What about monks? Why did monks like Antony (anchorites) pursue the solitude of the desert? Why did the coenobites like Pachomius prefer community? What monastic principles are helpful for present day non-monks?
Some Christians wanted to escape the contamination and distractions of the church and world so they became monks. The word “monk” derives from the Greek monachos, which means ‘solitary.’ There were two approaches to the pursuit of solitude. Solo monks wished to escape the bad and evilness of the world completely and hide in the desert to pursue holiness with God completely away with God and away from sin and man. The other method was that of the Coenobites who were monks that lived in community with one another. They also sought holiness and desired to be away from the world and its worldliness.
Both approaches do have their flaws. While I respect their purist for holiness I think that the monks miss the mark in other areas. For solo monks like Anthony, where does evangelism come into light? Whom is witnessing your relationship with God? Are we not called to live as ‘salt and light?’ Are we not to live “in but not of the world?’ Where does Jesus say flee this world completely? Yes we are to die to ourselves but not die of our fellow man. Also on that note, are we not also called to have fellowship with the body of Christ? Are we called to ‘continue meeting together? Is not the body of Christ dependent upon the other parts of the body?
For the Coenobites…the same questions that I just scrutinized Anthony with apply except the last two. Instead though I have replacement questions. In light of living amongst other monks, would not pride begin to set in once monks felt that they had arrived at perfection? Once they have gone out of their way to live without evil and sin, there is pride, a sin… Ironic, huh? Also even if this group was a decent group of monks, then all you really have is a group of monks who set themselves apart from the world. Again, aren’t we called to be a light to the world and not hide our light in the darkness of the dessert?
There are some excellent concepts and principles that non-monks, even Western Christians can learn from. While these monks may have error on taking pursuit and holiness too far, we today in America are in error on not having enough purity and holiness. We walk and sometimes enjoy crude Comedy Central humor. We accept half naked people dancing and displaying themselves in our “popular music” We are entertained by rated R movies were cursing, sex and violence are the acceptable norms. I am not trying to offer a solution to all this. I admit I am clustering a lot of things together just to make this simple point, but the point is that we also are called to “be holy, just as I am holy.”
Another principle of monastic living is the idea of surrender. The monks had to give up all their goods and submit to authorities before becoming a monk. They had to die to themselves daily. They had to fast two or three days a week. They had to sacrifice all of their time. They had a lot of surrendering to do. In America, all we think about is what can we achieve? What can we gain/profit? Especially during the holidays/Christmas… American Christians are trained to be materialistic even before they are Christians ( from birth!) So this is another difficult thing we must learn to control.
The concept of time and community of monastic living is something Western Christians really need to consider! The monks had quality fellowship and quality relationships with one-another. They had quality discipleship because they invest a lot of time and effort in their discipleship practices! America is so rushed that we are becoming a Bibleless Christianity. This country is so rushed to be productive and get everything else done that the Bible and spiritual faith is neglected. The early church and the church fathers spent time together in their process of making disciples. Making disciples requires time. When quality time is spent developing a disciple if that time is sent in the Word of God, then Sound doctrine follows. No post-modernism crap!
Another great concept that you do see in great American churches that we also saw in monastic living is the idea of entrusting others with ministry. A ministry is never one person’s, except the Lord’s. Part of discipleship is encouraging and helping others to reach their full potential. They will be able to use their spiritual gifts to continue the ministry.
Thank you for visiting. My name is Alex Dolin. I am a Christian Life Coach, a Professor of Biblical Studies, a future professionally licensed counselor and an ordained minister. I help people set realistically higher expectations, achieve more results and a better lifestyle. I offer many approaches to this, a few being: 1.) Professional Coaching, 2.) Pastoral Counseling, 3) Blogging, 4.) Public Speaking, and 5.) Preaching at scheduled events. Find me at AlexanderDolin.com