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 The Abbey recommends identifies a desired life outcome, expressed in terms of a Christian virtue, and then suggests some spiritual disciplines or habits that will put you in a place where God can enable you to attain the virtuous outcome. 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 or several of the suggested spiritual disciplines to help you, or develop your own discipline or habit. Commit this discipline and its anticipated outcome to the Lord, and to His people.
The Way of Life outlined below is intended to be a basic template for living in Christ, and is adaptable according to each one’s particular calling, situation, and temperament. A general description of a virtue, connected to an attribute of God Himself, is followed by suggested spiritual practices associated with that particular virtue. The concluding questions can assist in self-examination and further growth.
SAFE IN THE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER
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.
seasonal reflection on one’s Baptism into forgiveness; daily self-examination and confession to God, and receiving His forgiveness; seeking forgiveness from those we have harmed and receiving it, when offered; offering genuine apologies without excuse; resolving to forgive 70X7, leaving vengeance to God, asking Him root out any bitterness.
How am I becoming 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 continually draw closer to Jesus, God the Son, who empathizes with us in our weakness, and welcomes us as His Friends.
regular reflection on our being accepted for Holy Communion with God and others; using meals as opportunities to meet God with and in others; looking for the Image of God and the Face of Christ in others, particularly those different from us
How am I embracing my acceptance from Jesus and from others, and how am I demonstrating this acceptance to family, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors?
We commit ourselves to the Body of Christ, God embodied in the Church universal and local, and particularly in The Abbey of The Way Monastic Community, coming to trust that all things work together for good for us who love God and are called together according to His purpose.
giving ourselves to the members of The Abbey of The Way Monastic Community; identifying ourselves as members of the church universal and local; encouraging others to find confidence in the church; reflecting on the secure outcome of the lives of the saints, past and present; setting our minds on things that are good and true in us and in this world
How am I becoming more connected to the Body of Christ in order to receive the confidence which belonging provides, and instilling that confidence in God in others?
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.
daily seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit, for self and for others; pressing into the Presence of Christ moment-by-moment in the Holy Spirit; praying for one another and helping others to receive and demonstrate the power of God in their daily living
How am I becoming powered by Christ more than by self or the world? How am I receiving God’s power for purposeful living, and helping others to receive it with me?
SHAPED IN THE IMAGE GOD THE SON
We draw aside daily from day-to-day living to connect with the God The Eternal to drink from His Water of Life, to gain perspective on our past, present, and future.
devoting time daily for Bible reading, prayer, and personal reflection; keeping a journal of personal reflections; sharing our reflections with others in The Abbey of The Way, and inviting their reflections; practicing the daily Examen; praying the Hours morning, noon, evening, and bedtime; regularly engaging Christian literature and arts
How am I coming to understand more of myself and my world? How am I inviting others to help me to reflect on my life, and encouraging others to do likewise?
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.
managing our work in six days; keeping the Christian Sabbath weekly, Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown, inviting others to join us in rest and recreation with God; engaging in regular disciplines of solitude and silence; developing seasonal times to retreat, rest and play
How am I taking part in the blessing of Sabbath Rest, so that the peace of God will become part of my way of living, and am I inviting others into this?
We embody the Life of God the Holy Trinity as we draw near to one another and others in friendship, love, and service, becoming a flock who follow the Good Shepherd.
committing ourselves to weekly gatherings with The Abbey Community; joining other opportunities to connect with family, neighbors, friends and friends of God; finding/being a mentor; exploring deeper ways to relate to God.
How am I improving the quality of my relationships with others and with Jesus as I become a close and faithful friend to some friends of God?
We give ourselves to the Self-Emptying God, rendering ourselves to Him and to one another and to others, offering our bodies, abilities and gifts as unto Him.
giving an increasing percentage of our time and money to God’s work; practicing whole-life stewardship; practicing regular fasting from food, media
How am I offering 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?
SERVING IN THE MISSION OF
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
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 ways to serve God and others locally, nationally, internationally; serving Him through The Abbey of The Way, welcoming and serving guests who wish to go deeper with God; serving Him in the poor and those we don’t like; practicing creation care.
How am I deepening compassion for others, especially the poor, sick, addicted, lonely, and unlovable? How am I helping to advance God’s mission of justice and truth?
CURIOSITY AND CONVICTION
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.
studying Scripture, creeds, confessions weekly to give an account for God’s hope in us; developing wonder in the world and its people; asking good questions of others that draw them out; practicing Trinitarian prayer
How am I learning or teaching 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 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.
regularly testifying to our need for God and His church; giving and receiving short- and long-term prayer; practicing reconciliation in my family, neighborhood, workplace, and wider community; being open to correction; seeking healing and deliverance.
In what ways do I need the help of God and His People, and how am I seeking it out? How am I caring for others in the Body of Christ even as I seek their care for me?
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 weekly; expressing gratitude daily; observing seasonal days of celebration and the weekly Sabbath; enjoying a monthly meal at The Abbey; living in our homes and at work or school with glad and generous hearts, enjoying the favor of those not yet part of God’s family; living simply, for the benefit of the next generations.
How am I learning to cease complaining or criticizing? How am I celebrating Life together with others in ways which point to God’s goodness and to my gratitude?