December 20, 2007

Great Now I have to become a Monk! (Another excuse NOT to preach the Gospel!)

Well its hard to believe but we seem to be headed back to the Dark Ages once again. The geniuses at Willow Creek (yes that same Mega-Church who just weeks ago announced they have wasted millions of dollars & time on a message that's not working) have decided that monasticism is what's missing from the church these days and this is what will set us back on the right path to God. Below is a video from a recent "Ancient Future Conference" held at Willow Creek Church, whereby this is another sign of the Emergent Church going more mainstream at your local corner Mega-Church.

For those who are unaware of what "Ancient Future" means, this is a term coined by the Emergent Church movement whereby they feel what's really lacking from the church today is ancient liturgy, rituals, traditions such as iconic prayer, infant baptism, that was done during the "ancient" years of the church. In the video Mark Van Steenwyk a speaker at the Willow Creek Conference describes their idea of monastic living. Mr. Steenwyk is the founding member of Missio Dei. Described as a neo-monastic community on the West Bank of Minneapolis. Missio Dei lives to embody Jesus' presence on the West Bank (a diverse neighborhood of East African immigrants, punks, artists, homeless people and students). NOTE: This is not to be confused with being a missionary - this is more on line with your communes of the 60-70's.

So what we all really need to do is withdraw ourselves and live in a commune or monastery AND that will cause revival in our land!?? How about this Willow Creek here is some advice - PREACH THE GOSPEL!! It's amazing, when we see the gospel truth really preached - we don't need gimmicks. Instead we see lives truly transformed from the pain and sickness of sin. Instead all I am seeing is churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback do everything BUT preach the gospel. Again, over and over we see they try and reinvent the wheel (or the gospel) every six months or so.

7 comments:

Mark Van Steenwyk said...

Sigh. But we are a missionary people. We aren't withdrawn. Some of us live in a house together, that is true, but that is so that we can have people on hand to help care for homeless people and people in transition who live with us. We do preach the Gospel. Just because we use the phrase "new monasticism" doesn't make us monks. It is a way of recognizing that during the dark days of the church, it was a recommitment to the core of the Gospel that kept the church from falling into apostasy. We are simply doing the same thing. The church in America has fallen into lukewarmness and consumerism and apathy. We're just trying to go deep into the way Jesus called us to live.

Preston N said...

Mark

Why is it then you even coin the term neo-monasticism? It gives the impression that in order for Christians to be effectual in the world we must now somehow embrace "communal" living. This is neither effective or scriptural. Christians are effective when they are the "salt and light" right where they are at in their present day lives.

The problem I have with all this is your doing nothing to fix the real problem with the church. All your doing is adding to the problem. I agree wholeheartedly that the church is lukewarm and apathetic. But its because they are no longer preaching the gospel - we are preaching as Paul would put it "a gospel that has a form of godliness, but lack power" - the power to overcome sin. As recently reported, Willow Creek is failing miserably at what its doing. Why? Again, it has to do with the message they are preaching. They have watered down the gospel so it can be tolerated by sinners (seeker friendlies). They themselves have recently admitted what they are preaching is not working. So what do they do next - they have now embraced the Emergent Church movement, another false doctrine that again will prove to be ineffective.

I look back at when we last saw real revival in the US and Europe and that was during the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings. Why were these men so effective? Because they preached the truth, the gospel that all men should repent and love God. If we use the examples of men like Charles Finney, Leonard Ravenhill, AW Tozer (none of whom ever supported "monasticism") we will see the hearts and lives of men and women change - without the need of "doing something" but rather "being something".

Christian Baptist said...

Just wanted to post an interesting observation Preston.

In your post you kind of take an indirect shot at the 'ancient future' aspect of the emerging movement, i.e. that they want to go back to the way the church used to be at the beginning in order to be more effective in today's culture. Then in your comment to Mark, you point back to a time in history that illustrates what you think needs to be done. Do you see the tension in what you are saying? Are you not 'guilty' of doing what you see as the misguided approach of the emerging movement's 'ancient future' mentality.

Second, you said in your comment that 'communal' living is not scriptural. I ask that you read Acts 2:42-47 (as well as other passages). What the early Christians were doing was 'communal' in one very specific sense. Maybe the heresy of individualism has so influenced modern Christianity that the idea of community seems 'un-scriptural.'

Just some thoughts

Preston N said...

American Baptist

First of all I never said looking to our past is the problem here. Clearly such thinking would negate the bible completely. Again, the issue here is 1. Does the bible promote monastic living? 2. Has monastic living ever-started revival?

To address you interpretation of Acts 2:42-47 as a proof text for monastic living is a real stretch. When I read these verses hermeneutically and in right context I cannot come away with a proclamation by the apostles for monastic living.

Acts 2:42-47 states:

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

What I see here is a group of people coming together to learn and study at the feet of the apostles and sharing meals and communion (v42)(1 Cor 10:16). As for the selling of possessions this has nothing to do with monasticism, but as we see in Acts 4:34-35 this has to do with handing their money over to the apostles for distribution to any one who has a real need such as widows and orphans (See Acts 6:1, 1 Timothy 5:8-16, James 1:27). Not some communal “savings” for some monastic living arrangement. As a matter of fact, when you read v46 from the Greek it states “in the various PRIVATE homes” not some communal living arrangement.

