with their community about what they bring to the table (strengths, weaknesses, disabilities). At that point all know what they are committing to as a community and can better navigate those realities when they inevitably come up in the life of a community.

Bret: Does NieuCommunities have any collaborative or even conversational relationships with more traditional, “brick and mortar” oriented churches in the community? If so, how have these relationships been cultivated?

Jon: Absolutely! In fact, these relationships are some of the ones that bring us the most joy and fulfillment. As I mentioned earlier, we seek to value the church in all her forms. We certainly don’t have a corner on the market and are committed to remain in a posture of humility and listening. There are about five churches in and around our neighborhood who we consistently support and partner with. In fact, we have been able to act as a neutral presence of sorts and regularly instigate gatherings where we all worship, equip and encourage one another under the same roof. Rob, who wrote much of Thin Places alongside of me, personally coaches a handful of the local pastors in our city.


Thin-Places-210x300I’m very grateful to Jon for his responses. Hopefully we’ll have more opportunities for dialog in the future. I encourage you to pick up a copy of Thin Places for yourself. In the next brief series of posts we’ll stay with the theme of cultivating and sustaining a healthy missional culture  by discussing JR Woodward’s fantastic book, Creating Missional Culture.

The Missional Monks Book

A while back I started writing a series of posts titled “The Bare Minimum.” While the series did not start this way, as I have unpacked these ideas (mostly offline) the contributions of the new monastics have surfaced as valuable answer to the discipleship conundrum presented by our part-time schedule in faith.

Obviously, I haven’t posted any of the follow-up posts that I’d suggested were in the works. There are a few reasons for this.

First, we’re entering a very busy season for the Missional Wisdom Foundation – new cohorts forming, current cohorts engaging in one-on-one coaching for their practicums (I’m doing a LOT of coaching these days). In a sense, I haven’t had time to write about the impact of missional monasticism because I’ve been consumed in the cultivation of missional monasticism.

But the main reason I haven’t posted anything else on this in a while is pretty simple…it is being worked into the manuscript for a Missional Monks book!

This year the Sentralized Conference is partnering with Forge and IVP to host The Great Forge Write-Off. People who have never published a book are invited to submit proposals that will be reviewed by a panel of authors and narrowed down to six selections – which will be pitched to the folks from IVP at this year’s Sentralized Conference in Kansas City.

So between work trips, coaching calls, course planning, retreat/immersion leading, schedule coordinating, and summertime Wellsbrother mad-houseness, I’ve been working on my first book.

Here are a couple excerpts from my application/proposal to The Great Forge Write-Off:

In The Forgotten Ways, Hirsch says that “if mission is our sending, then incarnational is how we go.” Missional Monks is about how we go together.

Within the missional conversation, some have begun questioning whether the missional impulse adequately emphasizes intentional discipleship.

Perhaps the problem isn’t a low emphasis on discipleship, but a struggle to find ways to translate that emphasis into actually, consistently pursuing discipleship together in our hyper-mobile culture. We talk about missional as an orientation, as a way of life. But is it?

Have we gotten good at talking about being missional, even started getting to know our neighbors again, but failed to address the rhythms of life that continually pull our focus away from living in the moment?

If engaging in the mission of God is going to be rooted in deep discipleship; if it is going to be more (though not less) than social activism, we must find ways to fully and finally let go of our part-time and individualistic approach. This message has been put forth, but often the question remains… “How?”

This is where the new (and old) monastics can help us – even in the suburbs. This book draws largely from our experiences in the Missional Wisdom Foundation, from my own struggles and successes in missional-monastic church planting, and the stories of friends who have sought to cultivate this kind of life in their own context.

Contribution to be made by this Book

The information in this book is not “new.” It is ancient – and has been wrongly set-aside in our culture. By bringing the missional and monastic streams together in this way, the book provides a glimpse into a major aspect of why our attempts at discipleship often flounder.

This book is the fruit of both academic study and actual practice. I’ve read and been shaped significantly by a wide range of missional and monastic scholars and practitioners. I have reflected academically on their work. Yet, I’ve been blessed to work in the trenches as a church planter and a minister in established churches. My thinking has been challenged and refined through my work with multiple missional-monastic communities through the Missional Wisdom Foundation (MWF) – both residential communities and worshipping communities. And I’ve seen these principles fleshed out in many different ways as teacher, equipper and coach with those in established church contexts through the MWF’s Academy for Missional Wisdom.

It seems that often in missional literature we simply avoid the problem of time. We say that we must focus on daily-lived faith, but we dance around how to actually accomplish that with others.

On the other hand much of the work of the new monastics fails to connect with those who aren’t planning to relocate to urban centers, and aren’t willing to move into a large house with several other people.

That being said, I am finding it increasingly common to encounter people who have read the work of Elaine Heath, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, John Perkins, and others. The question – whether asked longingly or dismissively – seems to be, “Is it even possible for this to translate into our context?”

Missional Monks bridges the gap. It will address the issue of time and community, but with a constant eye toward what that means for everyday disciples with jobs, families, and responsibilities that may seem – at first glance – incompatible with monastic rhythms.

By drawing from the stories of real people attempting to live these principles in community with others, this book provides examples of how missional-monastic rhythms are possible in our culture. This book will not attempt to convince people to organize in a particular way, leave to plant churches or relocate to a specific type of location. It will inspire imagination as to how a disciplined imagination in community can be lived out wherever we are.

At the end of this month I’ll be flying out to Kansas City where hopefully I’ll be among those selected to pitch my book idea to IVP…and then hopefully will be one that they’ll decide to publish (they might not select any of the proposals…or may take all six).

So, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, please let the folks at Sentralized (Facebook page / twitter account) and InterVarsity Press (Facebook page / twitter account) know that you’d like to see Missional Monks: The Wisdom of a Disciplined Imagination in Community become a published work.

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