When I was a young Christian, I loved Saint Francis of Assisi. One element of Francis' order that I thought was helpful was the idea of the "rule". Franciscans have a rule. A rule, in monastic life, is a simple booklet that explains their way of life. The rule of Saint Francis explains the simple rules that govern the life of the Franciscan. These simple rules give structure to the Franciscan spirituality. In today's "post-modern", relativistic, and individualistic world, we tend to feel quite uneasy around talk of such man-made rules and tend to shy away from attempting to develop methods to our spiritual practices. We do this much to our own peril.
Rules or methods are central to a community creating a corporate document, a living expression, of their spiritual journey and their spiritual life.
The Daily Cycle
It seems clear to me that any method should be based on the cycle of the day. How do we do morning prayers? How do we live our daily lives and how do we do evening prayers? How do we take our meals and pray together at meals, and how do we perform daily worship together?
A Method for Discipleship
Any discipleship method which is attempting to uncover the apostolic model which Christ gave His first followers must include these elements. How ought we to perform our morning prayers? What are the basic rules that govern our daily lives? How ought we to worship together? etc.
The Sermon on the Mount covers almost, if not all, of these areas and is the basis of the simple ways and rules that are to govern the daily lives of Christians. I think it is important for each Christian community that seeks to follow Jesus to develop a method of following the Gospel that makes sense and works for them. We need method. We need to be able to articulate our way of life when people come to us and ask to join us. Sure we must be living this life first and foremost, but we must also be capable of explaining our life to others in a simple and repeatable manner.
To do this we must embrace some form of method. The development of method is vital to significant progress in the spiritual transformation of an community. It is time for all of us, as disciples of Christ, to develop, for ourselves and those we help, methods that explain and can be used as tools to help others enter our quality of life.