Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Review of The Intentional Christian Community Handbook by Dan Janzen

The Intentional Christian Community Handbook
by David Janzen
ISBN 978-1-61261-237-9
Paraclete Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

When I was in college, I had romantic dreams about living in intentional community. I had visited Jesus People USA for worship my freshman year, and was impressed with both the intentionality and the diversity of that community. I was also impressed with their impact-filled ministries that they owned and operated. This fantasy continued until I felt called to get theological education, and also felt the need to pay off my debt before entering into some sort of Christian communal venture.

That was twenty years ago. I am now invested in leading a traditional congregation, raising a family, and providing for those I love. However, there is still some small part of me that is drawn to the hope and possibility of sharing life and resources together with others as we unite in ministry and seek to live more simply.

In the last ten years, different models of sharing life in intentional Christian community have begun to arise, and the idea of communal living has began to make a comeback. It is with the history of the Christian communities founded in the 60s and 70s, as well as the knowledge of more contemporary models that are being formed that David Janzen shares his research and wisdom.

The book begins by allowing the reader to see the big picture of what is going on with different ways of living in intentional Christian community. Models of Christian community and cultural concerns are considered. Then, a process of discernment in engaging intentional Christian community is described. This process is both a flexible and a helpful guide to navigating such a big decision.

The book spends some time sharing how to create an intentional Christian community, and helping participants in these communities navigate through some important challenges and developmental stages in the venture. This part of the book will be invaluable in guiding people who are starting communities as they walk through the process together.

Finally, Janzen writes about how more mature Christian communities need to serve as resources, guides, and community planters for other communities. I think this is essential if the movement is going to continue and grow.

I think this book, a book about organizing a movement that at times can seem disconnected and disorganized, will be essential for the future. What a great resource, for those of us that are interested in the concept more theoretically, and for others who are living in intentional Christian community on a daily basis.

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