Going With the Flow?..

Next Sunday I’m speaking about what it looks like to live counter-culturally in this comfortable, affluent western world.

If there is anything that has imprinted on me deeply over the last 10 years it has been that the life of faith must look different to the life without faith, otherwise it has no teeth and no one has any reason to investigate it.

I mean, why would you want to follow Jesus if the only shift in your life was that you got busier on Sundays?… As if…

But if there was something compellingly attractive about the life of faith – even if it was a more difficult life in some ways – then maybe people might get inspired.

Its why we called our previous community ‘Upstream’ – derived from the image of a fish swimming against the flow. I think that experience has left a permanent mark on me so that I can’t just roll over and go with flow now.

This week as I was reading about New Monasticism and the various expressions it takes I came across these quotes in Tom Sine’s chapter of New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of the Church and they resonated deeply:

‘I am convinced that the only way we have any hope of authentically embodying something of the new world that is already here is by creating a spectrum of new countercultural communities that repudiate the reality of the empire’ (Tom Sine in New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of the Church p. 74)

‘The future of the church in western culture – and possibly even the western culture itself – depend on a fresh encounter with Jesus. An encounter with his example and teaching that inspires creative and counter-cultural living… that unmasks the powers and gives hope for a different world… and energises hopeful discipleship’ (Stuart Murray Williams in PostChristendom p. 317)

There needs to be hope. There needs to be real genuine hope that the kingdom of God can have a growing present reality or we will simply live in a perpetual state of religious frustration, or we will settle for a mutant form of faith that is little more than folk religion.

I also see the tension of this for those of us who live in middle-class dom. Its easy to beat yourself up and hang guilt trips on people when we begin to speak about counter-cultural living, but I’m convinced guilt is a very poor motivator and actually ends up undermining our best intentions as we don’t learn good healthy motivations for change.

So I’m thinking we need to start with a vision of God’s kingdom – of the earth as God dreamt it would be at creation – and work from there.

But I can see this being a very disturbing message because it will speak to the things we hold so dear and critique them. (See this old post on the Holy Trinity of Suburbia for more of that.)

Its a hard message to give because we are so deeply embedded in this system and not all of it is bad. But its soo soo easy just to go with the flow and soo soo hard to choose to live differently.

9 thoughts on “Going With the Flow?..

  1. Hi mate

    Thanks for this post. I haven’t read a lot about the New Monasticism, but it does seem to have something going for it. Just a question or three! In what ways do you think that the errors of the fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century (which resulted in the Christian subculture that we all know and love so well) runs the risk of being repeated by the New Monasticism? What do you think might be different about it that will, over time, avoid the problems thrown up by the fundamentalists, who were after all simply reacting to what an enculturation of the gospel? They rightly saw that Christianity was being enervated by rationalism and scepticism and decided to draw a line in the sand. This same refusal to allow the faith to be enervated by the culture, in this instance late modernity’s consumer culture, would seem to be driving the New Monasticism. Yet as history has proven with the fundamentalists, the right concern resulted in the wrong response, a response that has proven disastrous for evangelicals right up to this day. Is there a lesson (or five) to be learnt here?

  2. ah… I was going to respond to this tonight, but just realised that I need a little longer to ponder it 🙂

    great questions – I will post back soon

  3. Argh… just wrote a long and brilliant ( 🙂 )response and then lost it by pressing send too soon…

    Short version – i think the NMs are much more engaged with the world whereas the fundies sought refuge from it.

    Big danger will be self righteousness i reckon – discipleship = xyz – which is ultimately a return to pharisaism

    I also think there will always be overcorrections, but (to borrow from keating) maybe its the overcorrection we needed to have!

  4. Thanks mate

    The echoes of your brilliant, but lost, response come through your short version! Any books worth reading on NM that would give me a heads up?

  5. Hi

    New Monasticism eh! You are write Hamo on the the big possibility of people falling into works/self righteousness.

    Monasticism is Roman C…very much:

    Works + Grace = +/- Purgatory….. and if:

    Works + Grace + indulgences = +/- heaven – hah!

    Where as:

    The Gospel = forgiveness of sins

    (this is the most beautiful equation because it is a gift and no work required – pure love and justice has no equal thanks to our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ).

  6. As I see it the gospel means no earning – not no effort.

    So I actually think the monastics can teach us much about a singular (mono) focus and working hard to live out their faith.

    If this is done as salvation then of course that’s a furphy, but I don’t think that’s anyone’s focus!

  7. Also…agree on the evangelical train wreck/tsunami wreaking havoc.

    It is spiritual carnage – 9.5+ on the richter scale…..but the gates of hell will never conquer.

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