Day: January 5, 2009

Sustainable spiritual collectives

celtic-abbeySteve Taylor* started an interesting conversation about a sustainable spiritual collective.  He even renamed his blog sustain:if:able kiwi.  Fortunately he’s still at the same url, so you can find Steve here under his new nom de plume.  But back to my point.

Steve tackles the missional vs attractional argument in a new way — he offers a new vision, a third choice — sustainable.  He borrows from sustainable agricultural practices and uses those to inform sustainable spiritual collectives (communities) in new ways:

  • Sustainable communities aren’t about coming to church, but participants may still gather for support, encouragement and resourcing.
  • Sustainable communities might not even look new, but they are informed by a new understanding of God’s mission.
  • Sustainable communities could be missional groups, or traditional churches, or other forms that give expression both to our need and God’s mission.

I like what Steve says as he sums up his concept:

In other words …
Sustainable spirituality says “you don’t need to be here”, but some of us will be here, to connect and resource and sustain. Sustainable spirituality will celebrate church as ordinary, singing as everyday and faith as regular. It knows that these situations are findable, and can be hospitable, and become agents of healing. Sustainable spirituality will work hard at creating constant and multiple pathways by which the “out there” is connected and resourced.  

Celtic abbeys were very much like this, I suspect.  A core group of monks or nuns (or both) acted as spiritual directors for an entire community of passersby, new believers, needy travelers, hurting pilgrims, and struggling commoners.  This community was sustainable, not because they all gathered at the same time once a week, but because their lives revolved around the spiritual center of Christ.  

Some attended to worship more than others.  Some worked in the fields more than others.  Some were busy with the economics — the householding — more than others.  But all moved in this glorious dance of interdependence on each other and God, sustained by God’s grace and sustaining the kingdom outpost they called the church.  

I like Steve’s sustainable spiritual collectives.  Not sure if the term will move into popular usage, however.  Just imagine your business card — 

Chuck Warnock, Pastor

Chatham Baptist Sustainable Spiritual Collective

But then, maybe an awkward name like that just might start some conversations all by itself.  

— *Steve Taylor pastors Opawa Baptist Church in New Zealand, and is author of  The Out-of-Bounds Church