All of us live by certain rhythms and routines—good or bad, deliberate or arbitrary. The current of life in the modern world doesn’t exactly accommodate spiritual rhythms of life for thriving as a disciple of Jesus. So some of us work, frustrated and stressed out, to cram “spiritual” obligations into our already bloated calendars, wondering why we aren’t experiencing freedom and life to the fullest. But centuries ago, the early church offered an answer to this conundrum, taken from the life of Jesus. They called it a Rule of Life.
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PART ONE: BEGINNING AND RESUMING YOUR RULE OF LIFE
By Josh Porter
REVISIT TEACHING: A RULE OF LIFE
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Read this overview
All of us live by a collection of rhythms and routines—conscious or unconscious, deliberate or haphazard. Jesus also lived according to a rhythm and implemented routines. When we emulate the lifestyle of Jesus, we experience intimacy with God, grow in our apprenticeship, and find the kind of freedom Jesus promised.
But that’s hard to do.
Our lives, by default, are mostly unaccommodating to the things of Jesus. It’s either to be either lazy or over busy than it is to balance vocation and rest. It’s easy to zone out with a smartphone or a streaming service than it is wake up early and pray.
Much as we want the things of Jesus, and even when we believe in the transforming power of the spiritual disciplines, the lifestyle of Jesus won’t just happen in the frenetic pace of our lives.
That is why the early church developed the Rule of Life.
A rule of life is a scheduled set of practices and relational rhythms that enable us to work within our unique seasons of life and stages of apprenticeship to practice the way of Jesus well.
Dimensions of the Rule
A rule of life is written in pencil, not ink, as it will evolve and adapt with your life and apprenticeship. Consequently, there’s no one way to make a rule of life, but we suggest using the following categories:
Abiding, Mind, Body, Relationships/Sexuality, Work/Rest, Money, and Gospel/Hospitality.
Abiding (Morning prayer, Scripture reading, worship music, sabbath, fasting, silence and solitude, retreat, etc.)
Mind (Reading Scripture in the morning, spiritual reading and study, church on Sunday, gratitude, a daily limit on device use, etc.)
Body (Sleep, regular exercise, a healthy diet, water, annual doctor’s visit, and honoring God with your sexuality by living by Jesus’ teachings.
Relationships (Weekly phone call or coffee with best friend, weekly meal with community, church on Sunday. For married couples—weekly date night, cultivating healthy sexual connection. For families—sitting down to dinner five nights a week, vacation, etc.)
Work/Rest (Focused times of work each week, dedicated time to an entrepreneurial project, sleeping eight hours most nights, a weekly sabbath, a “nothing night” once a week, etc.)
Money (tithing, making a budget, generosity, simplicity, a blessing fund, sponsoring a child, etc.)
Gospel/Hospitality (Inviting a friend to church, a regular night to host neighbors for dinner, spending time listening to co-workers, serving the poor through volunteering, etc.)
- Based on your personality, preferences, and season of life, which categories do you find easiest? Which seem most challenging?
- Based on your life circumstances (single or married, living alone or with roommates, family, career, etc.), which categories fit most easily into your routine? Which might take more creative planning?
The Practice for this week is to think through our seven suggested categories for a rule of life, and consider your current way of life—official or unofficial—and how its patterns are impacting you.
We all life into certain rhythms and routines, and those rhythms and routines shape us over time. There are habits and modes of life that transform us more into someone like Jesus, while others make us stressed out, anxious, angry, and worse.
Before we draft what will become a rule of life, we want to begin by simply assessing our current rhythms and routines—good, bad, or neutral—to get a clearer picture of what’s valuable and worth refining, and what’s destructive and worth abandoning.
This week, take time to do the following:
Read through each suggested category of a rule of life (Abiding, Mind, Body, Rest, etc.), and consider or journal through what Practices make up your current rule of life in each area. (For example, your current rule for rest may include sleeping six hours each night and taking a night off from activities each week.) The goal is to assess your current rule and how it’s impacting you, not to cement new goals.
Close in prayer
Part Two: Life Context
By Cameron Silsbee
REVISIT TEACHING: DIMENSIONS OF THE RULE
As we follow Jesus throughout our lives it can be difficult to translate the lifestyle of Jesus to our lives if we overlook our particular context. How do you translate Jesus’ way of life to the lifestyle of a young mom, or a grandparent, or a small business owner, or a college student? Or to your particular friend group? How does the way of Jesus adapt to the outgoing or to the reserved? How do the things you are most passionate about play into this?
Taking account of our context is a critical step for constructing a rule of life that makes sense for each of our particular seasons of life and stage of apprenticeship to Jesus. Since none of us can copy the context of Jesus’ life exactly, we must do the work to translate his lifestyle to our particular context. In order to do this we must take time to carefully reflect on our lives.
Do this Practice
Taking account of your current context and life rhythms is the first step in building your rule of life. A helpful way to think through your current context is through these 5 categories:
Roles, Gifts, Desires, Vision, and Mission.
Have the Notes app on your phone open or pen and paper available. Read through a brief description of these 5 categories with pauses after each to think and reflect (each has a rhetorical question to help you do so).
As you read through each category, take note of whether you approach them with intentionality, or if you take them for granted. Write down a reason or two as to why you think this is the case.
