People of The Way
This group of people encourages one another in raising children who walk in The Way of Jesus. Consisting of a monthly podcast with Father Len Cowan and Pastor Sarah Cowan Johnson, and a private Facebook Group discussion moderated by them, “People of The Way” focuses on 12 Christian Virtues, attributes of Jesus which He wishes to manifest in us and in our children. Through adopting various spiritual disciplines, participants will be encouraged to pursue a Way of Life for themselves and their children that will position them such that The Holy Spirit can do His virtuous work in them.
Shortly to be released in podcast form, available on the usual platforms, our second episode from January 2020 on the virtue of forgiveness, is available in pre-release mp3 form by clicking below:
To visit The Facebook Page, please click here:
The December 2019 topic on the virtue on Contentment, also to be included in podcast form, is available in mp3 by clicking below:
To obtain the Advent Devotional mentioned in the December podcast, click here:
For further information about Christian Virtues and a Way of Life, please read on:
A History of a Way or Rule of Life
The first followers of Jesus were often called “Followers of the Way”, or, more simply, “The Way”. Found most frequently in the Book of Acts (9:2; 19:9.23; 24:14,22; 22:4), it was the name chosen by believers in Jesus to describe themselves. The title referred to those who followed the One Who is “The Way” of Truth and real Life (John 14:6). But it also described a manner of life which followers of Jesus Christ came to adopt, covering all aspects of living, setting them apart both from the Jewish or Gentile manner of life from which they emerged, and from the cultural way of life in which they were all immersed. Starting with Jesus’ teachings, such as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), this “Way” of living developed further in the early church after His death, resurrection, and ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:37-47 for one summary of this Way of Life). The later New Testament includes further development of this unique way of life in Christ, summed up in Philippians 1:27 (Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ) and Colossians 3:17 (Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him). In the post-biblical period, documents such as “The Didache” (“The Teaching” of the Apostles) clarified in detail what it was like to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
Unfortunately, with the melding of Church and Culture in the so-called “Holy Roman Empire” of the 4th century and beyond, the term “Followers of the Way” fell into disuse, as did the common adoption of a defined Way of Life to clarify one’s faith and living. In subsequent church history, however, churches and communities that sought to live more clearly in Christ and to resist the pressure of their culture have crafted a Rule or Way of Life for their life and mission together. The “Method” adopted by Anglicans under the Wesleys, and the baptismal or catechetical covenants in many churches are also examples of a Way of Life. In the 21st century, many missional micro-communities are developing with defined Rules of Life.
We invite you to explore this ancient and contemporary practice, following our Lord Jesus Christ in an intentional Way of Life informing all aspects of your living, totally surrendered to His Authority and the Direction of the Holy Spirit in every area of your life. May God give us grace to help one another to find and follow the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Living by a Way or Rule of Life
A Way of Life can take many forms. It can be as simple as St. Augustine’s “Love God and do what you will”, or as detailed as St. Benedict’s Rule, which included specific times for meals and sleep. If it is to be useful in helping you to grow deeper in living in, like, and for Christ, it should come from God and be addressed personally to you. Coming from God, it should be in accord with His Word, the Bible, and involve prayerfully seeking the Holy Spirit in communion with other believers in your life or church community, and with Rules of Life from church history. Addressed to you, a Way of Life should fit your personality: if you are a free spirit you might need more structure to help you to grow, beyond the limits of your personal freedom; if you are hyper-responsible, a very detailed Way of Life might induce a sense of failure, and so a lighter touch might take you beyond the limits of your self-discipline. Also, your Way of Life needs to be appropriate to your life situation, and therefore should be reviewed regularly for accountability, and occasionally for revision.
