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Help Me Write a Christarchy Primer

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 22, 2008

Ok, here’s the deal: I’m working on a simple “organizer’s manual” for Christarchy. The idea is to write a quick introduction explaining Christarchy, give ideas for forming a group, and then include 12 short sections with idea for each meeting. Each of these 12 sections will highlight a theme for living a life in radical allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Why 12? Besides being a beautiful number, it is also the number of months in a year, and I would love for a fledgling group to have a year’s worth of help (if they meet monthly). And of course, many groups will do their own thing. I’m simply looking for a way to assist groups that wouldn’t normally organize due to anxiety over the immortal question: “What should we do?”

Each section will include a basic overview of the theme, an encounter with Christ in the gospels, possible discussion questions, and potential steps for action.

Here is what I’ve come up with so far (with some of my thoughts in parenthesis). What would you add? What would you subtract? Help a brother out!

  1. THE JESUS MANIFESTO (an intro to the way of Jesus)
  2. INTO THE MARGINS (the idea of this is to talk about how Jesus gave up power, and built a movement in the fringe)
  3. SUBVERSIVE SPIRITUALITY: ENGAGING THE IMAGINATION OF GOD (this is a lofty section title…what I’m getting at here is the idea that Jesus wasn’t simply wanting his disciples to act differently, but to imagine differently…if Christarchy is just about ethics without first inviting disciples into a new way of seeing, then we’re doing a disservice)
  4. THE ECONOMICS OF JESUS (practicing jubilee)
  5. AROUND THE TABLE (practicing hospitality)
  6. SIMPLICITY (birds have nests…)
  7. RESISTANCE (resisting the Principalities and Powers of our Global Empire)
  8. PEACEMAKING POST-911 (addressing love of enemy both home and abroad)
  9. ALLELON in a CULTURE OF ONE (there is a tendency for radicals to embrace individualism…the whole DIY ethic can easily become one of self-sufficiency at the expense of interdependence)
  10. SUSTAINING THE EARTH (was Jesus an environmentalist?)
  11. CAMPAIGNING FOR JESUS (a life of witness)
  12. STEPPING INTO THE WIND (the role of discernment in the way of Jesus)

My goal is to have a good chunk of this thought out before the New Conspirator’s conference next week. I’ll be leading a session on the Christarchy stuff there (as well as a session on Embodying the Gospel in the Global Empire).

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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    I'll have to think on this a bit. I would strip the post-911 bit from the peacemaking title though.
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    Chapter 12 is really intriguing to me. Where you going with that one exactly?
    I, like Jordan, will have to think a bit before I say more.
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    Would this primer include an intro or preface of some sort that explained the very use of the term "Christarchy" and all the baggage with anarchism? I think that has to be in there for sure (I'm guessing you already know this). I think it would also be cool if everyone in the particular group/community using the primer would have one or two people share each week (depending on how many were in the group) about how they've come to this place in their spiritual journey, what they hope to get out it, where they've already seen some of these ideas forming their lives, etc... Sort of the whole "my story is wrapped up in your story, which is wrapped up in God's story" principle.
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    Would it be useful to have a chapter (or, at least, an appendix) that sets this in a larger eccleisal context? Perhaps discussing groups throughout Church history who have followed a similar path?
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    Great feedback thus far. Thank you.

    Mike: I don't think we can really call people into an alternative way of life without discussing the role of the Holy Spirit or the necessity of discernment. After all, Jesus' manifesto in Luke 4 begins with an acknowledgment of the Spirit's anointing. And then in Acts 2, the disciples continue in the ministry of Jesus with the anointing of the Spirit. John 20:21ff links Jesus' sending of his disciples with their reception of the Spirit. All of this is to say that we cannot talk about people following in the way of Jesus without also talking about the empowerment and guidance of the Spirit.

    Regarding the preface explaining the word "christarchy"...yep, that should be in there. I like the idea of people sharing from their own story.

