The Baptist Monastery

Another question regarding monasteries caused me to write up some more thoughts.

Gary Q: I was intrigued by your idea of a modern day monastery, like the boiler room and 24:7 movement. Have you written anything on this?

A: Hi Gary. Nice to meet you in London earlier this month. Wish we could have had time for curry and a chat.

I blogged about this on my previous TallSkinnyKiwi blogsite, but let me restate what I said and bring it up to date, especially since as we speak, an “urban monastery” (Brad’s definition) is going up in Austin.
The idea of a monastic model of church instead of an eccelsiastic model is something that is given serious consideration by the next generation of people creating new church structures. A monastic model (intentional, residential community for the purpose of mission, church, training, sending, counseling, etc) has actually been in existence through most of the church’s history. Obviously, the Roman Catholic Church has allowed monastic orders to emerge and some of the best things they have ever done has been through these orders.

In fact, for 1500 years, almost anything good that was done by the global church(Catholic/Protestant/Whatever) was done through monks.
The early Celtic church is a great example of monastic and ecclesiastic models working together. In the case of the Celtic church, the monasteries were the primary structure (modality in mission-speak) and the small cells or churches that they spun off were the secondary (sodality) structures. This was reversed in previous times, with prominence given to the Ecclesiastic (gathering) structure as what we define as “church” and secondary status assigned to monastic structures which, in the evangelical/protestant world, were the seminaries, “parachurch” organizations, missions agencies, outreach centers, etc.

BUT NOW . . .

Many young people are giving prominence to monastic models as a viable alternative to ecclesiastic models.

– I was involved in starting “The Celtic House” in San Francisco, back in 1997, which was a neo-Celtic urban monastical experiment.

– 24-7 Prayer in England have started 2 such structures that they call “Boiler Rooms“. Pete Grieg told me that he would like to see 50 of these around the world, as well as a roundtable to gather some people thinking about this issue.

– A monastic structure,as I mentioned earlier, is being started in Austin and is embraced by the BGCT.

– I have talked to YWAM leaders about a transition from Mission Team to Monastery. We are still waiting to see them produce a model that works but I feel in a few years time, it will be quite normal for them. OM also in about 5 years.

– I have been to visit some well known existing models around the world to see how the previous generation did it. I visited JesusPeopleUSA in Chicago, who already have a working model of intentional community and mission. I have been to L’Abri in Switzerland and Boston, Hernhutt in Germany, and have met with Innerchange people in San Francisco, who are basically an evangelical order from an excellent mission called Church Resource Ministries.

– I have visited with some monastic movements that either are embraced by the Vineyard (Cincinatti, Ohio) or were once embraced by Vineyard (Prodigal Project in Leggett, Ca) and a lot of “Christian Houses” and “Communities” that fit the description, only their own vocabulary has not yet caught up with their practise.

When I consult with mission organizations and denominations about starting new works in large alternative cities, I often recommend begining with an monastic model – a house of prayer, a small community of people who can live in the downtown (or red-light district) and learn to love the city, embrace the people, pray for God to turn up, and send helpers, and figure out how God wants to bless the city. Often the first people to step into God’s plan in a city have addictions or serious hangups and a live-in environement like a monastery is better equipped for discipleship that a once a week program offered by the churches.
Monastic structures will be an accepted form of church in the emerging culture. Mark my words!

Other writings:

I appreciate the writings of Patrick Johnstone in “The Church is Bigger Than You Think” – He claims that the church has always existed in these two forms as well as an addition “apostolic” or “sending” model, ie, church as a mobile band of believers on mission.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

19 Comments

  • good stuff, dr. jones! i’m a family member in the austin urban monastery andrew mentioned. for me, the alternative monastic structures to being church hold a greater appeal because i appreciate being holistic. i’d say that living in intentional residential community offers an opportunity to address ‘all of life as spiritual,’ not just a more standard segmented approach of ‘spiritual life as all.’ it’s a completely different way of integrating life and it won’t work for everyone, but then, neither will the eccesial or apostolic models work for everyone. but as long as our trajectory is transformation into Christlikeness, does it matter what initial structural doorway led us into the Kingdom?

