Monastery or Marketplace?
The guys at Baylyblog have a post worth reading on modern monastic tendencies in the reformed community - little niches where the saints withdraw from the world and hole up together. David Bayly quotes from a conversation over on the World Magazine Blog where someone speaks adoringly about some of the various options out there...
You don't need to relocate as far as Idaho, you know. You have a couple of choices in 'leaven communities' today:I think David did a nice job of responding, so I won't duplicate his comments.
1) The Dougs (Wilson & Jones) and their men in Moscow have a phenomenal life...
2) George grant and his men in Franklin, TN have a wonderful, similar community going;
3) Robert the Sproul and his 'Basement Tape' men have perhaps the best of all possible worlds (like heaven on earth, I tell you!) in Mendota and Abingdon, VA (two churches to pick from; Robert pastors the Mendota parish and fellow Basement Taper Laurence Windham pastors the other parish;
4) Hidden in the texas Hill Country is tiny Waring, TX where an 80-year-old picturesque country church stands. Each Sunday, that place is filled with several hundred Reformed Christians where Doug Phillips and his men teach, preach, and raise covenant families (the credobaptists among the group).
John, come spend time with this Doug, and you won't feel like you have to move to the snowy country to abide with the other Doug! All four of these wonderful covenant communities are peopled with priceless magisterial Reformers.
This is just the creme de la creme; I mention many more similar churches in my upcoming book.
Something did strike me, however. Notice all those references to "his men"? Maybe it's just me, but isn't it supposed to be Christ's church? I got a creepy feeling in the bottom of my stomach reading this...
For the record, this is pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum from the type of church we hope to plant in Missoula, MT. But that actually raises an interesting question, because I'll bet deep down we're all interested in the same thing: a deep sense of community.
So what's to keep us from becoming just like them? I think the difference is how those "outside the fold" are welcomed and embraced to participate along with us. We hope to be intentional in engaging "unbelievers", "sinners" - people who are not usually found in Christian churches; you shouldn't have to clean yourself up before you can feel welcome in our midst.
We also believe that true Christian community will be redemptive in the midst of the secular society in which it lives. If the kingdom of God were to come visibly to Missoula, MT, what kinds of things would we expect to change? How would our daily lives, our public spaces, be changed? Our friends at Saint Patrick's in Greely, CO have put some of their thoughts down on paper.
It's probably also worth noting that our definition of "church" includes a deep sense of mission - mission to actually reach out to unbelievers, to meet them on their level rather than waiting for them to come to us. Church without a sense of mission can only end up existing for itself, and as soon as you get there... are you really still the church?
Anyway, these are some of the questions we're wrestling with, and we'd love to hear your thoughts as well...