Starting a New Monastic Community? Read This First

This sponsored post is part of the Patheos Book Club. Check out the Book Club for more posts on this book, an interview with the author, and for responses from other bloggers and columnists.

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.

Awesome Limericks = Free Books

Last week, I ran a contest whereby readers could submit limericks about Christian social justice and win a copy of the new book by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?. Below are the winners, as chosen by me based on hilarity and the rules of limericks (which some entrants struggled to obey).

Next week, a similar contest to win copies of Rachel Held Evans’s new book.

And now, without further ado, the winners:

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Free Book by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo

A young author who liked letters red,
So skinny he looked underfed,
When his co-author called,
and said he was bald,
Well the young one did offer him dreds. 

Thanks to the people at Thomas Nelson, I’ve got ten copies to give away of the new book by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?. Among the endorsements:

“This book, by a young and an elderly Christian, will help you decide how we Christians could change the world if we took the ‘red letter’ words of Jesus literally and seriously.” —President Jimmy Carter

“In Red Letter Revolution the uncompromised truth of Jesus’ teachings are given voice by two modern-day Christian leaders who do more than preach this Good News. They walk the talk and lead the way.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This competition will run until 12pm CDT on Monday. The ten books will go to those who leave the best limericks about Christian social justice in the comment section.

Good luck!

The Evangelical’s Burden

Recently, I supped with a young, hipster evangelical leader. Someone you would know. Someone who runs large conferences. We had a nice time, but toward the end of our time together, I asked her a question that I figured I knew the answer to:

“You won’t have me or Doug or Brian speak at your events, will you?”

The answer, after some hemming and hawing, was “No.”

Here’s why I asked: Her conference, like many other evangelical conferences, has two categories of speakers: evangelical speakers and non-Christian speakers.

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