Rule of Life
I'm getting close to finishing John Ortbert's book The Life You've Always Wanted. I haven't had much time to read lately, but perhaps today I'll get to the end (one more chapter).
The second to last chapter is called Life with a Well-ordered Heart: Developing Your Own Rule of Life. Ortberg defines a "well-ordered heart" through Augustine's words: To have a well-ordered heart is to love the right thing, to the right degree, in the right way with the right kind of love. It is to be transformed -- it is not that we "are not only increasingly free from sin, but also increasingly free from the desire to sin." He then goes on to say that we need a plan to reach a well-ordered heart. He calls this a "rule of life." This is not a set of laws, but is instead a set of something which is done regularly. A plan.
Ortberg gives a strategy for transformation which involves asking ourselves a set of questions for the develoment of a "rhythm of living" that will draw us closer to God. I liked the questions, but as I was reading them, I thought that, in addition to being questions that we should ask ourselves in our development of a rule of life, that they are questions that we as a church should be asking of the Body of Christ of which we are a member:
I've paraphrased the questions so that they will be applicable to church life, but I hope I've left Ortberg's intention intact.
How and when will we pray as a church? Do we pray as a body of Christ? I don't specifically mean the morning prayer in the Sunday worship service. I think we need to examine the prayer life of our churches. Do we lift up the idea of prayer as important? As a church, do we pray about what we need to do, how we need to do it? Do we ask God, as a church, to be involved and present in his house? One church I visited has a prayer table in the sanctuary. As the acolyte came in to light the altar candles, he stopped at this table, and lit the candle that was placed there as well. It brought light to their prayer effort; it brought their prayer effort to light. Do we pray for the programs in our church? Do we prayer for our members? Do we pray for our pastors? Do we pray for our children? Are we communicating with God at all as a Body of Christ?
How will the church handle money in a way that draws us closer to God? One way to determine the priorities of a church is to look at its budget. If we are serious about what we are doing as a Body of Christ, then the way we plan to spend God's money should reflect our perceptions of how God wants us to be at work in the world. Our spending plan for God's offerings and gifts should be guided by His vision for His church. The church's budget should be a tool of ministry -- one which enables the Body of Christ to be doing God's work in the world. Whose priorities are reflected in the church's budget?
How can we approach work in a way that will help Christ be formed in the members of the church? If our mission is to go forth and make disciples of Jesus, then how is it that what we DO as a church makes that happen? The Director of Leadership Formation and Spiritual Support of our Annual Conference, JF Lacaria, wrote a column for the November issue of the WVUM newspaper in which he explains that the phrase "so that..." will make fruitful change in the ministry of God's church. What we do as a church -- our work, our actions -- should be done with an eye to the "so that...." For example, our church has a Thursday evening service with a meal so that the homeless and marginalized in our neighborhood will be fed, both body and spirit. What we DO should be in accordance with the vision God has for His church -- so that Christ will be formed in our members.
How are we involved in Christian Community (such as corporate worship, fellowship and confession)? I see many ways in which we could examine this question as a church, but the one which first comes to mind is whether we are CONNECTED as a Body of Christ. Does our worship create a relationship with God for our members? Are our members connected to each other through fellowship? Do we hold the Body of Christ accountable to God? Does the church act in such as way that it is evident that we love God and that we love each other? Do we communicate with each other? Do we strive to forgive each other, enable each other, support each other. Are we a Body of Christ at all?
How can the church fill its daily tasks with a sense of the presence of God? If we are a Body of Christ, then how is it that our daily life as a church reflects Christ to other people? I think this particular question calls us to examine the details of our life as a church -- the "small stuff" (which so often is the building blocks of the "big stuff"). How can people tell, just by watching us, that God is with us -- that we even care what He has to say or that we are willing at all to humble ourselves as a church to his will? Are we welcoming, even in small ways, even to those who are different than ourselves? Do our steps through life as a church -- one by one -- carry us to the destination that God intends? Is our church life filled with words of gratitude or are we colder than that? Do we see our daily tasks through the eye of scarcity or the eye of abundance?
What is our church's rule of life? If we summarize these questions, then to approach a closer relationship with God, we need plan to pray, incorporate God's priorities into our budget so that we plan to spend His money the way he intends, order our activities so that each thing we do will be an instrument of God for our transformation as a church, strive to be connected as a Body of Christ, to God and to each other, and incorporate God into each detail of our church life.
Why would we do this?
Labels: Ortberg Disciplines