The “new monastic” movement has matured, there’s no doubt about it. Places like the Rutba House and Communality have been around for over a decade now. They are the parents (and grandparents?) of other intentional Christian communities that have been birthed in their wake. And now those burgeoning young communities have a handbook, penned by David Janzen, who’s been part of Reba Place Fellowship since 1984.
Starting an intentional community in which Christians (and doubters) live together, share resources, and basically live openly with one another is treacherous. Some have crashed and burned, the result of ego clashes, sexual improprieties, or mismanagement of money. But some have lasted, like those I named above.
It’s the danger of the crash and burn that worries me, and should worry any young, erstwhile seminary grad who’s gung ho on starting to live like this. That’s why The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus is such a valuable resource.
Janzen covers just about everything that an intentional Christian community (aka New Monastic Community) should consider — from how to get along to how to share food to how to resolve conflict. Some of the considerations are meta (“Where will you put down roots?”) and some are specific (“Dealing with work schedules”). In other words, it’s comprehensive.
But it’s also personal. Janzen’s story isn’t the only one told. Throughout the book, other “monastics” tell their stories — some of success and some of failure. Janzen then comments on them, pulling out important lessons, as only a wise veteran of the movement could.
I am regularly approached by young Christians, motivated by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove to move into or start a new community like theirs. In the past, I’ve usually tried to dissuade them. Now I’ll tell them to read The Intentional Christian Community Handbook.