sioux falls seminary

From Affluence to Monasticism – The Story of St. Benedict

stbenedict

In my previous post, I briefly outlined the project I will be working on for my Doctor of Ministry at Sioux Falls Seminary. This project is rooted in a deep and practical study of an ancient rule known as “The Rule of St. Benedict.” In this post, I will provide a little more information on the author behind this ancient monastic rule. 


Monasticism become a popular movement around the time that Constantine declared Christianity to be the favored (and then legal) religion of Rome in the 4th century. The Church went from being a persecuted minority, depending on one another and the Holy Spirit for community life, to a powerful majority as a state religion. As a result of this change, the faith slowly become corrupt. Church leaders began making extravagant amounts of money and yielding extraordinary power over those in their charge. It became the opposite of how Jesus taught his followers to exercise leadership:

Matthew 20:25-28
25 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Many Christians were deeply pessimistic about the corrupt nature of the church. In order to live out the radical elements of the Christian faith, many retreated to the desert to be alone with God, study God’s Word, and commit to intercessory prayer on behalf of the Church.

It was in this climate (during the 6th century) that Benedict was born into an affluent family in Rome. From the little we know, Benedict lived a charmed life and had all the comforts of luxury. As he got older and was studying in the great city of Rome, he became disillusioned with his wealth and the state of the church. It was during this time of seeking that he felt drawn to monasticism.

Benedict retreated into the desert and pursued the life of a hermit. A hermit was a monk who lived on his own in an effort to seek God through prayer, Scripture study, and manual labor. Benedict’s fame began to grow and a large multitude of people were regularly visiting him to receive his counsel and insight into the spiritual life. Eventually, other men decided to apprentice themselves to Benedict and become his fellow monks. Benedict’s first foray into forming a monastery ended up as a failure; his disciplines were too strict and demanding for those who sought to follow him.

Eventually, Benedict formed another monastery at Monte Cassino around 529 (about 80 miles southeast of Rome). It was from within this monastery that Benedict developed what has come to be known as “The Rule of St. Benedict.” It was written with the purpose of applying the Gospel to the everyday lives of those in his monastic community. Nevertheless, since it was a faithful exposition of the Scriptures for community life, it became the standard monastic rule of the Western church. The fact that there are Benedictine communities all over the world, 1,500 years after the writing of the Rule, demonstrates the power of this ancient rule for our lives today.


In my next post, I will briefly outline the Rule of St. Benedict and explain how you can study it for yourself to experience the benefits of this ancient document.

I had an incredible week!

Work

I spent this past week at Sioux Falls Seminary for the intensive week of the Kairos Project. This was a week of classes, study, fellowship and prayer. On top of that, I finally learned to enjoy coffee today (thanks to Annie’s Coffeehouse in Garretson!)

So… let’s have coffee together for the #weekendcoffeeshare! As I sip on my latte (I can’t drink ‘real’ coffee yet..) let me share with you some of the things I learned this week:

1. Ministry MUST happen in every sphere of life!
Sadly we have promoted a false dichotomy between secular and sacred work within the church. Almost everyone believes that formal, paid ministry is sacred work. On the other hand, other jobs (accountant, custodian, etc.) is secular or worldly work. As pastors, we expect people to use the small amount of leisure time they have in order to serve at the “sacred” church INSTEAD of empowering them to be witnesses in their work place.

THIS MUST STOP!

All of work is sacred if it is beneficial to mankind and honoring to God! We desperately need a new theology of work. All Christians are called to full-time ministry; whether that is in a church or a factory. God has strategically placed YOU in your specific sphere of influence in order to make Jesus known to those around you!

2. There is a difference between VOCATION and OCCUPATION!
To our own detriment, we have ruined a proper understanding of vocation. Vocation is best understood as a call on one’s life. An occupation is the specific way you are living out that call on your life.

For example, God has called me to be a pastor. This can be done in ANY occupation that God places me! Whether it is through paid ministry in a church or paid ministry as a custodian! In other words, our vocation supersedes our occupation.

Rather than becoming anxious over whether or not you are in the right occupation, focus on bringing the full value of your vocation (your calling) INTO your current job. Use your job as a mission field to love God and love people. Do your work to the absolute best of your ability in order to love your neighbor! THAT IS MINISTRY!


Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know by leaving a comment and let’s continue the discussion!

The Importance of Mentors

Startup Stock Photos

In order to be successful in any area of life – family, business, religion, education, etc. – you NEED mentors. Mentors are men and women who are further along than you are in your respective field, and are willing to teach, encourage, and train you.

The Apostle Paul understood this powerful concept. He wrote about this exact subject to a young pastor that he personally mentored:

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. – 2 Timothy 2:2

The use of mentors, especially in church leadership, causes exponential growth. As each person faithfully mentors a handful of people, each one of those students can then become mentors to another small group of people. Mentoring done right is an incredible cycle of growth and teaching. It is through this intentional, life-on-life process that disciples of Jesus Christ are formed and nurtured.

I am beginning a new season in my life that will be largely influenced by mentors. I have been accepted into the Kairos Project at Sioux Falls Seminary. This project will structure my education around three mentors: a faculty mentor, a ministry mentor, and a personal mentor.

Before even beginning this process, I have been meeting with a pastor on a monthly basis for growth and encouragement.

As I have been thinking through the benefits of mentors, I have two questions for you:

1. Who is your mentor?
Whether you desire to grow in business, family, religion, or a different area, you NEED to make it a TOP PRIORITY to meet on a regular basis with a mentor. As you meet with the mentor, come with a teachable attitude. Mentoring fails when the student is arrogant and refuses to learn from the experience and knowledge of the mentor.

2. Who are YOU mentoring?
We see that Paul’s instruction to Timothy includes teaching other people. Mentoring should be a cycle – you are taught so that you can teach others. Is there someone in your respective field that is inexperienced? Offer to buy them lunch and form a mentoring relationship with them.

If you are on staff at a church – Who can replace you? Good leadership is shown through the ability of being replaced easily. Being irreplaceable is simply a sign of failing leadership (Pastor, I am looking at YOU because we have an unhealthy tendency to rarely delegate which results in burnout and depression!)


What are some of the benefits you have experienced from mentors? Let me know by leaving a comment!