    Graham,

    I'm trying to keep this as light-weight as possible. I hadn't thought about bringing it into the ecclesial context, but it would be good to somehow tie it in. I could probably include that ever-so-briefly in the preface...a couple pages tracking radical Christianity. And then, in an appendix, I could direct people to the websites of groups that would be places for people to learn more. Good idea.
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    I've got an outline about peacemaking on my blog thoughtloose.blogspot.com titled Being a peacemaker. If you like it, if its helpful, I could fill it out for you.

    I've also got ideas for simplicity and caring for the earth. I've posted some of them.

    Most of what I've written is more on the practical side. I can talk theology, but I'm sure you know plenty of people who can quote theology rings around me.

    I have suggestions for each of the others as well. But, I must say I'm not all that clear on where you're trying to go.
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    I think your vision for the content is right on, Mark, but your vision for the book as an organizer's manual for Christarchy groups may be too small. As I read your outline I realized this would make an incredibly useful and thought-provoking book for radical Christians everywhere as we seek our way into and through this new revolutionary church. It would be much more useful and hands-on practical than most of the current books in the emerging / emergent stream, some of which are sadly little more than intellectual masturbation. I'd go so far as to say this book is what's needed at this moment as we struggle to become the church we ought to be! Please consider making the book widely available. I'd buy it, devour it from cover to cover, and probably give several to friends.
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    Wow Mark. That is very encouraging to hear. Writing that the way you suggest would be pretty time consuming. I'd love it if I could get 12 people to each write a chapter (each conforming to a standard format). I'd edit it, making it have good flow, adding an introduction and a conclusion. If we kept the thing to 60 pages, it would be cheap to put together and distribute.

    You're right--there is a need for this. This could be a manifesto for action.

    By the way, I'm meeting with an editor from InterVarsity press next week for my book "the Jesus Manifesto" that gets into the ideas that i've been advocating here on this website. This organizers guide would be a good accompaniment to that.
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    Mark, what part do you see Kingdom of God playing into this? And what section would you see love and trust showing up?
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    I would say that if this is to be a primer for Christarchy groups, one of the first and primary things to cover would be practicing selflessness and building community, especially with people who are NOT like you.

    Some pragmatics on loving each other in the group before diving into the subsequent topics. Without building that community the group is hamstrung.
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    PS (and it's an awkward comparison, but apt nonetheless) there are those who have done their books to cater to both the personal and the communal readers; i.e. the purpose driven life.

    Whatever you think of the content, that's a successful example of how to write a book that you can just pick up and read, or work through in a community context. Perhaps these two projects you're envisioning need only be one.
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    Jonathan,

    Well, the Kingdom of God plays into all of it. After all the word "Christarchy" is almost synonymous with "kingdom of God." Rule of Christ = Kingdom of God.

    Love and trust? I'd like to think that these would permeate the work, but it would be easy for these to be left out. It may be good to somehow intentionally frame all of this around the call to love God and neighbor.
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    PPS - I love the idea of having different people who are passionately into the various arenas contributing a chapter; it would be a very interesting and diverse read.
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    It's exciting to hear that IVP is looking at your "Jesus Manifesto" book. To use the terminology from your website, if we look at the "Jesus Manifesto" book as the essential doxis, this organizer's manual is a good start on some street-level praxis to go along with it. It begins to answer the question "so what do we do about all this?" Head, heart and hands.

    Your idea of having various people draft the different chapters while you edit could be a good way to take some of the time burden off of you while making it possible for the book to reach a wider audience. It will be important for you as editor to start each writer off with your vision for his or her chapter and how it fits into the overall book.

    I think you've got a tiger by the tail and I'm going to keep encouraging you on this!
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    Hmmm...based upon the feedback thus far, how does this sound?

