Jesus Generation – a story of intentional community – pt 1

cloister
A Cloister, home for a time to Jesus Generation – Yarralumla, Australia

1) JESUS GENERATION’S ROOTS

From 1985 to 2009 I shared life in various degrees of community with a sequence of Gen-Xers and Gen-Ys. This journey accompanied a study of church history led me to some rich threads in the fabric of the Christian tradition – those of Covenanted Fellowship and Intentional Community. Between 1997 and 2009 I planted and led a sequence of Missional Communities and Associate Members, centred on group-houses and a shared pledge to missional life. We called this network of GenYs the JESUS GENERATION.

Jesus Generation (or JGen for short) has included members in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A sequence of 66 Gen Y brothers and sisters played their part in developing a pattern for missional living, based on mutually selected accountability groups and group-houses. This pattern is laid out in a written constitution or “rule of life” called the Travellers Guide.

2) JESUS GENERATION’S LIFE

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By keeping church apparatus small, simple and relational, the Travellers Guide shaped a rhythm of life that centred on relational and hospitality-based ministry, maximising our time and energy such that we were able to reach, befriend and disciple not gathered congregations, but people among the 95% who might never attend a church venue, meeting or program. Accordingly in its 12 years of life and ministry JGen never once ran a church service. A boast I am very proud of!!

JGen Garran

Home for a time to Jesus Generation – Garran, Australia

(akaThe Ranch’ in The New Monastic)

Our watchwords were friendship-based discipleship, hospitality-based ministry and household based church. Our scattered life carried our individual ministries into worlds of education, chaplaincy, care, respite care, broadcasting, adult education, compassion-based business and trades. When JGen has been running ten years we noticed that 80% of our members had some involvement in the world of education. We were also surprised to note that at one point more than 20% of our network either had or were working towards theology degrees!

medley2.jpgSome Gen Australia scenes 2003-2009

Our common life was expressed in sharing food together, discovering the amazing pastoral and evagelistic power of receiving people into a hospitable Christian home. As an entree into our community life we hosted a number of what we called l’Abri Sundays (so-called because they were modelled on the rhythm of life at l’Abri UK). These days consisted of quiet reading, making and eating lunch, then letting the blokes do some hard yakka on the land and the girls enjoy some girl time. We found these great settings to bring friends to who wanted to check us out.

Through the dual emphases of scattered life and hospitality, we saw many people in our expanding natural networks impacted by the Gospel and brought into the life of the Kingdom.

One of the happiest discoveries was the financial liberty of organizing church-life without the expense of industrial scale overheads associated with large buildings. We found that we were able to give away significant sums of money and make anonymous bequests, Christmas hampers, and gifts to poor families in our area. It was a joy to us every quarter when we would gather to work out who and what we could bless locally and internationally this time around!

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Paul, learning the mechanics of the cell-church phenomenon in Asia with
Pastor Sengh Li of Singapore’s Faith Community Baptist Church in the 1990s
and sharing life with some catalysts of Amazonia’s ecclesiogenesis
at the Regional Pastoral Institute in Belem, Brazil in the 1980s

JGen’s spirituality is one centred on an active Jesus at work in the world among those beyond the churches. Much of this insight was sparked by early input (in my own story) from the catalysts of Amazonia’s “ecclesiogenesis” (a word meaning the spontaneous generation of grassroots church) in the 1980s and from cell-church practitioners in Asia in the early 1990s. But it was the study of exemplars through church history that originally sparked Jesus Generation into life.

BACK TO OUR ROOTS

After JGen had been running for 10 years we re-visited our rule of life, The Traveller’s Guide, as a network. As this work was undertaken we realised that our rule of life – which we had adapted from the constitution of an Anglican monastic community – was in fact quite substantially the “Little Rule for Beginners” created by Benedict of Norcia in the 500s AD!! No wonder it had served us so well!!

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At the same time we were struck by the very significant parallels between our ways and the 1611 “Declaration of Faith” – the first manifesto of Baptist Christianity – penned by Thomas Helwys (1611). These Baptist parallels were reached initially not through any deliberate emulation but through the life of a community making a similar journey and drawing similar conclusions.