Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What is Meant by the New Monastic – Part 1

I have a saying that goes like this: “Christianity is learned more like gymnastics than geometry”. Gymnastics is a set of skills learned progressively with a mentor and on a team. It is both the interaction between the daily routine of practice, the interaction of the team and the leadership of the coach that determines the culture and the success of the program. This is exactly how Christianity works when it works.

The big difference is that the skills that a Christian is learning are spiritual skills which are quite difficult at times for people to explain and comprehend. A spiritual skill is a skill in how to interact with God through the Holy Spirit. Meekness for example is not a skill that can be practiced in the flesh. Meekness is not merely to cease fighting but Gospel meekness is to cease fighting because we are consciously aware that God is fighting for us. This type of meekness is allowing all our desires to be mediated by God. Gospel meekness is giving the fight to God and accepting whatever He wills. This giving to God and resting is a spiritual skill.

Why Monastic
The learning of this skill is not done alone. We learn it as individuals but we cannot learn such skills apart from the support of a coach and a team. Consider how difficult it would be to learn gymnastics without a coach and without a team. Is it even possible to learn a back handspring without a coach? As a learner how would I know the anatomy of a back handspring? Do I jump more up or out? How limber do I need to be before I even begin to try a back hand spring? Without a coach a student can not proceed. It is really impossible. How much more difficult is learning the secrets of the spiritual life. This is the essence of monastic life. Monastic is learning skills together. Monastic life is the community dynamic of learning skills daily, one day at a time. I define Monastic as a community which develops a daily routine through which they learn together the spiritual life of discipleship and mission.

Franciscan Model.
I personally look to the Franciscan model because the Franciscan focuses on both discipleship, the learning of skills to grow character, with mission skills, the skills of proclaiming the kingdom to the world around us.

In our Small Group we are learning both discipleship and mission together. We ask ourselves questions like: What does being aware of our powerlessness look like in prayer? What does it look like at work? How does a parent with an abiding sense of powerlessness parent their children differently that a more self sufficient parent? These questions are not easy to answer. We know powerlessness is a key spiritual principles for Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount by saying “blessed are the poor in spirit” but what does this look like in every area of life. What does it look like to live in powerlessness as missionaries in our neighborhoods? How do we keep this awareness on a daily basis? How do we encourage each other?

Daily Discipleship Discussion and Accountability
In order to have discipleship relationships, we must accept that we are to give spiritual direction to one another. None of us are leaders over another for Jesus says, “call no one on earth your leader” but we are required to encourage and correct and give direction to each other mutually. If we give direction, we need to follow-up daily. We would do this with our employees at work. So we call each other and help each other maintain the disciple of reflecting on our Lord’s teachings.
“In what areas are you trying to learn powerlessness?”
“Oh, in my parenting of my teenager. I need to pray and trust God and allow Him to be in the midst of our relating if I am to avoid exasperating my child.”
Daily we need to follow-up the assignments we give each other. We encourage one another in learning the ways of our Lord. This is what is meant by the new monastic.

God Bless,
; ;

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