  • I enjoy the thoughts concerning monastic structures and community but I find myself wondering if there are any suburban models of this. You mentioned many places where people are figuring out this way of life in Christ. Yet, they were all in an urban context as far as I could tell. The suburban way of life, boxes and boxes of people, has a different sort of rhythm and appearance. It is similar to the city without a vibrant after-work life that draws eclectic groups of people together. It feels as if suburban is less conducive to deep community because of this.

  • i appreciate and resonate with your thoughts here andrew. one thing that has been a hangup for me though is the historical background of monasticism – it seems to have been driven largely out of a desire to “separate from the world” and focus on pious living. i do not see that tendency in Scripture or in the emerging church – so while there may be great value in elements of ancient monasticism (ie. wholistic faith, simplicity, intentional community, etc.) should be be mindful of some of the dangers as well?

  • As another member of the urban monastic structure, I thought I would just clarify a few things you mentioned.
    1. It is an error to call us a Baptist Monastic Structure, because, I’m not sure how monastic we are, but I am positive that we are not Baptist. I don’t know of anyone in the house, other than Shannon, who has any ties to anything denominational whatsoever, and what we are doing is not sponsered by any Baptist or other denominational organization. Further, I believe it is our intention to keep those kind of labels away from what is going on, as none of us consider ourselves “Baptists,” several Do not even have a Baptist background, and none of us care much for things that are denominational in nature.
    2. If the BGCT are embracing what we are doing, it is certainly news to me and the others living here. What we are doing here we are doing on our own. We haven’t really discussed it with the BGCT, and aren’t trying to work with the BGCT. that the BGCT even knows this exists is very interesting. I don’t know what evidence you have that we are being embraced by them, or what your definition of an embrace is, but to my knowledge, the BGCT does not have, and will not have anything to do with this community. I don’t know if any claims have been made to suggest we are a part of the BGCT, but we are not in any way affiliated with them.
    We appreciate the sentiment in your blog, but it is important to us, that things are spoken correctly, and that the situation is not given a spin to make us look like something we are not, or that other organizations are in anyway supporting something they are not.
    thanks.

  • interesting to read quite an informed post on monastic upspringings within the emerging church. i am an trying to live out the concept of being an urbanmonk, my major problem being that our monastery has just closed. i have found the monastic thing tricky to talk about; maybe a lack of vocabulary and understanding or that there are layers of prejudgice to fight through. my dreams, i think, of camper van faith communities bring the monastic/modalic to work with the sodalic with an apostolic flavour. i have never tried to think about it in this way before… i am not a learned christian just a simple fellow. thankyou

  • I have just given a paper on “postmodern” monasteries – about 1500 words – sketching a vision and some direction. drop me a line if you are interested.
    steve taylor

  • hey hot diggady dog. Like this stuff on monastic models. I did the apostolic version of this some years back in London as part of david watson’s team. hhmmm, nearly killed me but probably changed my life!
    Listen kiwi (btw sorry you guys didnt make it to the final, that would have been a cracker: england / NZ!)you seem to have started a landslide to typepad, what’s going on? are you on some sort of commission basis?

  • Now this is what I’m talkin about. Thanks for helping to bring this out even more Andrew. I believe this is the future of the church. This is what we see emerging – not just the environs of monasticism but the deep values of monastic spirituality – long-haul, lifelong conversion of transformation – not running after the latest, greatest fad but sticking with your siblings, traveling the journey together until you get there. And the formative value of real Christian community. I, and many others, have dreams along these lines, both urban as well as rural in nature – mine are particularly along the lines of a new rural monastic experience in an area that is close to a city. Good stuff. Peace to all in your house!

  • Higher

    Andrew Jones has a great post on modern day monasteries..A lot of peoples are atracted by the monastic model today..and I think there is plenty of good things to take from it: it’s more holistic, more real, more transparent (life

