When Rob Moll, CT's online assistant editor, went to visit the Simple Way in Philadelphia, it was the children who burned themselves into his memory. The intentional Christian community's main house sits on a street corner, allowing children to route their boisterous parade from one sidewalk through the back door into the kitchen, through the living room, and out onto a different sidewalk by way of the front door. Like these children, the communities Rob visited showed both a touch of chaos and an abundance of vibrant life.
The Simple Way felt vaguely familiar to Rob: lots of well-worn second-hand furniture; people intensely devoted to a goal. It felt like the house he lived in during collegeexcept that the focus was not on studies but on serving the neighbors.
That devotion dovetailed with what Rob saw at worship the first night he stayed with them. About 50 people gathered in the Circle of Hope worship service in the warehouse space above the church's thrift store. Though postmodern in style, the spirit was ancient, drawn straight from the Book of Acts.
In contrast to the devoted and comfortably disheveled life of the Simple Way community, the neighborhood shocked Rob. "I had never seen urban blight on that scale," he told me, even though he had lived near Chicago's infamous Cabrini Green public housing development for a year. The houses in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood looked like they were collapsing. And when he visited another ministry in nearby Camden, New Jersey, it reminded him of a war zone from which the people had fled.
Rob's road to the Simple Way began in a seminar at Wheaton College. About 150 students packed a small lecture hall to hear three guest speakers address the question, "Will Affluence ...