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  • Writer's pictureMark Whitten

A New Monastic Manifesto

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

The following is taken from an old blog I used to write. I feel that the statements below still hold invaluable truths that need to be considered and shared with a new generation of people who desire their God and wish to walk in authentic, Christian community.

“The power to transform societies and to redeem the human condition finds roots in the stored wisdom of the human past.”

~Thomas Oden

1. Supremacy of the First Command :: Although we long for social justice and peace on Earth, we long for the One who is Justice Himself, and understand that there will be no ultimate peace until His Kingdom comes in fullness. Therefore, as we tarry, we position ourselves to minister to and receive ministry from the One who loves us first and foremost. We join with the Holy Spirit in saying, “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” We place prayer, worship, and communion with God as the top priority of every Christian endeavor. We also understand that if the Kingdom of God does not flow in us, it cannot effectively flow through us to a lost and broken world. The new monastic values intimacy with God not only as a means to a ministry end, but also as an end in and of itself. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” ~Matthew 22:36-38 When such communion exists, the believer becomes a partaker in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and a gateway for God's supernatural intervention in the earth, manifesting a John 14:12 reality.

2. Sacred Space:: Weather it be an abandoned warehouse in an urban context, a closet in a single mother’s apartment, or a log cabin in the country, we value places set aside for worship and prayer, and believe that these places can become sacred “thin places” as the early Celtic Christians used to call them. Places where the vale between heaven and earth is pulled back so that the presence of God is made manifest. When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” ~Genesis 28:16-17

3. Simplicity :: Rather than making an official vow of poverty, the new monastics live in the reality of Proverbs 30:8 “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” new monastics understand that we are owners of nothing but are stewards of everything that the Master places within our sphere of influence and responsibility. Therefore, we choose to be financially responsible, environmentally conservative, and relationally careful. Our simplicity does not arise from a political agenda or social trend, rather it comes from the Holy Spirit’s love and concern for human beings and the creation that they inhabit; and so we tread this earth with an open hand and a gentle foot. Possessions do not govern the life of the new monastic nor does the tyranny of the urgent. For this reason, the new monastic not only craves silence and solitude, but his or her rule of life demands it in order to maintain the delicate balance of being “in the world but not of it”. Simplicity for the new monastic is cultivating a deliberate lifestyle wherein life’s worries, riches and pleasures find difficult ground to grow. It is in this simplicity that the Word of God is free to grow without being choked out by the business of life and the deceitful allure of riches. ~Matthew 13:22

4. Radical Generosity :: The command of Jesus is simple: “Give to everyone who asks you…” Luke 6:11. Because new monastics value simplicity and aim to follow the Sermon on the Mount radically, giving is not an option. We give when we have plenty to share; we give even when it hurts.Giving includes our time, our talents, and our money. The deceitfulness of riches and the pain of extreme poverty can present great danger to the Christian soul. In light of this, the new monastic sets his heart and his hand to battle with all vigilance, these two extremes with the weapon of generosity. 5. Availability :: As Christ followers, we must be available to God and for people. New Monasticism may best describe the art of availability or hospitality through The Rule of Saint Benedict, which states in Chapter 53 “All guests who arrive should be received as Christ.” He also stressed the importance of listening and being “present” to those whom God would send our way. According to Holyhead and Muir in The Gift of Saint Benedict, “A listening ear, a quiet place for prayer, a healing space to balance the frenetic clutter of everyday pressures, an environment of simple beauty, these are all aspects of Benedictine spirituality.” Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~Hebrews 13:2

6. Night and Day Prayer :: in a world of words, activism bears little fruit unless it is born, bathed and nurtured in prayer. Every new monastic work will in some way reflect the value and practice of night and day prayer that calls out for Jesus and justice. This prayer movement will be fueled by intimacy, aided by liturgy, made enjoyable by music, and energized by the imminence of Christ’s second advent. ~Luke 18:1-8 Isaiah 62, Revelation 5:8, 2 Peter 3:11-13.

7. Justice :: The New Monastics will actively pursue justice and freedom from oppression for all humanity. However, before racial reconciliation, gender equality, or economic ills can be addressed, the sanctity of all human life must be the first focus for the New Monastic Movement. Without this chief cornerstone of justice in place, any attempt for ministries to call forth justice in the earth will lack authority and authenticity. Therefore New Monasticism must champion the rights of the unborn, the elderly and those faced with war and genocide! We believe that any ministry attempt to bring social justice that is not rooted in the sanctity of human life and the Imago Dei paradigm has lost its compass. “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all [a]the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” ~Genesis 1:26-28

8. Relational, Nurturing Community :: The New Monastic must understand that the eternal journey is not a solo one. Our pilgrimage must happen in the context of community. It must be disciple making in its thrust and mirror the three-fold nurturing model found in Acts 2:42: Continuing in the teachings of the apostles, sharing fellowship and Holy Communion together, and attending corporate prayer gatherings. The community could be a loosely structured group of family and friends or could be a highly organized structure; however, no matter its look or feel, it must be relational and accountable in nature. The New Monastic community needs to be a safe place where relationship with God and others is nurtured and authenticity is encouraged. Restoration and healing should be its hallmarks. The family is to be recognized as one of God’s primary weapons of warfare in the community and single celibates are embraced as treasured individuals with unique callings and needs. Each New Monastic community, whether it be an inner city mission, a large rural family, or a suburban mega church, should be progressing toward or already have in place each of the following: 1) a rule of life together 2) a catechism/discipleship tract for spiritual formation 3) a rhythm of life as outlined by the Christian or Jewish year 4) a formal rite of initiation and/or membership in the community to foster a sense of belonging, commitment and stability.

9. Submission to Christ’s Body:: Members of a New Monastic community will be marked with a spirit of humility and submission to one another. Each community should follow the example given to us in Philippians 2:2-4 by “…being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” The community will also show honor to its elders and leaders in the Lord. The New Monastics are not afraid of Godly leadership and welcome healthy and responsible spiritual authority as a means of accountability, discipline, counsel, and consolation. Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:5, Ephesians 5:2

10. Fasted Lifestyle :: New Monastic communities will be committed to a common lifestyle of simplicity, sexual purity, sharing, silence, solitude, praise and worship, contemplation, confession, intercessory prayer, and fasting. Along with these spiritual disciplines, New Monastics will be radical in their adherence to the Sermon on the Mount (found in chapters 5-7 in the book of Matthew) as prescribed by its leaders and agreed upon by the members of the community.

11. Missional :: On the surface, the history of monasticism may appear to be a movement of individuals who sought to separate themselves from the toxic influence of the world by withdrawing into isolation. However, the history of monasticism paints a much different picture for those who have taken the time to study the evangelistic effect and influence of monasticism. The monastic movement has been the birthplace for numerous missions’ movements throughout the history of the Church.Therefore, New Monasticism will also be marked by a strong compulsion to spread the Gospel and make disciples, whether it be to our neighbors across the street or the un-reached people groups of the 1040 window. New Monastics must obey the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-19 and maintain a compassionate calling to minister to the poor and persecuted throughout the world.

12. Ancient-Future Orthodoxy :: Along with “right practice” (or orthopraxis), the New Monastic movement must also be diligent and careful to maintain orthodoxy (or right belief) by safeguarding the apostolic teaching as established and defined in the five-fold dictum: One Bible, Two Testaments, Three Creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian), Four Councils, and first Five Centuries of the Church. The Vincentian Rule should also apply to the New Monastic movement: “In the world-wide community of believers every care should be taken to hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all (Ubique, Semper, Ad Omnibus). As Thomas Oden says in his book The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, “Classic Christian teachings holds fast to what has been believed and consented to around the world by Christians of all times and places.” Ancient Future Orthodoxy guards the message of the apostolic tradition and keeps it from being highjacked by new doctrines that have no Biblical or historical basis. The New Monastic movement must be diligent to maintain classical orthodoxy and not deviate into strange adaptations of the Gospel influenced by social trends or political expedience. While being ever vigilant to guard the sacred Biblical message of the past, ancient-future orthodoxy must be progressive in its missional, formative and stylistic approach towards living out the Gospel. With that said, the New Monastic movement should also strive to operate in the spirit of the following statement offered by Count Zinzendorf, who many believe to be the father of New Monasticism: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love.” The New Monastics will not cave into the lures of ecumenicalism at the cost of orthodoxy, but will look for common ground with those who share in the unity of the faith though they may differ on particular elements of practice and/or worship expression. Titus 2:1, 2 Timothy 1:13, 2 Timothy 4:3-5.

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