Sunday, June 18, 2006

Return to the monastery, or why doctrine is not the issue in mission

With the start of 'the convent' we first got to see 'return to the monastery' see . It made fascinating viewing as the 5 men returned to the place where they made a 40 day retreat and a surprise hit TV series. These 5 where whittled down from hundreds of people wanting to spend that time in a largely silent monastic order. What can we learn from this?

firstly that contrary to what some will tell the ancient is deeply attractive to many wanting to explore spirituality today. These people wanted something challenging, something to be part of and something with mystery. Even those who came in cynical found they were effected, and some very deeply, read the stories on the BBC site.

secondly though many came with intellectual questions about the Christian faith what they found was experience of the faith which made the questions seem less central. This should not be a surprise. Our 'post-modern' age has shifted continually away form the very modernist approach in which truth is about facts which are demonstrated by reason and proved by scientific experiment, toward truth as 'experience' make sense of what of happening to us and to others. This world tends to make 'facts ' relative, something may be 'true for you but not for me' because the benchmark is my personal experience, not some universally agreed statement of fact.

the church I think is still very often operating in the world of doctrinal fact, thinking it needs to convince people of the truth of Christianity. The monks wisely took another course, the discussed feelings as well as thoughts but above all they invited people to an experience, and experience of God but also one shared with others. How might we make evangelism about an invitation to an experience rather than to a change of opinion?


Dr Moose said...

I'm convinced you're right on this one Steve. Problems I see are how we need to shift of focus within the church from the need to justify into a need to demonstrate. Alpha and the like are good for education, but poor for real experience. Maybe the biggest problem is whether we have the confidence to say we have an experiential faith, one that goes beyond the head and the Sunday, to offer in the first place? It's almost as if we need to recognise and (re)build a genuine sense of "experienced faith community" within our churches before we can even invite others in...

(On a separate issue. I shall be running the "Spirituality and Role-Playing Games Seminar" at the end of the month. I'll try to remember to let you know how it goes.)


Steve said...


i think there is a lot in what you say, how do we invite others into an expereinced faith community if actually we don't 'expereince' that ourselves? i think there is a real culture shift happeneing here too. when i speak i often refer to work done by people like David Hay looking at the spiritual expereinces of those who don't go to church. one church in reponse thought it would be ineresting to ask its own memebers about their religious or spiritual experiences. what they found was that age was the key factor, there older long standing faithful members largely thought the whole area wierd and that such expereinces happened to major saints but certianly not to them. their younger compatriots however could speak of their own expereinces just like thopse outside the church.

spiritulaity and role-playing, is this people of all spiritualites? whatever i'm certinaly interested to know more! do give us a report back

Dr Moose said...

Spirituality and Role Playing - all and any. My current monthly (all caucasian) gaming group has two atheists (one philosophically so, and one in reaction to what people of faith can do), one Celtic-Pagan, one Taoist, one Christian Minister, and one "undeclared."

I see no reason to beleive why the Continuum crowd would be any less varied.