Book Excerpt: Read the Foreword

Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
The Intentional Christian Community Handbook
For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus

By David Janzen


By Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

This is a book that we've needed for a long, long time.

Over the past fifteen years, we've sat in living rooms and around kitchen tables with people who have asked the same question: "How can we follow Jesus with our whole life?" At The Simple Way and at Rutba House, the communities that respectively we call home, we've wrestled with this question in the company of friends and neighbors. We've talked about it late into the night, and we've invested all we have into ongoing experiments in the truth of the gospel.

In our communities, we've read and reread the Sermon on the Mount. We've been inspired by ancient monastics and twentieth-century community movements. We've passed around books by Dorothy Day and Jean Vanier, John Perkins and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We've tried to learn from those who've gone before us, and we've tried to listen to the distinct new challenges of our day. We've seen some miracles. We've failed miserably. We've learned to forgive and be forgiven. Community has been a classroom for our conversion.

As we've shared the good news that we've seen and heard through these little experiments in the truth of the gospel, we've met thousands of other people who are asking the same question, hearing the same call—the call to follow Jesus into a life of discipleship in community. Seeing in their eyes a look that we recognize from those small circles of friends, we have recognized our common cause in a movement of the Holy Spirit.

God is up to something. Hope is springing up, not in one mighty trunk, but in thousands of shoots. Those shoots are rooted in the Song that gave birth to creation, the Love that moves the sun and other stars. God is stirring something new in our time.

But these shoots of new life in community are fragile, and they need tender care to grow into maturity. We've learned this the hard way—by seeing firsthand the pain of community-gone-bad. And we've seen so many new communities spring up and die, as Jesus speaks of the seeds that are beautiful but short-lived if they don't grow roots. But in the midst of that pain, we've also seen incredible grace. Most often, grace has come in the form of older mentors who've come to gently share their wisdom.

For both of us, David Janzen has been one of those wise voices. The book that you're holding in your hands is the fruit of his efforts to listen closely to what is happening in dozens of communities today, all the while reflecting back on what he's learned from his own experience in community over the past five decades.

Because David has been formed by community for so long, though, he can't simply tell you what he thinks. He has to tell you what those he's listened to think as well. So this book is also the fruit of conversation and the best kind of conspiracy—friends working together to speak the truth that they know and live. It's a book that truly speaks in a "we" voice, passing the collective wisdom of generations on to the next.

This is a book for people who long for community and for people who've found it; for young seekers and for old radicals. Like a farmer's almanac or a good cookbook, it's a guide that doesn't tell you what to do but rather gives you the resources you need to find your way together with friends in the place where you are.

We couldn't be more grateful to have a book like this.

And we couldn't be happier to share it with you.

11/1/2012 4:00:00 AM
  • Book Club
  • Books
  • Career
  • Community
  • Family
  • History
  • New Monasticism
  • Progressive Christianity
  • Christianity
  • Evangelicalism
  • About