How do we develop churches that effectively engage in mission and, at the same time, possess spiritual depth?
Basil of Caesarea (330-379) may provide a clue for us.
Basil was a creative leader, theologian, monk, community developer, and bishop. Inspired by the devotion of the Egyptian desert monks, he was troubled by their lack of mission. As a result, he moved their monastic houses from the desert to the city so they could go outside their walls to serve the poor and needy. He wanted them to function as role models for people in local churches as well. (See Scott Sunquist’s book Understanding Mission.)
He transformed monastic houses into vehicles of mission. Monks and nuns were dedicated to a holy life – for the sake of the church and her mission. For the next 400 years, this then became the norm in Persia, Ethiopia, Egypt, North Africa (Augustine lived in a type of monastic house), Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and even China.
I continue to wonder if we don’t need some sort of radical “oblate” type structure that calls people in our churches to a radical “Rule of Life.” What might God be birthing through the intense hunger of many of our people for something deeper, something more than the half-inch deep spirituality that characterizes our churches?
I am not sure, but I am wondering if Basil holds some sort of clue for us.