Roles: All of your primary relationships and the roles you play in them, i.e. mother, brother, friend, wife, son, employee, etc. Everyone has multiple roles. Who do you repeatedly spend time with (in person or over the phone, etc.)?
Gifts: Your talents, wiring, and giftings. Perhaps you excel in business, or networking with people, or art, or building things (talents). Perhaps you come across to people as kind, or passionate, or well-organized (wiring). Perhaps something that comes easily to you is generosity, or a willingness to lead, or evangelism (giftings). How do those who know you best notice and complement you?
Desires: The deep longings of your heart and your core values. Think through the things you would love to do in and with your life and the kind of person you would like to be (longings). Also, think about what matters most to you today, and what informs the way you carry out those relationships, responsibilities, and decisions (core values). For what areas of your life do you feel the most passion?
Vision: This is how your Gifts and Desires shape the narrative arc of your life and how you respond to the needs of the world around you. These are things people will remember you for after you die. Has God spoken to you about your life’s vision?
Mission: Things God is inviting you to fulfill in order to move forward in your Vision. The relationships and responsibilities to which God is asking you to devote more or less time. Has God recently spoken to you about spending too much or not enough time with certain people or doing certain things?
- Which categories seemed most clearly defined to you? Which seemed the least defined?
- Can you connect things God has spoken to you over the last year with ideas found in these five categories? What are they?
This week, reflect on your particular season of life and stage of apprenticeship, and using the 5 categories as a guide, list out what that particular context is.
The context of our lives will shape the structure of our rule of life.
Take at least 30 minutes to do the following:
With the Notes app on your phone or a pen and paper, write down each of the 5 categories (Roles, Gifts, Desires, Vision, and Mission). Before you start making a list under each category, invite God’s Spirit to lead you in this process (it may be helpful to spend a moment in listening prayer before you begin each category). Then write out a list for each of the 5 categories. Answer the corresponding questions for each category as well.
Roles: All of your primary relationships and the roles you play in them. What emotions did you feel as you made this list (gratitude, sadness, excitement, guilt, anxiety, etc.)?
Gifts: Your talents, wiring, and giftings. What are some ways you can pursue a deeper understanding and development of your Gifts?
Desires: The deep longings of your heart and your core values. How much of your life lines up with your Desires?
Vision: This is how your Gifts and Desires shape the narrative arc of your life and how you respond to the needs of the world around you. When you imagine your life in partnership with God, what do you desire more than anything else?
Mission: Things God is inviting you to fulfill in order to move forward in your Vision. What sorts of things has God been asking you to do (or not do) in your current season of life?
Close in prayer
PART THREE: A RULE OF DIGITAL LIFE
By Josh Porter
REVISIT TEACHING: SATAN IN THE SMARTPHONE
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Have someone lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Read this overview
There is little debate among psychologists, sociologists, and ordinary people that for every leap forward in digital technology, we pay a cost. Inundated on all sides by screens, entertainment options, outlets for curating a fabricated image of our lives, we are—as Ronald Rolheiser worried—“distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion.”
The endless dopamine drip-feed of new information, photos, updates, headlines, likes, comments, and outrage have so dulled our once hungry attention spans that many of us—whether we realize it or not—no longer have the attentive wherewithal to endure a single meal or movie or conversation or get-together without our itchy twitching fingers stabbing at a touch-screen display.
The same digital technology useful for communicating, finding your way home, and enjoying art can also distract and anesthetize us, steep us in noxious fantasy, damage relationships, and incite us to sin.
In a world of normalized digital addiction, disciples of Jesus remember the uncompromising words of Paul, “I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6v12). Rather than allowing ourselves to circle the drain of the digital vortex, we instead “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10v5).
Talk through the following questions. Document your answers and ideas in a journal as you unpack them.
- Do you think the people who know you best would say you spend a lot of time on your phone, on social media, watching TV shows, in front of screens?
- If you use an iPhone, go to Settings > Screen Time and note how much time you spend each day and week on your phone and doing what. How do you feel about what you find?
- In what ways do you find technology/digital media potentially useful and good, and in what ways has it been personally detrimental?
The Practice for this week is to begin drafting what will become your Rule of Digital Life. Remember, your Rule of Life will be a work in progress, and you will likely adapt it as you find your way.
It is unrealistic and even dangerous to assume we might be the only people in the world who will avoid the pitfalls of the digital age without an organized, disciplined effort to do so.
This week, take time to do the following:
- Think through the technological outlets that most demand your time and attention and what they are doing to you, for better or for worse.
- Begin drafting what will become your Rule of Digital Life. Be specific (e.g., something like “spend less time on Instagram” is vague and ambiguous, but “spend no more than 10 minutes a day on Instagram” is clear and quantifiable).
Here are some ideas to consider, adapt, or inspire:
- Create a recurring schedule for when your phone will be powered down and put away.
- Minimize the number of apps on your devices.
- Take a weekly sabbath away from devices.
- Establish limits and parameters for particular devices, apps, or media.
- Establish “no device” zones, like the dinner table, the car, or while out with friends.
- Parents, develop best practices and guidelines for your children and family. Consider how your personal relationship with devices will affect your children’s relationship with devices.