Escape the world or extend the church?
Can monastic communities achieve either of these ends? When I think of monastic communities, I usually think of people locking themselves away, trying to escape the world. Whether that end can be reached, I don't know.
But what about the other? What about the attempt to extend the church?
This question is raised in Hunter's narrative in The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Hunter believes that Patrick's missional communities represented a new movement in the church.
Imagine monastary walls used to invite people into a new way of life. Imagine monastic rhythms used to show people the reality of God's presence in the world. Imagine missional communities as beachheads of God's kingdom of kindness.
I wouldn't expect campus ministry to often echo celtic monasticism. But we are passionate about missional communities, right? Small Groups exist to extend God's community. InterVarsity chapters exist to extend God's community.
Our missional communities can and should stand as witness-outposts for the watching and wandering world.
Hunter identifies two shifts Patrick's monasticism made in order move from escaping the world to extending the church:
1) A shift from individualistic religion to a more communal-oriented approach to Christianity. In a world where people run at full tilt all the time, disconnected and often alone, our missional communities present a different approach to life. Small Groups that love and care for each other are a powerful witness to a world that wonders if God is a caring God.
2) A shift from a segmented world to a world where the sacred and secular are integrated. Every week, I hear "I didn't have a lot of time for God". But prayer can be woven throughout all of life. And God is present in every element of life. Our communities show up on campus, do life on the Hill and, at times, point to God's presence and accessibility.
What if our communities witnessed to the watching world?
What if our communities helped people connect with God on campus?
What if our missional communities extend God's church?