  • In response to Nathan’s comment.
    Nathan – thanks for your input.
    The Baptist Monastery was more a concept that what I was calling your community. Dont take it as a label.
    More than Baptists? Of course. And the Vineyard monastic communities, I am sure, had some Baptists or Methodists in them, but they were still “embraced” by the Vineyard. Lets all be less Baptist/Methodist and more like Jesus. Why get so upset when denominations become proud of the people that they have prayed for and invested in (and i am not talking financial)
    Yes – only one person in your community is supported financially by the Baptists. But denonimational ties have more to do with covenant and partnership than with who or who doesnt get money. And most of your community have a strong legacy with the Baptists in Texas (and Brad with the Baptists in California). It was in this relational sense, rather than financial, that I called you Baptist. Please dont take it as reductionist term.
    Also sorry to upset you with the word “embrace” (sponsor was your word, not mine) but please take it in relational and personal terms – that there are people in your spiritual family/tribe who love you guys and what is going on with you and want to bless it – not control or take gain from it.
    Regarding BGCT, they will probably not tell you this, but they have paved the way for many of the relationships in your community to take place and for this household to take its present form. Much more than you know or want to admit.

  • Hello! I’ve been visiting this blog for a while now, and I feel it is time I dropped a comment!
    I found this post on monastic church quite fascinating. I’m involved in a cell-model church in Colorado, and I see most of the key people in my cell daily, and we spend vast amounts of time together weekly. We are definitely not a ‘Sunday morning’ kind of church (although we do have a church-wide gathering on Sunday). At what point do you consider a church monastic in place of ecclesiastical? Would you mind defining what you mean by ‘ecclesiastical’ and ‘monastic’?

  • hi andrew. yuh know, it seems like your response to nathan this morning is pretty defensive. what’s going down here?

  • Andrew,
    My point in responding to your blog, was not an attempt to vent because I am angry with Baptists, as you seem to presume. My point in responding, was simply a point of clarification. Your orginal blog had a very obvious spin to it. Whether intentional or unintentional, it made us sound like we are baptist by design, and that we are some formal part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Neither of these things are true, so for both our sake, and the sake of the BGCT, it would only be fair to clarify that there is no formal relationship (or any relationshp at all, as far as anyone living in the house is aware.) Several of us in the house read your blog and found it to be misleading. (you DID refer to our community as “a baptist monastic structure going up in austin.” This does not sound conceptual.)
    None of us would deny our history with Baptist organizations, either the good history, or the bad history, and none of us would hesitate to thank them for our past projects that they have supported. But it is inaccurate to imply that they are somehow actively involved with the house on 38th. My point was only to clarify what is actually happening in Austin, which is, in this case, wholly organic, some friends and believers deciding to move in together and see what happenes, and not part of any denominational system. To lead people to believe otherwise would be an error.
    you certainly aren’t in trouble with me. I’m glad someone out there is helping to engage this discussion. All of us in the house, just want to be sure that anything said about us is accurate. The term Baptist Monastic Structure is not. If what we are doing must be defined for the old generation, then please choose terms that are accurate in your definitions.
    ANDREW RESPONDS:
    Hi Nathan. Thanks for more clarification. You were right – I did think you were venting a litttle. Sorry if I got too defensive. I think I am getting old!!!
    I have been presenting “The Baptist Monastery” as a concept for 18 months in missions circles so for me to use the term in the title feels quite normal, and not in reference to your community.
    I love the way you guys are coming together and the organic nature – very much like what I and my family have done on numerous occasions so I really do understand.
    Let me explain what i meant by “Bapist monastic structure” in reference to your community.
    1. MONASTIC STRUCTURE of church rather than ecclesiastic structure. The way you are forming “church” together is “monastic”.
    This might sound pathetic to you but when people ask you if you are a “church” even if you dont have regular worship services, then it may be a useful tool in explaining that there are different ways to express church and historically, this is one of them.
    1. BAPTIST because your heritage is Baptist and not Catholic. It is unusual for those influenced by Protestantism to have an ecclesiology that puts a monastic structure on the same level as an ecclesiastic structre. But I am glad to see this new freedom.
    I would be interested to hear if you have any ways to define what you are doing. In past experience, I have had to define and explain the structure we created to parents of the people involved so that they would not think it was a cult. In fact, one of the people who just moved into your house needed that same explanation to answer such accusations. When the time comes, definitions and historical comparisons can help and I could certainly use your creativity in coming up with some vocab to describe what it is you are building.
    Appreciate it,
    Andrew

