by Evan B. Howard

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Reflections on “Monasticisms” Old and New

Megachurches are reconsidering their models. The Willow Creek Association’s REVEAL study only highlights the big questions nagging large congregations these days: What is the church really all about? What does it mean to “make disciples”? How does congregational form, size, and structure facilitate (or inhibit) authentic Christian ministry? What role(s) might the leaders of these congregations have to play in all this? Keith Meyers, executive pastor of the 3,000 member Church of the Open Door in suburban Twin Cities, Minnesota, addresses some of these themes in his forthcoming Leadership Journal article on megachurch discipleship and the new monasticism (due early in 2009).  In this article, Meyers makes the novel suggestion that “the answer for churches both large and small might be found in an approach to spiritual formation associated with the monastery.”  Drawing from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church, he describes the potential of such practices as contemplative prayer, intentional community, and engaging with people on the margins of society for the local church, giving attractive examples from his own congregational experience. He explores the place of spiritual formation in the context of “environments of change” and ponders how to honor both the “core” and the “crowd.” In the end, Meyers has no final answers for the megachurch, but clearly communicates a hunch that we might have much to learn from the history and practices of monastic life.  […]