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Learning from Monasticism

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : April 18, 2006

Sorry for my sporadic posting…April is a busy month for me.  The good thing, however, is that once we hit May you won’t hear me spout so much about consumerism and the conference. 

An issue that comes up often with emerging types is figuring out how to work within exisisting structures.  Denominations and other structures offer money and resources for church plants and exisiting churches, but they unfortunately have certain values or bad habits institutionalized which can be counter-productive to certain emerging values. 

I tend to work from the margins of the systems of which I am a part.  Recently, however, a few friends have encouraged me to get more involved within the system.  If feels like one is forced to choose between gaining a voice within the system (which means taking on more and more institutionalized power and resources) or staying in the margins.  But is there a 3rd option?  Is it possible that different emerging approaches to church can exist within larger systems as monastic orders existed and exist within the Catholic Church?  Perhaps the best way forward within denominational systems is for denominations to create alternative space for new approaches without fully embracing these new approaches nor squelching them.  What would this look like?  How should funding and networking exist for emerging churches within denominational systems?  I’d like to hear how y’all manage doing new things withing established systems. 

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One Response to “Learning from Monasticism”

  1. Kristine Socall on April 23rd, 2006 5:42 pm

    While I’m not working within a denominational system, I’m working within a mega-church, Willowcreek, –but this is one which is strongly attempting a transition out of its centralized structure and has been in a 2-3 year season of experimenting with new ways of exhorting/empowering people to be the church in the neighborhoods where they live. I lead a 20-something ministry there for one of their satellite campuses, which has at its emphasis to serve a certain geographic region–making it far more likely to be open to alternative models of ministry and form. So far, we’re two years down the road into creating a missional community, which welcomes nonbelievers, and 20-somethings of many different churches into its journey of serving the area where we live and seeking spiritual growth and conversations. I’ve been told by the regional leadership of this mega-church that what I do and create should focus on building the Kingdom and not getting more people into their services, that we should find other believers where we live and figure out ways to be the church with them, seeking to love our neighbors and get involved in their lives as their friends, serving them practically. They’ve empowered us with training, coaching and financial resources. They’ve expressly told us that it’s up to us to dream up what fits the context where we’re working and that they’re open to whatever it may look like. It’s been pretty amazing so far and I’m excited to see what’s next as I’m in discussions with a few people to move in together and form a new monastic community. We’ll see!

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