  • Andrew,
    I’ve been reading the discussion concerning monastic movements and agree that this is the way things are going, or should go. In 1998 I took a church planting class at Golden Gate that Jonathon Campbell and Linda Berquist led. In that, we had to do a paper on a design for a church plant. Mine was a monastic structure that would center around a house or houses in an urban area where team members worked from, did ministry, and invited others to partake of the Christian life with them. I saw your “Celtic House” on Ashbury and was influenced by that as well as reading about things as far back as David Wilkerson’s Teen Challenge houses in NYC in the 50’s. This has all been going on a long time, I think, and many have a great deal to share on these issues. You are right to say that many have gone before us on this and have paved the way, whether Baptist, Vineyard, Catholic, or whatever. It is good to give credit where it is due, as well as to point the way to those who might know more about it than we presently do. Keep the thoughts rolling. They always challenge me.

  • wow.
    you guys are intense. having been told by an austin house member re: this discussion (since i’ve been taking a break from blog reading) made me curious enough to come read it. the idea of urban monks/monastery/NON-ecclesiastic structures has and have been tried by many in the past and present, and i’m sure will continued to be explored in the future. however, i agree with nathan, that labeling their community in such a way (despite the definitions declared) is v. misgiving to ones who may not have had the same clarification you gave in the comments. further, defining (academically) their community seems to reduce what they are doing to a modern science and feels limiting in many ways. it draws away from their attempts to be exactly opposite of that. if it honors them (the members of the house) to not be labeled (as that may in itself be limiting to what potential they have), perhaps you should retract the statement? though, i do not regret the discussion it has spawned. and i do not question your motives or intentions. and i do not see the point to delineate whether one(s) is baptist, catholic, methodist, etc etc (even if you have those roots) unless you fully embrace those doctrines and wish to be associated with them? just my 10 cents.
    ANDREW RESPONDS:
    Hi Teresa – thanks – the conversation is more intense than it should be- we all know each other and we are all family – if we were having this conversation over coffee then it would be different.
    Retract the statement? What I did was take away my definition and replace it with Brad’s – urban monastic structure – since Brad lives there. This label is the only one that relates directly with the Austin community.
    I am glad you are connected to the community because you have a Catholic background, have been in a charasmatic scene for a few years and are now living with (mostly) Baptists. That is one way to look at it, and not one that you would choose. But isn’t it great that these denominational borders are coming down and we can all see each other as family members in the household of God?
    I remember when you came to Wabi Sabi in Austin and were blown away that such incredible worship could happen at an event sponsored by Baptists. Is is possible that you were pre-programmed to think that this was not the “Baptist way” or that people could be so similar to you and not fit within your framework?
    It is freeing to break out of molds and expectations. And it is the same effect I hope to gain by using terms like “Baptist monastery” – Its saying that groups (in this case Baptist) are FREE to break the mold and do something that people thought only Catholics were allowed to do. For me, that is freeing.
    As for labelling, it is always wise to use the labels that people place on themselves, and now that I have Brad’s definition of who you are, I am using that instead. If you come up with a better one, I will use it. I am always looking for better ways to describe what God is doing without resorting to . . . ” We are NOT like this or NOT like that, which is not always very helpful”
    And again, you are young and doing the right thing and dont really need a defintion of what you are doing. It is the people who you might influence, those who may follow in your footsteps and those who may end up supporting and speaking for you who need the defintions and labels, and part of your ministry should always be that of explanation – THE STORY.
    Because even if what you do is great in God’s eyes, if the STORY doesn’t play, your effect will be minimal.
    My advice? Continue to build the great thing you are making but keep working on the story also. A story that people can relate to and understand and embrace and follow.
    God bless what you are doing.

  • can anyone help me, im looking for a christian monastery in England, my plan is to truly find God study theology and serve my heavenly father
    the way he wants me too.

  • Hi everyone.
    Some of you may want to check out the Boiler Rooms at for a good example of new monasteries among the emerging culture.
    Our monastery, being rethought with the Celtic monasteries there were here centuries ago, will probably look morelike a youth hostel/campground/ sending base than a quiet place for meditation.
    Larry, if you want to study, go to a local library. If you want to serve God, and you have some mobility and freedom at the moment, go now to Indonesia and help in the rescue effort. You will probably meet God in the rubble and among the poor.
    God bless you all.

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