By Monk Preston (Co-Founder and President, The Prayer Foundation ™)
I coined a new term, "Evangelical Monasticism", in 2008. You may or may not have noticed it, but we have already been using it for some time in various places throughout The Prayer Foundation ™ website.
Evangelical Monasticism, which I use also in the narrower meaning of "Born Again Christian Monks", I have been using primarily as an "umbrella" term meant to include several other current movements in Christianity.
I consider these to be essentially related movements; most involving a return to the practice of the early Christians, and many involving the study of the common history of all Christians.
Properly speaking, Evangelical Monasticism and all of these other "movements" are themselves actually all a part of (subsets of) the World Evangelism movement. A movement of attempting to fulfill Christ's "Great Commission" in our current generation.
We are simply ourselves (The Prayer Foundation) just being Christians---teaching prayer and doing our small part toward the fulfillment of Christ's "Great Commission" of the evangelization of the entire world.
Historical Footnote: Bill Bright was the Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and the producer of "The Jesus Film", which has been seen by over 1 Billion people around the world. He was also the originator of "The Four Spiritual Laws". Christians older than myself---like our own Monk Bob --- remember when "The Four Spiritual Laws" first appeared. They were strongly attacked by many Born-again Christians because they were "not in the Bible".
The Nicene Creed was attacked by many in 381 A.D.---though mostly by those following the Arian heresy that rejected Christ's Divinity---and by some Christians even up to and including our present time, for the same reason.
How These Movements All Come Together
There are many separate, though related, "movements" all coming together in this---we consider ourselves to be a part of these several current movements in Christianity:
World Evangelism: It was Billy Graham, and also Bill Bright (Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) that primarily ignited the vision of the possibility of Christ's "Great Commission" being fulfilled in our own era.
The Prayer Movement: Prayer has been the first or second leading Category of Christian Book Sales for many decades now.
Interest in Traditional Monasticism: There is the interest in Monasticism that some trace back to Kathleen Norris' book, "The Cloister Walk", but which can probably be traced back even further to the interest in monasticism generated by many of the writings of (the Trappist Monk) Thomas Merton.
Spiritual Disciplines: There is the interest in the Spiritual Disciplines, much more so now than in the 1970's when Richard Foster's ground-breaking book, Celebration of Discipline originally was published.
Ancient - Future Faith: Learning more about actual New Testament times faith and practice by looking at the faith and practice of the early Church (the earliest Christians directly following the New Testament times).
Church Fathers: There is a current growing interest in the study of the Church Fathers (Patristics), sparked by Thomas Oden and summed up in his book, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy. This interest has been promoted by people like Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, and former Chief Editor of Christianity Today magazine. Incredibly, most Protestant Ministers have received no teaching whatsoever in Bible College or Seminary in this area.
Christian History: Many Protestants are trying to learn, not only the neglected History of Christianity between the time of the New Testament and the Protestant Reformation, but also of the history of great Protestant Christians of their own and of other Denominations; many of them pioneering Missionaries and Evangelists. Ken Curtis, the founder of Vision Video, and of "Christian History" magazine, was the earliest and leading pioneer of this still fledgling, but much needed, movement (The Prayer Foundation was one of the first to stand with him and attempt to follow in his footsteps in this area).
Hours of Prayer: The increasing number of books by many different authors, have made this an ever-growing movement. Our own 100% Scripture Daily Prayer: Praying the Hours of three times daily (The Threefold Daily Prayers) Scripture readings and praying of the Psalms is at the heart of the members of our own ministry's walk with the Lord.
Celtic Christianity: In addition, there is also an interest in all things Celtic which seems to revive itself again every ten years or so, stronger each time, and beginning as far back as the 1880's, in which Christians tend to focus on the monasticism of the ancient Celtic monks.
Most of these various movements involve a return to many of the practices of the early Church, and the study of our common Christian history.
We ourselves would consider "New Monasticism" to be a part (a subset) of it. Our concern is with what we actually are, and with following God's Will for our lives, and not with what we are called or referred to as, by others.
What you are called, and how history remembers you (or doesn't), are often decided more by the media and the historians, than by how you yourself might desire.
God's view of us, and of what we are doing---is ultimately all that really matters.
Postscript: A Call to A True Holiness
All of these movements can be seen as a reaction against what many Christians perceive as a shallowness and superficiality in today's Church life. On the one hand, some are concentrating on "experiences" while neglecting the study of the foundational basic teachings of historic Christianity as revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures. On the other hand, some are practicing a "dead" orthodoxy that does not also rely on a true living communion with God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for a moment by moment, day by day, following of God's Will for one's life.
These two extremes, though seeming to be polar opposites, both result in the same end. Christians who are not putting personal communion with Christ through the Word of God and prayer first in their lives. Christians whose lives are not transformed, and who are not truly living out true Christianity in their daily lives. Christians whose lives seem no different than that of those of that of the non-Christians of the world.
I recently heard a noted Christian teacher lamenting the poor quality of many of the most popular Christian books of today. " Walk in almost any Christian bookstore", he said, "and you will see that an awfully lot of what is in there is just 'froth'."
If not actually outright error and false teaching.
Turn on some of the so-called "Christian" television stations. Hear belief in the Trinity mocked. Hear the most blatant heresies about the nature of God and His relation to this world taught as "Biblical truths".
Sound Biblical teaching has in many cases been replaced by arrogant shouting and strutting con artists calling themselves "preachers" and "teachers" and pushing "give to get" schemes to fleece unwary believers of their money.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
The Holy Spirit revealed through the Apostle Paul:
"Mammon" refers to both money and other material wealth. We are to always place God first in our lives.
(See our "Links" page for a listing of some of the many fine and Biblically sound Christian Preachers and Teachers in the Media today).
Non-Christians have no problem seeing through, laughing at, and rejecting these plastic, phony so-called "Christian Teachers" (heretical teachers of error, false doctrine, heresy). The amazing thing is that so many Christians do not do so.
If you are blessed to attend an excellent Church, you should indeed thank God that He has led you there.
I am personally appalled that so many Christians can attend Church for thirty or forty years and yet seem to have learned nothing. Almost none of the most basic doctrines, almost none of Christian history.
Our own Monk Bob is similarly stunned that he can attend so many Churches where the congregants do not seem at all to be living the Christian life (godliness).
This is the current cry in own our era of many men and women of God; that there is almost no difference seen between the actual lives of Christians and non-Christians.
Let us not just talk about living godly lives in Christ Jesus. Let us actually do it, and let us...
"...be found to be in all holy living and godly conduct..."
-II Peter 3:11
Let us take advantage of many of these movements, of these new moves of God. They are really just the same "old" moves of God that have always been there; only the interest in them, particularly among today's Evangelicals, is actually "new".
Let us revive for today's Christianity the past prophetic role (calling the Church to repentance and godliness) of monasticism as understood by Lutheran Pastor, Eminent Theologian, Nazi Resistor, and Christian Martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace."
“The expansion of Christianity and the increasing secularization of the church caused the awareness of costly grace to be gradually lost… But the Roman church did keep a remnant of that original awareness. It was decisive that monasticism did not separate from the church and that the church had the good sense to tolerate monasticism.
Here, on the boundary of the church, was the place where the awareness that grace is costly and that grace includes discipleship was preserved…. Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p.46) ____________________________________________________________
Copyright © 2008 S.G.P. All rights reserved.