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Modern vs. Postmodern Community

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Perhaps this would better be titled ‘Evangelical vs. Post-evangelical community.’ Anyway, awaking this morning I found myself reflecting on two distinct community styles that I see emerging today.

The new monastic groups, as well as others such as the Catholic Worker, Jonah House and similar communities, are the communities that tend to be small and truly communal, in that they share a common life, a common purse. I might call the new monastic groups postmodern, or perhaps post-evangelical, postmodern because they are focused on the organic life of the community as an expression of the Gospel, not on the typical evangelical propositional focus that is more consonant with modernism.

I am familiar with several large evangelical churches that are working to establish a more communal atmosphere. These I usually find to be continuing the more traditional, modernist sort of rational, propositional, juridical presentation of the Gospel. These are more like community centers than communities. They might have coffee shops, playgrounds or playtubes for kids, such that the facilities are places that people can drop in through the day for various reasons. I know some in leadership in those churches and I cannot fault their integrity. Yet I find that these are more ‘lifestyle’ churches, where one can find a subgroup of people like oneself with which to identify rather than being forced to identify with those very much unlike oneself socially, economically, educationally, etc.

There are long historical patterns behind the current large evangelical churchs, and one cannot change such quickly. There is hope though, as I know one large church that has heavily focused on the theme of ‘living generously’ toward all others. That Rick Warren has come to know the Sojourners community and from that contact has come to espouse the care of the poor, perhaps also the larger social justice matters, seems potentially a very positive trend toward moving the larger churches to a more organic model.

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