Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Congregations will always be the predominant expression of church'?

Len (uh, he's the one on the left) is quietly and prophetically Issacharian ; in tune and in touch with the two things that doubly count in this next reformation. His Anabaptist heritage and grappling with Celtic spirituality uniquely qualify him for his calling; and does his recent wikiparticipation in the community he is involved with :

our crazy community... I don’t know about 24/7, but I do affirm that this is one “real” place.. messy, participatory, real...this is one “real” place.. messy, participatory, real...

So I am guessing he has already (thrice and thoroughly) read Freeman and Grieg's "Punk Monk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing".
The back cover summarizes the sweep of the book:

Fleeing the compromises of the 4th century church, the Desert Fathers founded monasticism. In reaction to a Christianity they scarcely recognized, these radicals fled to the Egyptian desert to model a different, radical style of discipleship, filled with sacrifice and continual prayer. Who are the new monks, the new punks, the new revolutionaries? The answer lies in an upsurge of 24-7 monastic communities around the world. Punk Monk combines a narrative journey through the beginnings of 24-7 Prayer Boiler Rooms with a discussion on the roots of monasticism, particularly its ethos and values, and how it can be applied in the third millennium. Drawing influences from the Franciscans, the Celts and the Moravians, the book highlights the counter-cultural and revolutionary force of monasticism and asks whether it is time for a new monastic movement. It also takes punk as a contemporary expression of monastic spirit and asks whether a silent revolution is coming. link

In the epilogue, the authors pick up on Patrick Johnstone's suggestion that "there are (at least) three major expressions of Christian community down through the ages": congregational,apostolic, and monastic.

"We are most comfortable, Johnstone says, with the congregational model that (by definition) gathers people in certain places and times and therefore tends toward an emphasis on building and programs. Congregations will probably always be the predominant expression of church, funtioning effectively as a wineskin for many of God's blessings and as an agency for the advanvement of the kingdom of heaven."

My question for Len..and anyone..is:

Is that last sentence the case?

Could it be that we are morphing into something else..something greater than the sum of the three parts..Maybe we are moving into a season where "congregation" almost accidentally happens/emerges liminally and organically as one or both of the other two models assumes (temporary?) primacy?
Perhaps if the word (and better yet, the reality behind what is now a buzzword) "Missional," is seen as tethering the three models together; offering huge freedom and holy fluidity in which one of the three will take on primacy for a season, we may be closer to what's up.

This is perhaps in essence what Freeman and Grieg propose in the book;
but I tend to be gunshy about predicting "congregation" (at least as we have known it) as inevitably the dominant paradigm..
unless it is poured in Celtic (especially the 24/7 city) and Anabaptist (submergent and adbusting) wineskins, forms and norms...

...and spiced and spiked with quite a bit more humor and irony than most congregations have allowed to leak out of their system..

..All overseen by a creatively missional DNA that avoids Great Commisionoltary and eschews the machine matrix(dominatrix) of church as usual.

I may not have coined the phrases that we use in our "congregation" (if that's what we are):

"monastic/marketplaced" "mystical/missional,"

but I have no better words for the wonderful and terrifying dymamic tension and rhythm it feels we must live in these days. Unless Len's "messy, participatory, real" is the very vehicle..even "congregation" to get us there.

"When the old wineskin is dying, the new wineskin is created by people who are not afraid to be vulnerable. " (Graham Cooke)

"When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure" (Rudolf Buhro)


  1. dave, ok detailed reflections offered and will be posted tomorra !

  2. Belated thanks, Len..
    All should know, Len's follow-up post is here:


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!