Rule Of Life, 2.0

Over the last five years or so, we’ve supported traditional denominationally-based congregations as they identified their Rule Of Life. Often, they engage in the following sequence of activities, leading to their communal and contextually formed ROL. First they reconnect with Christian history, remembering a time when communities of Christ-followers gathered around a set of spiritual disciplines for spiritual formation. These monastic communities, which formed during the Middle Ages, believed they would be shaped as disciples of Jesus when they collectively practiced their Rule Of Life, or Way of Life.
Second, congregations learn about the New Monasticism rising up in cities around the United States. The Simple Way in Philadelphia, Rutba House in Durham…these are examples of young adult, Christ-following, monastic-like communities of disciples practicing a common way of life. To learn more, see Appendix Two in Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution which describes the twelve Marks Of A New Monasticism. Third, these conventional-looking congregations discover they too hunger for the deep, abiding way of life discovered by those who collectively invest in disciple development with sacred partners. All this culminates in traditional, conventional-looking, denominationally-based congregations identifying their Rule Of Life. Curious readers can find ROL examples from Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations in Shift: Three Big Moves For The 21st Century Church. Often the particular practices congregations identify are familiar spiritual disciplines followed by congregational commitment to communal practice.

Now, this story continues to evolve. Now, congregations are doubling-down, exploring the end game.
What’s the anticipated outcome of collective and communal ROL practice?
Answer: That we are formed more fully as disciples of Jesus Christ; we become people who live in the rich, robust, vibrant Way of Jesus (phrase found in Acts, Holy Bible). This is the purpose behind the First Order ROL movement described above.

Now, some congregations are going deeper, exploring what it looks like to live as Jesus-people, so to speak. When disciples in a congregation practice their ROL over time, how does it shape their lives? What are the fruits these disciples harvest from the seeds sown by their ROL practice? What do fully formed disciples in our current context look like?

I’m so curious about this spiritual quest. I believe this has something to do with the continuation of this Christian Movement in North America. For our faith to be a living, vibrant, engaging faith movement in this 21st century, people living in an extraordinary way must be part of it. We might call the practices of these people a Second Order ROL, though I’m not completely settled on that name. One participant in a Shift Learning Experience recently suggested we use the terms Apprentice for those practicing First Order ROL and Journeyman for those who are moving on to Second Order ROL. This is helpful, yet we also want to avoid assigning worth or value to these….knowing how we humans continue the tendency to compare ourselves to others in an effort to determine our worth.

Even so, here’s my first attempt at describing a Second Order ROL.
• Constantly centering ourselves in God’s love, cultivating a spirit of love in all we do
• Intentionally and continually forgiving and reconciling
• Regularly contributing to the Kingdom of God as it takes shape in our community
• Participating in God’s healing of our society and planet
• Actively contributing to the spiritual journey of all people
• Practicing relational openness and hospitality with those unlike me
So what about you? What about your congregation? When you and your congregation become more formed as disciples of Jesus Christ who participate with God’s unveiling of the kingdom, what will you do? What will be the signs in your lives that Jesus Christ is living through you?

Is there any way we will allow ourselves to miss out on this life-giving spiritual quest?
May that Holy Spirit fire burn within us so that we cannot avoid the way that leads to life, living in the Way of Jesus Christ.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA