Stay Where You Are

Stay Where You Are

This is Part 5 in a series called, “How To Leave A Church.”

Church hopping is an age-old problem…

“In St. Benedict’s century, the sixth, monks were on the move. The monastic movement had begun in the Egyptian desert earlier among a few solitary men and women seeking a holy life. Through the years the movement attracted to its ranks hundreds of men and women who were conscious of a religious vocation and wanted to live their lives in such a way that God could use them to redeem the age and save the world.

From its beginnings as loose gatherings of hermits around outstanding exemplars of austerity and prayer, the movement developed into communities of prayer and work with foundations all over Europe, Syria, and North Africa.

Basically the monks were not “group” people; they were spiritual anarchists and did not sit easily to rule.

In the third century Pachomius wrote a rule for community living. He gave a semblance of order to these bands of intense and ardent seekers after God. The vows of chastity, poverty and obedience disciplined the men and women who embraced them into powerful agents of social action and contemplative prayer.

As they learned to live together, they developed into high-energy communities. But latent anarchism combined with their spiritual quest for the very best made them liable to a kind of spiritual wanderlust. We can recognize something akin to an American frontier mentality combined with elements of American free enterprise.

It was not unusual for monks to leave one monastery and set out for another, supposing themselves to be responding to a greater challenge, attempting a more austere holiness.

But these quests were always a little suspect: was it really more of God they were after, or were they avoiding the God who was revealing himself to them?

By Benedict’s time this restlessness disguised as spiritual questing was widespread. When the monastery in which the monks were living proved to be less ideal, they typically went looking for a better one with a holier abbot or prioress ad more righteous brothers or sisters.

They were sure that if they just got into the right community they could have a most effective ministry.

And Benedict put a stop to it.

He introduced the vow of stability: stay where you are.”

Eugene Peterson, Under the Predictable Plant, (Grand Rapids: 1992), 18-19.

See any similarities with the modern-day church?

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