The ancient Celtic Christian abbeys produced beautiful illuminated manuscripts, the most notable being The Book of Kells. In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill credits Irish monasteries with rescuing ancient texts, recopying them, and then taking them back to Europe to replace the texts burned during the barbarian invasion.
But churches and Christians today are finding new ways to use the arts to “save civilization” or at least individuals in it. Our church was featured in Outreach magazine in December 2006 for helping sponsor Soundcheck, a teen open mic night in our community. You can read about Soundcheck and other arts programs we have in the Our Church tab at the top of this blog.
Leadership’s latest newsletter spotlighted an arts program that is saving 600-at-risk kids, and helping them give expression to their creativity. Sketch is an arts program in Toronto with sponsor partners made up of Christian churches, individuals, and other organizations.
This is part of the church-as-abbey concept springing up all over North America. Based on the ancient Celtic Christian abbey, churches are becoming modern-day abbeys in their own communities. The great thing is that size doesn’t matter — small churches particularly can become abbey churches and impact their communities in new ways.
Now that we’re 8 years into this millenium, here are the 3 things I think churches must do in this pluralistic, postmodern, post-christendom world —
Tell the story. Read both the Old and New Testaments and the constant practice that emerges is that God’s people tell God’s story. The great story for Israel was the Exodus. Still is. The great story for the church sweeps from creation to recreation witnessed in the person of Jesus. I am convinced that we need to tell the story of God over and over. We need to tell it in our worship, our teaching, our daily living. I’ll say more about this later this year, and I’ve created a new category, The Story, just for that purpose.
Invite others. This is called evangelism, outreach, and witness. But the kind of inviting I’m talking about is not invitation to join the church or get baptized or even make a decision for Christ. It might include all those things, but has a unique perspective on the mission of God. And, I’m convinced if we learn how to really tell the story, then inviting others will not be the struggle that evangelism, outreach, and witness are now.
Bless the world. God called Abraham and blessed him to be a blessing to all the nations. Service to others, visiting the prisoners, healing the sick, doing justice for the poor, being peace to world in strife — these are ways of blessing the world.
Simple, Biblical — tell the story, invite others, bless the world. That’s what I’ll be doing in 2008. That’s what I’m going to lead my church to do. I’ll post our progress — successes, and failures — during this year. For me, these are the basic practices any church should do. What do you think?