    1. THE JESUS MANIFESTO (a call to revolution)
    2. THE JESUS CREED (the heart of revolution)
    3. INTO THE MARGINS (where the revolution starts)
    4. THE PROPHETIC IMAGINATION (a subversive spirituality)
    5. THE ECONOMICS OF JESUS (practicing the jubilee)
    6. AROUND THE TABLE (breaking bread with strangers, outsiders, and new-found friends)
    7. THE SIMPLE LIFE (birds have nests...)
    8. BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS (loving your enemies both home and abroad)
    9. ALLELON IN A CULTURE OF ONE
    10. SUSTAINING THE EARTH (was Jesus an environmentalist?)
    11. COMMUNITIES OF RESISTANCE (struggling against the principalities and powers of our global empire)
    12. STEPPING INTO THE WIND (the power of the Spirit and the Way of Jesus)
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    Looks good
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    Who is going to read or use
    this primer? why are you
    writing it in the first place?
    These are questions that
    pop into my head.
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    I agree that Kingdom thinking would permeate every chapter, judging from your outline. That's clearly what the whole book is about -- the Kingdom life.

    Chapter 3 would be an ideal place to at least briefly discuss the concept of abandoned spaces of empire.

    For those who don't know NT Greek, the word allelon in a chapter title might be a bit daunting. I hear where you're headed with it -- how to encourage community-body thinking in an individualistic society -- but just for the chapter title, you might want it to be a bit more accessible to everyone. Maybe something like:

    9. GETTING FROM ME TO WE (thinking communally in a culture of one)
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    #1- I agree with Mark on the "Allelon" reference.

    #2- Think you could get Scot Mcknight to contribute to the Jesus Creed chapter? That'll get you some readers and some major credibility in vast circles.

    #3- go with it!
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    My only wonder is if "Sustaining The Earth" would be better framed in a larger concept of restoration of all creation, which is inclusive of relationship with people too. Just my thoughts.
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    Terry...this is essentially going to be used for small groups that want to explore the ethical teachings of Jesus with the goal of putting them into practice. I think it is needed because most such study books tend towards belief formation or personal spiritual formation, not group-based praxis. There isn't a whole lot out there that scratches this itch.

    Mike...I'm not sure Scot would be interested. I could ask, but I'm a bit timid about it. He's a big-timer these days. Plus my few interactions with him left me feeling that he doesn't appreciate my approach to things--a bit too challenging and sarcastic. I've made an effort to tone down the sarcasm, but I still maintain a bit of an edge. :)

    Jonathan...the difficulty in framing things into larger categories is that it becomes harder to make ethics and praxis the focus. Certainly things need to be understood within the right sort of framework, but that is beyond the scope of this project to provide it. Perhaps I can tackle that more in my book...i'm not sure.

    So, here's where the outline is at now, based upon my absorption of comments.

    1. THE JESUS MANIFESTO (a call to revolution)
    2. THE JESUS CREED (the heart of revolution)
    3. INTO THE MARGINS (where the revolution starts)
    4. THE PROPHETIC IMAGINATION (a subversive spirituality)
    5. THE ECONOMICS OF JESUS (practicing the jubilee)
    6. AROUND THE TABLE (breaking bread with strangers, outsiders, and new-found friends)
    7. THE SIMPLE LIFE (birds have nests…)
    8. BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS (loving your enemies both home and abroad)
    9. COMMUNITY IN A CULTURE OF ONE (moving from me to we)
    10. SUSTAINING THE EARTH (was Jesus an environmentalist?)
    11. COMMUNITIES OF RESISTANCE (struggling against the principalities and powers of our global empire)
    12. STEPPING INTO THE WIND (the power of the Spirit and the Way of Jesus)
    • ^
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    Mark, is this framework an introduction to new monasticism or following Jesus? Or from your perspective are those the same?
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    It is an intro to following Jesus...but not in its entirety. It is an intro to the praxis of Jesus. This is certainly what New Monasticism is interested in, but that isn't to say that this is an intro to New Monasticism. For example, this "primer" won't call people to communal living or to particular spiritual practices.

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