So to say one could read from Acts 2 the concept of monasticism is neither contextual or hermeneutical.

As for the issue of monasticism causing massive revival in years past, I must be honest here I am unaware of any widespread revival that has been caused by a monastery or an order of monks. Most of the monastic orders in history past I am aware of have been associated with the Catholic Church and not with Evangelical Christianity.

Finally, let me address a disturbing comment from your post. You stated: “Maybe the heresy of individualism has so influenced modern Christianity that the idea of community seems 'un-scriptural.”

First I would challenge you to show me in scripture where being an individual is heretical or where as a Christian we are to loose our individuality or personal identity? I would ask you this. When we stand before God on judgment Day, will God judge you as an “individual” or as a commune?

Danny said...

Hi Preston,
I have responded to your article, and others who similarly responded to Mark's video on my blog at

www.coldfire.wordpress.com

I hope that you will clear up any misunderstandings or if you think I have misunderstood you there.

Mark Van Steenwyk said...

It seems silly to expect medieval monasticism to conform to your standards for evangelical revival. Evangelicalism is a post-reformation movement! Don't you think that there is ANYTHING positive that we can learn from the era between Constantine and the Reformation? I see the monastic movements as important and necessary revivals for their times. And it is not an accident that MANY of the reformers (including the radical reformers, who I consider my spiritual ancestors) were monastic. The monastic movement was a response to a corrupt or apathetic Christendom.

Maybe you disagree with my last paragraph. If so, can we set aside the word "monasticism" for a bit? We can debate the particulars of medieval monasticism another time. I use the phrase (and so do others) to capture the imagination...to exhort people to become strong communities of hospitality, prayer, service to the poor, and simplicity. Would you not agree that these things are praiseworthy practices?

No one is suggesting that Acts 2 = monasticism. But Acts 2 does support the biblical precedent for communal living. Do I think communal living can be a helpful part of Christian life? YES. Do I think everyone should do it? Probably not. Why do we do it? Lots of reasons:

1) Almost every society has embraced multi-family or extended-family living as a norm. America did too until the 1900s. Living with more than just my wife and child can be just plain helpful and healthy.

2) It makes it MUCH easier for real and authentic hospitality. When we take in people who have needs or are in transition, we can all share their burdens together. And hospitality (feeding and clothing and serving the stranger) is VERY biblical.

3) It keeps overall costs down, meaning that people can either work less (to give more time to ministry) or work the same amount and give more.

4) It makes it easier to pray together in community.

Preston N said...

Mark

Sorry for taking so long in getting back to your comments – I was busy enjoying Christmas with my family and friends. BTW – Merry Christmas and I hope you have a Happy New Year!

Let me address each of your points here:

Mark said:

1) Almost every society has embraced multi-family or extended-family living as a norm. America did too until the 1900s. Living with more than just my wife and child can be just plain helpful and healthy.

Preston: First, I still see no biblical support for this concept and how this is supposed to bring about revival or conversions of sinners. Furthermore, based upon your reasoning here polygamy would seem to make it a lot easier on a family as this seems to be one step better than “communal” Again, your reasoning seems to be more focused on the “family” or making it easier on “yourself” and I don’t get the correlation as how this is supposed to change sinners hearts?? Maybe I am missing something here but it seems to me your concepts echoes back to the hippie commune movements of the 60-70’s where this was more of a social statement against capitalism and social reform. If you want to truly transform society – show them how rebellious their wicked hearts are against God and not providing them comfort – I would suggest you read the following article from Charles Finney on this particular subject http://www.gospeltruth.net/1835Lect_on_Rev
_of_Rel/35revlec18.htm
(Please do not misinterpret that I am saying we are not to show compassion to people, but this alone will not bring them to salvation!)

Mark said:
2) It makes it MUCH easier for real and authentic hospitality. When we take in people who have needs or are in transition, we can all share their burdens together. And hospitality (feeding and clothing and serving the stranger) is VERY biblical.

Preston: Since when does “hospitality” supposed to bring sinners to salvation? I would be interested in seeing biblical support for this concept? Again, nothing will bring a sinner to repentance until they are broken over their sins against God and their fellow man. ONLY through the truth of hearing the word of God will do this. Paul reinforces this in 1 Cor 1:17-18

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.

It would seem your basing your mode of evangelism not on sharing the word of God, but more along the lines of socialism. Even your comment below about keeping the cost down seems to lead one to believe your adhering to a gospel of socialism.

3) It keeps overall costs down, meaning that people can either work less (to give more time to ministry) or work the same amount and give more.

Mark said:
4) It makes it easier to pray together in community.

Preston: Granted I believe in communal or should I say community prayer, in the sense that we as believers are to come together and pray. But again, where does it state in the scriptures that we are to come together and then stay together and live in a commune? As for the “easier” part I would debate that living together in a commune for the sake of getting together to pray is a real stretch here.