The Intentional Christian Community Handbook (Book Review)
About the Book & Author:
In the 21st century, Spirit-energized people of all ages are searching for a new (yet ancient) way of life together. A new generation of intentional communities is emerging with inspiring stories to tell of discoveries and struggles as they find their way. David Janzen, a friend of the New Monasticism movement with four decades of personal communal experience, has visited scores of communities, both old and new. This new book, ‘The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus‘, shares the wisdom of many communities in many locales over the last half century.
David Janzen grew up on a Kansas Mennonite farm, graduated from Bethel College, and studied at Harvard Divinity School. In 1971, he and his wife helped found New Creation Fellowship, a Christian intentional community in Newton KS. In 1984, they moved to Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston IL, where David now runs an affordable housing ministry.
This book is strange. Really. Strange like Shane Claiborne. Strange in the best sense of the word. This is a practical guide to creating, leading, and sustaining organic Christian communities- but not in the sense of the tradition church. This is the guide to creating new monastic communities- where believers live together in one geographical location and share food, clothing, spiritual life, family, health care and everything in between. Where believers live incarnationally in the middle of a city or town and as the body of Christ reaches out to heal the sick and feed the poor. Radical, Biblical communities. Communities that I must admit I could never be a part of. But thats okay- David Janzen makes clear that the call to intentional community is a calling and not everyone is called. But for anyone interested in the new monastic movement or Acts modeled organic churches than this book is the goldmine.
The writing style of David Janzen includes stories, biblical teaching, and practical/hands-on applications and advice to help anyone interested in creating a new monastic community succeed. The books flows out of Janzens year long journey visiting with 30 organic Christian communities and understanding the unique dynamics of each one. You can imagine the amount of practical insights Janzen shares throughout the book and within the retelling of his experiences in each of these 30 communities and as one who has lived in intentional Christian communities for a number of years. The books layout is incredibly practical, building a foundation for why some desire to do community in this unique way and then slowly progressing through the steps of forming the community. Just about any aspect of communal life you can think of is addressed with stories and insights in this book- everything from the communal dinner table, conflict and dis-fellowshipping, vocation and work schedule, to spiritual life as a community.
The vision presented by Janzen for these radically counter-Christian-culture communities is very compelling and appealing and I feel that walking away from reading this book that I have gained valuable insights into the new monastic community. I feel like this books was enjoyable to read as someone interested in church planting and ecclesiology, and think it will prove to be the number one text for all monastic/organic communities movements. Janzen is raw and honest, holding nothing back about the challenges that living in such tight knight community can bring. But he also clearly points out the amazing benefits of living as part of such subversive and radically Jesus centered community.
So- if you’re a young (re)vangelical considering new monasticism, this book is for you. If you’re someone interested in ancient future ways of doing church, this book is for you. This books is a learning tool, a resource to help inform those both inside and outside the movement about how intentional Christian community works and I believe it will prove to be incredibly helpful. The stories, wit, rawness, and practicality of this book make it the goldmine that it is. I can honestly say that walking away from this work that I have a better understanding of one of the most interesting movements taking place within (Re)vangelicalism. And that is saying a lot.
(Source: BrandanRobertson.com – Thank you Brandan!)
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