The Way of Life that we recommend is focused on Christian virtues, attributes of Jesus that we ask the Holy Spirit to develop in us and our children. Each virtue identifies a desired life outcome, recommended in Scripture, and then suggests some spiritual disciplines or practices which can put us in a place where the Holy Spirit can transform us into Christlikeness. The virtues of this Common Way are rooted in the virtues of God Himself, and therefore help us to live in an ever-deepening relationship with God the Holy Trinity: “they have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church). With the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and His people in your Christian community, you could choose one or several of the twelve virtues as an outcome, and consider one of the suggested spiritual disciplines to help you or your child or family. Or, you could develop your own discipline or habit. Commit this discipline and its anticipated outcome for yourself or your child to the Lord, and to His people.
STAGES OF FAITH DEVELOPMENT
God’s virtues and the Way of Life in which the Holy Spirit can develop and sustain them will be unique to each individual, and at each stage of their personal and faith development. In his book, Will Our Children Have Faith?, the Rev. John Westerhoff describes four stages of Christian faith development, observable manifestations of a real faith in God appropriate for the age and experience of the child to the emerging adult. He states that the stages of faith are like rings of a tree trunk essential for the development of the deeply-rooted tree described in Psalm 1 or the oaks of righteousness in Isaiah 61. Just as the tree adds outer rings onto the ones on the inside, so a successive stage of faith still draws upon the strengths of the prior stage. We will need the experiences, practices, and manifestations of the earlier stages throughout our lives, and yet, as with the rings of the tree, the current life of faith lies mainly in the outer stages.
Westerhoff describes four stages of faith development: experienced faith, affiliative faith, searching faith, and owned faith.
Experienced faith (pre-school and early childhood) is the faith of the heart that grows by participating in the customs and rituals of the faith tradition with family members. This is the faith of the senses, or the faith of action, particularly repeated action. By nature, children at this age are primarily self-focused, and so God is often experienced as a part of the self. The larger meaning behind their faith practices will not be understood. Nevertheless, in the acts of faith, particularly in a loving family, including a church family, children can come to believe in Presence and experience the love of God within.
Affiliative faith (childhood and early adolescence) is the faith of the group that develops by belonging to (being affiliated with) an accepting Christian community, initially the community of the family, and eventually the community of the church or youth group or ministry. The relationships and activities of the group offer opportunities for children to deepen their relationship with God as apart from the self, with God in others and in the world. Connections with believing adults other than one’s parents, who are part of the child’s group, are an essential part of further faith development.
Searching faith (adolescence and beyond) is the faith of the head, questioning and scrutinizing what has long been taught and accepted. It may appear to parents, and to the child, as if “faith” is being rejected, and yet it is in the questioning that faith can be deepened and broadened. Youth that are not encouraged to question or given permission to step back from routine participation in faith customs can get “stuck” at the earlier affiliative stage, such that, when the group or family experience is left behind, so is faith.
Owned faith (young adulthood and beyond) is the faith of the heart, soul, mind, and strength. Because of the struggle with doubt that precedes it, owned faith may manifest as “coming to believe”. Faith is now our own faith and no longer merely that of the child, the family, or the group. Though doubts and questions remain, those who own their faith witness it by personal and social action, and are willing and able to stand up for what they believe in as disciples of Jesus Christ. Further development of this adult stage of has been been described in 6 additional stages by Janet Hagberg in The Critical Journey.
THE WAY OF LIFE
We seek to be safe in the Love of God as we practice
How will I become more aware of my personal sin and our corporate sin, the depth of the forgiveness of the Father, and the need and the ability to forgive others?
We regularly turn in repentance to God the Father through the crucified, risen and reigning Christ, seeking His forgiveness and the grace to forgive others.
Reflecting on one’s Baptism; self-examination and confession; genuine apologies; receiving forgiveness.
How will I embrace my acceptance from Jesus and from others, and how will I demonstrate this acceptance to family and friends with me, and neighbors around me?
We continually draw closer to Jesus, God the Son, who empathizes with us in our weakness, and welcomes us as His Friends.
Reflecting on the Eucharist; rising, meal & bedtime prayers; looking for God in others.
How can I become powered by Christ more than by self or the world? How will I receive God’s power for purposeful living, and help others to receive it with me?
We are routinely filled with power by God the Holy Spirit to be and do what He desires, seeking to live, not by impulse, but by godly intention and action.
