Churches multiply in China and Africa but decline in the west, where increasing interest in spirituality tends to pass churches by. There is a historic change in Europe's mental and social framework (a 'paradigm shift'). The 'top-down one shape fits all' type of church that has characterised most second millennium forms of church no longer fits this emerging society.
A rash of solutions are offered, such as:
* cell church
* purpose-driven churches (c.f. Rick Warren)
* culture-friendly church services (c.f. Willow Creek)
* network or association churches
* mission-shaped churches
* fresh expressions (c.f. Anglicans and Methodists in Britain)
Something more is needed. Some researchers claim that Christianity has declined about every 500 years and each time some form of monasticism has turned the tide.
New monasticism today consists of thousands of small groups. New friars - these live, pray and share food among the poorest. New monastics - these may be groups who meet weekly or daily and have a rule of life and a common task or vision.
I and others believe that if these experiments are to turn the global tide they need to embrace:
* roots - in the land and its pivotal apostles, in scripture and silence
* rhythms - of prayer, work and nature's seasons
* relationships - to the Trinity, soul friends and the wider church.
Christians in generation X (defined as people born between 1960 and 2000) are tending to ignore para-church agencies, gravitate to the local but to remain ungalvanised unless they see how the local can be part of a big picture. I and others present 'villages of God' and strategic spiritual infra-structures for nations as models that can motivate the small parts to relate to a wider whole.
In this wider context, traditional congregations which adapt and offer a varied daily menu (e.g. cafe, prayer stations, listening appointments) can be part of the 'high street monasteries' movement.
We offer leadership seminars by request.
Among many titles on the emergent church are:
The New Monastic Library series published by Rutba.
My High Street Monasteries provides a survey of five waves of new monasticism, explores villages of God and suggests ways in which small faith communities can link together to form virtual or regional villages of God.
The Ancient Faith, Future Mission series published by Canterbury Press includes New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of Church to which I contribute a chapter on the early models of Saints Martin and Ninian. In Emerging Downunder, published by atfpress, Brent Lyons Lee and I explore what is dying, needed features of emerging churches, and fresh shoots Downunder.
The Transforming Church course (Kevin Mayhew Ltd) provides congregations with a year-long monthly course that equips them to become spiritual neighbourhood homes and friends of the earth.
In Church of the Isles: the emerging church in Britain and Ireland - a prophetic strategy for renewal, I look ahead to the possible emergence of eight parliaments in the British-Irish Isles and how the changed social and political frameworks will need spiritual nurseries that nurture good leaders rather than buttress old tribalism. The growth of these nurseries needs to be enevisaged and encouraged now.
A vision of a rural Christian Minster presence is presented on the following site: