>Monasticism: Part IV "Light of the World."

Posted: 10/08/2009 in monasticism


We are the light of the world;
may our light shine before all,
that they may see the good that we do,
and give glory to God.
-“We are the Light of the World” an old hymn

There is one thing that remains to be talked about in this blog. It is a question many have asked since I began this short series: how is monasticism able to evangelize the world? How does it help fulfill the great commission? Clearly, it seems the emphasis it places on the community of believers, the difficulty to join that community, and the disciplined practices for ethical behavior does not sound like what we know as evangelism at all. This is a very good question. My answer is this: although it may not seem obvious, I believe much of monastic spirituality is essential. Monasticism creates a community worth joining in the first place.

It is best to outline the problem. Often times, the term “Christian” has been dragged through the mud because of what those in the world associate with it. The unsaved have an idea of what a Christian is, and they don’t like it. They’ve seen too much hypocrisy, judgmentalism, and phoniness. One can imagine what the world sees. Imagine them saying things like this:

Those Christians… they always think they’re better than those who aren’t.
Those Christians… they supported prop 8 because they hate homosexuals.
Those Christians… they always talk about marriage and family, but their divorce rate says otherwise.
Those Christians… are always preaching and waving signs when nobody wants to hear it.

I do not need to add to this list anymore. It can go on. Clearly, this kind of behavior hurts efforts to evangelize.

There is a solution that some have posed. We should call ourselves “Christ-Followers” (or something else) instead of calling ourselves Christians. While I am not a stickler about names, I think it is worth noting that simply changing a nomenclature and not changing the actual behavior is not very helpful. It is an attempt to talk ones way out of a reputation that we have behaved ourselves into.

Now imagine a different solution. Let’s imagine that the church in the United States took its energy, its money, and its time out of a lot of the more “public” endeavors. Let’s say we dropped the prop 8 campaign, we cut back street evangelism, worried less about altar calls, and had less outreach over all. Instead, let’s way we put all that effort into to concentrating on our own community. Imagine putting all those resources into helping every Christian confess their own sins, pray more deeply, examine themselves more thoroughly, and then help them develop virtues until they didn’t need rules anymore. Maybe there would be less new people coming in for awhile and maybe even some would leave, but those who stayed reached some of the same level of goodness the monks did.

In this scenario, the world might look at Christians and say things like this:

Those Christians… I never see them get angry.
Those Christians… they go out of their way to help each other so spontaneously.
Those Christians… they never have a lot of stuff, but never seem to worry about money.
Those Christians… they are always the first to admit when they make mistakes.

The point I am trying to make is twofold. First, if our behavior is what puts the world off, than we ought to spend some serious, serious, time reforming that behavior. This takes time, energy, and a deep inward look at ourselves before we rush out to evangelize. Secondly, we should form a community that those outside of the world look at and actually want to be a part of. Instead of doing evangelism as if we’re recruiting for a multi-level marketing agency, why not instead form a community that is so free of the vices that bother humanity that those outside will take notice, look in, and think, “I want to be part of that.”

Please understand, my point here is not to belittle the efforts of those who do more direct methods of evangelism. What I am saying is monasticism provides an indirect –but absolutely necessary- facet to the gem of Christian life. Bringing people into the community is important, but it is a pointless exercise if this community offers little. The community we create must be one which is so good that people will be attracted to it. It will be then only then that we can be light of the world and the city on the hill.

This the end of my monasticism blogs. Hey why not check out that book Doc Ok wrote?

  1. Anonymous says:

    >See our interdenominational list of more than 450 members for monasticism, monastic subjects, prctices, prayer, info, news athttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/monasterionJohn (monk)

  2. >Thanks for the series on Monasticism. It was clear and concise. This series helps explain why discipline of the virtues within the context of community is a must. To focus on salvation, one must not search for "The Sinner's Prayer" but the lifestyle which leads after that, and ways to refine it.Being that we both had an experience of communal life at the Monastery of Baldwin Park (even though it wasn't one officially), the ability to share our struggles, caring for one another, and time to praise God through music was refreshing.Thanks again for sharing about Monasticism.

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