Reflecting on self-dedication; seeking Holy Spirit’s filling, for self and others; practicing God’s Presence.
How will I become more connected to the Body of Christ in order to receive the confidence which belonging provides, and instill that confidence in God in others?
We commit ourselves to the Body of Christ, God embodied in the Church, coming to trust that all things work together for good for us who love God and are called together in His purpose.
Giving self to church; taking part in church; reflecting on lives of the saints; focusing on the good and true.
We seek to be shaped in the Image of God as we practice
How can I come to understand more of myself and my world? How can I invite others to help me to reflect on my life, and encourage others to do likewise?
We draw aside daily from day-to-day living to connect with the God of Eternity to drink from His Water of Life, to gain perspective on our past, present, and future.
Daily time for Bible, prayer, reflection; Christian literature and arts; the daily Examen; praying the Hours.
How can I take part in the blessing of Sabbath Rest, so that the peace of God will become part of my way of living, and how can I invite others into this?
We enter into the Sabbath Rest prepared by the God of Peace for His people, learning how to cease from labor, developing peaceful friendships with God and others for the Sabbath Day and for life.
Keeping the Sabbath, solitude, silence; developing times to retreat, rest and play; managing one’s work.
How can I improve the quality of my relationships with others and with Jesus as I become a close and faithful friend to some friends of God?
We reflect the Life of God the Holy Trinity as we draw near to others in friendship, love, and service, becoming part of a flock of sheep who follow the Good Shepherd.
Joining a small group, team, or partnership; finding/being a mentor; exploring deeper ways to pray.
How can I offer my time, money, abilities, spiritual gifts, and body to God and others? What are the portions which I can give in the months and year ahead?
We give ourselves to the God Who gave Himself to us, rendering ourselves to Him and to others, offering our bodies, abilities and gifts as a living sacrifice to Him.
Giving increasing time and money to God’s work; regular fasting from food, media; whole-life stewardship.
We seek to be serving in the Mission of God as we practice
How can I deepen compassion for those in poverty, disease, ignorance or loneliness? What could I do to advance God’s mission of truth and justice?
We reach out with compassionate words and deeds on behalf of the God of Justice, Who desires to bless and save all, serving as His ambassadors to the world.
Exploring new opportunities to serve locally, nationally, internationally; creation care; exploring pilgrimage.
In what ways do I need the help of God and His People, and how might I seek it out? How might I care for others in the church even as I seek their care for me?
We confess our need for God and for one another because the God of Mercy makes us Family, as we give and receive healing, deliverance, and reconciliation.
Short- and long-term prayer; openness to correction; testifying to God; seeking healing and deliverance.
CURIOSITY AND CONVICTION
How might I learn or teach the faith with others, so that I not only desire to know more of Him and His world, but also become clearer in what I do know and believe?
We learn and teach the Word of God as representatives of the God of Truth. We are curious to learn more of God’s world, though firm in the convictions of the Bible.
Developing wonder; asking good questions; studying Scripture, creeds, confessions; Trinitarian prayer.
How might I learned to cease complaining or criticizing? How can I celebrate Life together with others in ways which point to God’s goodness and to my gratitude?
We celebrate Life with the God of Grace since we have learned the secret of being content in all circumstances: we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.
Offering praise reports; expressing gratitude; days of celebration; living for the next generations.
For an outline of the intersection between virtues, the way of life, and stages of faith development, please click below:
DEVELOPING A WAY OF LIFE
Here are some questions to get you started:
Make a list of your existing spiritual disciplines to look at your current Way of Life.
Evaluate it in the light of our outline. What is one area of your life you want to grow with the Lord’s help?
Which of the 12 virtues in the Way of Life outline is most “attractive” or “needful” to you?
What is a spiritual discipline that might help you?
When, where, and how will you start?
What help do you need?
Who can guide you or pray for you as you begin?
To whom will you be accountable as you step forward?
May The Lord bless you as you [and your child(ren)] seek to become a follower of The Way of Jesus, and to help raise up the next generation to do likewise.