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 Way of Life in God 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.
The Abbey of The Way is grounded in this Way of Jesus in a time-tested way. In historic Christian teaching, virtues can orient Christians in living in a relationship in, with, and for God the Holy Trinity, much like nautical devices like buoys, bells, horns, and even stars can guide ships to their desired port. God is the origin of the biblical virtues, He is their motive, and He is their object, designed to guide us in becoming more like Christ in His character and actions. In that relationship, by God’s grace through faith, His Virtues can get replicated in us, His children.
1 Corinthians 13:13 states that Faith, Hope, and Love abide, these three. These summary or “theological” Virtues are Attributes of Jesus, the God-Man, demonstrated in His Life here on earth. The Abbey Way of Life identifies four sub-virtues for each of these three, based on the life of Jesus, as well as some suggested spiritual disciplines or habits that can put us in a place in which God can grow these Virtues in us. In this way, God gives us both the object and the means of our living in the “new self” that He has recreated us to become.
In the outline below, there is a biblical description of each summary Virtue, followed by a listing of four attendant sub-virtues, each connected to an attribute of God Himself, and a core spiritual discipline associated with that virtue. The concluding questions assist to us in self-examination and growth. Adopted together, or even in part, these virtues and associated disciplines can form a Way or Rule of Life that can put us in place where The Holy Spirit moves us toward the goal of Christlikeness, so that we can pursue our personal part in the global mission of Jesus Christ and the building of His Kingdom.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
WE ARE SAFE IN THE LOVE OF GOD
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 that is reflected in the rite of baptism.
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 welcomes us as His Friends, and gives us the heart to receive and give acceptance from and to others, as experienced in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
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, as we join the local and global church community, thereby coming to trust that all things work together for good for us who love God and are called together according to His purpose.
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 open ourselves to the Presence and Power of God the Holy Spirit to be and do what He desires, seeking to live, not by impulse, but by godly intention, action, and lifestyle, as we seek the filling of the Holy Spirit, for ourselves and for others.
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?
God gives us new birth into a Living Hope thru the resurrection of Jesus
WE ARE SHAPED IN THE IMAGE GOD
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.
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 in keeping the Sabbath Day and seeking the Sabbath Rest of Life.
How am I taking part in the blessing of Sabbath Rest, including public worship, so that the Peace of God will become part of my way of living, and am I inviting others into this Rest?
We embody the Life of God the Holy Trinity as we draw close to one another in the Church and to others in friendship, love, and service.
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, and to those who may become His friends?
We give ourselves to the Self-Emptying God, rendering ourselves to Him and to one another and to others, offering ourselves – our time, abilities and resources – to Him, which is our spiritual worship.
How am I routinely giving 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?
To know the Love of Christ is to be filled with all the fulness of God
WE ARE SERVING IN THE MISSION OF GOD
We serve the God of Justice as we receive His Heart for this world and all its people, reaching out with loving words and deeds, serving as His ambassadors to the world.
How am I growing in 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 represent the God of Truth in this world as we seek to learn and teach the Word of God and to discover more of God’s world, and particularly its people.
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 His People because the God of Mercy makes us Family, as we receive and offer healing, deliverance, and reconciliation.
How do I admit my 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 express our Life in the God of Grace as we celebrate and give thanks in all circumstances, since we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.
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?
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 Way of Life in God 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.
Friends of The Abbey of The Way use the Abbey Way of Life as a reflective guide for their own way of living. Members of The Abbey adopt a personal way of living based on the template of The Abbey Way of Life which is adaptable according to each one’s particular calling, situation, and temperament. The Way assists us in our shared mission of helping others, and particularly Christian leaders, to go deep and long for God in the extension of His Kingdom.