A missional order is a community committed to the practices of a rule of life. The rule of life provides a framework for the rhythm of the community. The rhythm of life is both inward and outward, formation and mission.
There are several posts that I want to connect for this week’s Missional Monday, framed in thoughts from Dan’s post, Getting More Out of Communal Practice-ing. If this is of interest to you, please follow the links to read each of the posts in context.
Dan observes that more and more communities have adopted some form of practice-based rhythm to enhance their spirituality and missional formation and are experimenting with time-tested Benedictine rhythms or lower-bar versions of traditional communal practices.
In an age where the average Joe or Jane is so agenda-challenged, we probably need to settle for communal practice-ing arrangements that may well appear to be lower-bar versions of covenant community or missional Orders. But my guess is that discipleship is being enhanced nonetheless by such accessible rhythms of life. And these expressions may well be seeding the ground for the growth of deeper expressions of an Order-ed life on mission yet to be seen.
Examples of a Rule of Life for a Missional Order:
Here is the statement we are working with as we look at initiating a missional order. MORPH means on a weekly basis we covenant to be:
Missional – I will engage in some noteworthy activity that engages and/or enriches my neighborhood or community or city (or world if traveling).
Other-centered – I choose to bless two people in some conscious act of goodness or generosity; at least one person outside my own church community.
Replenishing – I will join with my triad or quad in reading at least five chapters of a NT book, two chapters of an OT book, and at least one chapter of a spiritually-edifying book or article. I will learn to rest as an expression of God’s gift of Sabbath.
Prayerful – I will quiet my soul and spend one uninterrupted hour with God in prayer. I will also pray the Office at least one time per day and if possible meet to pray with someone or pray over the phone or Internet. I will seek to live prayerfully that I might partner with God in His work in and around me.
Poetic – I will seek simplicity and beauty in all that I do, understanding that God seeks to create in me the image of His son as a unique expression of His fathering. I will seek to love and rejoice in God’s world as He loves and joys in it.
Hospitable – I will extend or receive hospitality on two occasions (at least once with my church, and once with non-believing friends or with an individual in my home or neighborhood or in a Third Place).
We also agree to participate twice a month in our triad, holding one another accountable to this rule.
From Christine Sine:
Though everyone involved in MSA will never live in residential communities, we recognize that there is a need to foster a sense of shared spirituality and commitment in order to accomplish what God has called us to be and do.
As a result we want to encourage followers of Jesus to work towards:
1. A redeemed (restored) relationship to God through
a. Regular individual prayer
b. Scripture study
c. Times of listening in solitude (meditative prayer)
d. Regular corporate worship
2. A redeemed (restored) relationship to God’s community through
a. The practice of a common life with other followers of Christ
b. Service in the broader community
c. Hospitality and celebration
d. Solidarity with the marginalized
e. Economic stewardship that encourages mutual concern
3. A redeemed relationship with our own inner being through
a. Meditation and contemplation
b. Confession of sins
c. Spiritual formation
4. A redeemed relationship with God’s creation through
a. Responsible ecological stewardship
b. Connection to the God revealed through creation
Dan brings up the idea that perhaps questions would be more useful in developing and defining the practices of our Rule of Life:
Core questions reinforce the value of core practices
The concern I have is over how readily I see leaders deflecting the harder work of discernment away from groups by giving them ready-made practices. I’m beginning to wonder if what we really need are core questions, rather than simply core practices. With core questions, every participant and group is provoked toward the work of discernment, which in itself can be transformative. So, my vote at present is for practices backed up by core questions.
Examples of questions that could be adapted in the process of developing a Rule of Life:
From Makeesha, A New Kind of Question:
- “how are you touching lives outside your faith community?”
- “how are you doing as a community in showing people the tangible love of Jesus?”
- “how often have you seen Jesus this week in the poor, marginalized, confused, hurting, sick, dying…?”
- “is your community being hospitable, generous and kind to those in the community who do not attend your church?”
- “how have you invested in your neighborhood recently?”
From Sky Jethani at Out of Ur:
- How do we grow people?
- How do we equip people and release them to serve outside the church/institution?
- How do we inspire more people to go?
- How many programs have other churches started that we can help support?
- How many people have a committed relationship with another brother or sister in Christ?
- How do we equip people to grow independent of the institution?
- How much revenue can the institution give away?
- How few buildings, pastors, and programs are necessary for God’s people to have time and energy to engage the community?
This core question from Peggy, the virtual abbess:
- Is what I’m about to do/say (or not do/say) going to lead me to keep covenant or break covenant with God and others?
- Whose best interest am I really looking out for at this moment?