Monday, May 21, 2007

Practice

I took the opportunity this weekend with a wedding at church and having to drive back and forth to Bellevue a couple of times to listen to the uncut version of Shane Claiborne's interview on American Public Radio. And in listening I had one of those, "Oh my... I can't believe I've not thought this through before" moments. He was talking about how so many churches have Statements of Faith, about what members are expected to believe, but very few have Statements of Practice, about the types of lives the members are expected to live. I don't know if that's a matter the lack of accountability people want in their lives or our desire to not mess in someone else's business. I hope that that's something that this group won't have a problem with, particularly with regard to the simplicity we are trying to affect in our own lives.

The question that I would have for the group is this: What would be some suggestions for a Statement of Practice for a group like this?

And let's get a little crazy... What would be a Statement of Practice for a 1300-attendee church?

Phil

6 comments:

Malia said...

Honestly, a Statement of Practice scares the you know what out of me. I like the idea in theory...

I think my fears come from a few different things. First, fear of the unknown. How does it really work? Can I really live up to it? Which leads to the second, fear of failure. What if I don't live up to it? Can a group that adheres to a statement of practice, also be able to show grace and forgiveness. Which then leads to the third, fear of what is known. Statements of Practice are found in cult-type organizations. That's the only "view" of it in my mind and certainly not a practice I would want to emmulate in my life.

And finally, there's the whole legalism thing. Would a Statement of Practice lead to a legalistic mindset amoung the group? For example, if one of the statements of practice is, "never buy anything brand new" I can see legalism going in two directions. 1) You make shopping at second-hand thrift stores/consignment sales/yard sales into some sort of "holy" behavior and 2) if someone in the group does "need" or "want" to purchase something new, they are looked down on.

I have no idea what a Statement of Practice would look like for this type of group. And the only statements of practice that I can think of for a "mega" church are snarky and sarcastic...so I'll just refrain for commenting along those lines!

david said...

I like the point Shane is making when he suggests that christians typically focus more on beliefs than practices or actions. In our heritage, beliefs are sacrosanct and minor deviations can result in a label of heresy. However, our practices are across the board and major deviations in practice are ignored. In fact, to question certain deviations (unless it relates to sexuality or other "important moral issues") results in the questioner being labeled as judgmental.
I don't know that I would agree with creating a Statement of Practice (anymore than I would agree with creating a Statement of Belief), but I think he's pushing us in the right direction.

Angie said...

I can see how a Statement of Practice would be beneficial for a small group of people who are very intentionally living in a certain way (in a house together) or have a very specific mission (outreach to the homeless). But, like David and Malia, I would be reluctant to come up with any specific practices for the group we are currently in. Maybe if this continues, and in a few years, we are much more involved in one anothers lives, something like a Statement of Practice would naturally develop.

Phil said...

All of that is understandable and I can especially understand it coming from our heritage and the emphasis on legalistic practices supposedly being an example of the inward heart. I don't disagree with that theology necessarily, but perhaps more with how it's been enacted.

What if instead of a statement of practice, we thought in terms of goals we'd like to reach in this process? Moving down in vehicle or house or living on 75% of salary and giving the other 25% away. Perhaps thinking of them as goals that people are trying to reach and are at different places on the journey is a better way to consider it.

Zane said...

Shane Claiborne has a list in the back of his book called "Marks of a New Monasticism." They're also on the front page of this blog, but I will reprint them here:

1. Relocation to the abandoned places of the empire.

2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3. Hospitality to the stranger

4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities, combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation

5. Humble submission to Christ's body, the church.

6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community, along the lines of the old novitiate.

7. Nurturing common life among members of an intentional community.

8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10. Care for the plot of God's earth given to us, along with support of our local economies.

11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence, and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18:15-20

12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

I don't know exactly what #6 means, and #12 is kind of vague, but in general I like this list as a "Statement of Practice". Sounds an awful lot like the church in Acts to me.

I think this list strikes a good balance between calling people to REAL action without coming across as a list of specific behaviors that everyone has to live up to. For the people who want to be a part of "new monasticism", I think it gives them a good idea of what it's all about.

For a group like ours, which is less focused, I think it's hard to come up with a "Statement of Practice". My suggestion would be:

1. Seek concrete steps that will help us live out values of service, simplicity, and community.

2. Encourage and help others who are seeking the same thing.

Scott said...

I just listened to the Shane Claiborne interview too, and really liked it. It seemed like a good condensed version of his book, and a good refresher for me since its been a while since I read it. It would be a good way for anyone who would like to read the book to get a picture of his ideas quickly, if he or she doesn't have the time to read the book.

He quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the end of the interview as saying something like:

“Love community and you will kill it. Love your brother and you will build it.”

(At least that's how I found the quote elsewhere on the web. I think he said it a little differently). That's a great cautionary byline to any rules (or aspirations, or whatever)of community, and I think that's how Claiborne intended it in the interview.

It suggests that: the stated practices of his community are the best known (at least for now) ways to love the other members of the community; loving others is the goal and purpose of the community and its members; and when any one of the stated purposes hinders that goal, it will be abandoned or tweaked. In that way, the quote (and maybe I'm reading too much into it, but hey, this is a blog) recognizes the organic nature of community endeavors. It is impossible to see how this thing's going to turn out, what shape it is going take, etc.

I don't think danger of worshipping community rules or community itself means that members should not write down stated practices. It seems like a good idea, even for this blog. That way people will know the topics of conversation, if they want to bother reading or contributing, and have a context. Just as long as we don't think that we are writing a new ten commandments.

I like Zane's suggestions. They seem to suit the discussion thus far.