At key moments in church history, says Scott Bessenecker, monastic movements have kept the faith alive. "In the first renaissance [A.D. 400] it was the Celtic and Augustinian monks, in the second  it was the Benedictine and Nestorian monks, in the third  the Franciscans and Dominicans, and in the fourth  the Jesuits, Moravians, and Anabaptists."
Bessenecker believes we are ripe for another renaissance, whose leaders he calls the new friars. "What we are seeing today…is a continuation of this pattern of mission orders—devotional communities that are high on ministry to the outcasts."
Readers may quibble with Bessenecker's reading of history, but they'll be inspired by this very GenX movement. These young evangelicals are taking vows, living and ministering communally, and seeking to bring God's kingdom to the world's poor.
Bessenecker is part of this movement in his work with InterVarsity, so he is inclined to argue that this small group of missionaries will have a disproportionate effect on the church in the next 50 years.
Maybe so. But whether or not he's correct, one hopes to see and hear more from the new friars even if they don't feel at home in celebrity Christianity.
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The New Friars is available from ChristianBook.com and other retailers.
Christianity Today's earlier articles 'The New Monasticism,' 'A More Demanding Faith,' 'The New Missions Generation' and 'A Community of the Broken' look at the movement Bessenecker describes in The New Friars.
Scott Bessenecker is the director of global projects at InterVarsity and has written many essays and Bible studies (available at Urbana.org,). They include 'My Encounter with Osama,' 'Why Should Christians Care About the Poor?' 'Physical Hope,' and 'The Cost of Unconditional Love.' He is founder of Global Urban Trek.
Christian History & Biography's current issue is on monasticism.
Other Christianity Today articles on monasticism include:
Remonking the Church | Would a Protestant form of monasticism help liberate evangelicalism from its cultural captivity?
Drop Out and Tune in to Jesus | Today's communities are very different, and very similar to, those that formed in the 70s.
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