Join us as we move From Consumerism to Community at our National Gathering, August 18-20th in Dallas, Texas.
There is still time to register at www.2014nationalgathering.com.
We’ll be talking about our own spiritual health and the health of our communities and as leaders have been praying for you and the communities you serve!
Today, our friend Steve Macchia blogs about what it means to craft a rule of life for you and in community:
Rhythms and relationships that create, redeem, sustain, and transform your life with God
By Stephen A. Macchia-
Crafting a Rule of Life is an ancient practice, most specifically attached to the desert fathers and mothers who absented from the hustle and bustle of city life in the 1st Century Church to listen attentively to God’s voice of invitation and instruction. They were asking the Lord, “How shall we live obediently for you in this secular world?”
Benedict is by far the most well-known among his contemporaries, with many others who would subsequently seek to follow his example. For Benedict, he was having a hard time living for God and listening for God’s tender heartbeat among the cacophony of voices in the city of Rome around the year 500 AD. So, he left his studies and his friends and journeyed out of the city to find a cave in the hillside near Subiaco, Italy. It was in this cave that he drafted his Rule of Life. When he emerged from the cave, there were inquiring disciples who wanted to learn about his discoveries and ended up joining his new community.
Ever since that time, many others have attempted the same thing. Faith communities like the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits, as well as the Benedictines, have survived to this day. Other attempts failed, primarily because their attempts to live into a Rule of Life was more like wearing cement pants than living abundantly, creatively, and with agility. St. Benedict’s Rule, and others like St. Francis, has been sustained to this day because of the Rule’s flexibility and applicability to each new generation of followers.
To the Protestant mind, however, it’s hard to comprehend such a concept. We look at these examples with suspect. Who would want to be living under such rigidity, rules, and regulations?
We are indeed people of protest, and have been for the past 500 years since our hero Martin Luther “protested” with his 95 theses posted on the door of the Wittenberg church. Therefore, to consider a Rule of Life that’s determined by someone else seems too restrictive. We’d rather form a new community, or a new community of communities, and then figure out on our own “how we shall live obediently for God in this secular world” like our ancient fathers and mothers previously did.
What’s fascinating, however, is that we all have a Rule of Life…as individuals and as communities.
We all have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, and we already use those hours and days in particular ways. We get up at certain times, we brush and floss, shower and primp, exercise and sleep, work and rest, eat and relate with others, pray and worship, etc. For communities, we also have ways we’re functioning together that have already been pre-determined and are patterned by our current activities. The question is, “Are we living obediently for God” in each of these ways? Or, are we making our own choices and/or allowing the voices of others dictate how we shall live?
Living within a Rule of Life is making a determined choice to attend primarily to the voice and invitation of GOD for how we are to live for Him…both as individuals and as communities (Christian families ministry teams, and local churches in particular).
Crafting a Rule of Life is the activity that defines the work of listening attentively and prayerfully to the Lord’s desires for us, and then putting that down on paper for review and response. For individuals, we do our work first and foremost in our “prayer cave” and then invite our family and friends to speak into that in order for us to refine it. For communities, we do our work collectively and define together how we are sensing God’s call to live and serve in ways that honor and please Him in unity.
In the book Crafting A Rule of Life (written by yours truly and published by InterVarsity Press), I define a personal rule of life as “a holistic description of the Spirit-empowered rhythms and relationships that create, redeem, sustain, and transform the life you are invited by God to humbly fulfill for Christ’s glory.” These rhythms and relationships all grow out of one’s understanding of the roles, gifts, passion, vision and mission God has created for you to fulfill. Each of these areas takes time to understand, but when considered prayerfully and in the context of spiritual friends, it’s amazing to watch it all come together.
But, for faith communities, I prefer to describe their shared Rule of Life as a “Community Rule of Love” – a document that describes how we live as communities that love God, love one another, and love the world we’ve been called to serve. This document is completely different than our Constitution and By-Laws, which look and feel more like a legal document. . A community rule of love is often known as a “Covenant” and is filled with language that’s descriptive of how a community that loves God first and foremost is led to love others in His Name. Writing a community rule of love begins with a commitment to a life of love…for God, His Word, His people, and the world He died to redeem. Then, on the basis of love, we make promises to one another that expand upon that most basic commitment. Those descriptive words and phrases become the core of our Community Covenant or Rule of Love.
I’d love to hear how a Rule of Life would be helpful for you to discover and create for yourself and for your community. Leadership Transformations is available to assist you in this way (for more information consult Leadership Transformations). And, the website Rule Of Life.com has been created for all who are in this pursuit, complementing the text that was written for this purpose, Crafting A Rule of Life (InterVarsity, 2012). God bless you in this holy pursuit!
Stephen A. Macchia is Founder and President of Leadership Transformations and Director of the Pierce Center at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s the author of nine books, most notably Becoming A Healthy Church (Baker Books) and Crafting A Rule of Life (InterVarsity/Formatio). He lives in Lexington, MA with his wife Ruth and they have two grown children, Nathan and Rebekah.