Sunday, May 06, 2012

Book Review of Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen A. Macchia

Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to a Well-Ordered Way
by Stephen A. Macchia
ISBN 978-0-8308-3564-5
Published by IVP Formatio
Reviewed By Clint Walker

book cover

Between 1500 and 2000 years ago, Benedict of Nursia began a movement within Christian circles that continues to this day. He led people to an isolated place, and called them to live in intentional community so that they could teach and live out their Christian beliefs more faithfully. At the center of this community was the Rule of Benedict, which was covenant written by Benedict that guided their lives together in community. A "rule" in this sense is not so much a legalistic document that contains do's and don'ts, though some "rules" do include that, it is instead a structure to live by as a believer and as a community that helps those who follow it to grow spiritually.

Crafting a Rule of Life strives to follow in the footsteps of Benedict. Whether used in a community or individually, it guides students through ten-steps to creating a rule of life. Each of these steps are actually focused on understanding one's values, and one's priorities so that one can create a structure for one's spiritual life. That structure, in turn, will embrace disciplines, attitudes, and priorities that will create a spiritual rhythym that will guide a believers life into Christian faithfulness.

In adddition to the ten-steps, there are two chapters that help the student integrate their personal rule of life into a spiritual community of accountability and support. A "rule" really struggles without the support and accountability of community, so this section of the book is essential.

Each chapter has a similar structure. First, the topic is introduced. Then, an essay is included that communicates the Biblical foundation of why addressing the specific issue is central to healthy Christian living. After that, the author looks to history to reinforce the importance of including the issue in your "personal rule of life". Then, some leading questions are provided that will help a believer create their rule of life. After that, there is a section that guides believers in sharing what they learned about following Jesus in a group together. It is a good system, but will be best for those who are committed to this process. This is not a study that can be done "on the fly". It requires the commitment of each of its participants.

I love the idea of developing a rule of life. I think Macchia offers a helpful guide in making that happen. I am eager to use this resource in a group. However, the book is not without its limitations.

My biggest disappointment with the book was that it did relatively little in communicating Benedictine Spirituality in light of claiming to be influenced by St. Benedict's Rule. I would have liked to have seen more about the actual Rule of Benedict, and how that has influenced the author and the text.

Having said that, I think  Crafting a Rule of Life  is a great book. It would be wonderful to use with folks that are really interested in being serious about their Christian faith, and trying to look for a way to begin their practice of following Jesus.

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