I have invested my adult life in studying and understanding Christian leadership. I’ve attended conferences, earned advanced degrees, and read broadly – for decades. But I cannot recall any discussion of discretion. For the first 500 years of the church, discretion was considered the most precious gift, or charism, for the church (John Cassian’s Conferences). They understood that without discretion individuals and communities could easily be ruined. In fact, all abbots of monastic communities were to be distinguished by discretion (The Rule of St. Benedict). Without it we are dangerous – speaking too freely, giving people burdens they cannot bear, and offering superficial spiritual counsel. Discretion is the opposite of our 21st century leadership culture that emphasizes bigger, better, and maximum impact as quickly as possible. Discretion is the ability to wait to see what unfolds, to not act. It involves the humility and patience to know when to leave things alone, knowing. Read more.
One of the topics God opened up to me on Sabbatical was related to the indispensability of growing in humility. I was struck at what a major theme this was for the early church, especially in her first 500 years. Their understanding was that humility is the face of a pure heart. It was considered the one, unmistakable quality of the Christian life. I recommend Humility Matters: For Practicing the Spiritual Life byMargaret Funk. Her work led me back to John Cassian and Benedict of Nursia’s excellent writings on humility. The following is my adaptation and applications for my own leadership. I am following their classic schematic of progressively climbing a ladder with rungs. (Please note that any of these can be easily abused without a framework of emotional health). Step 1 – Put to death all desires but God – Application: Ensure I have ample time with God, balancing time alone with Him. Read more.
I am in the process of re-reading John Cassian’s Conferences (c.365-c.435) and am so deeply affected by the depth and care with which his accounting of the desert father’s concern for purity of heart and for a life of unceasing prayer. What a contrast to the books and writings coming out of the church of today! I am both chagrined for I love the church and challenged to live free from the idols of power, money, approval, earthly security, etc. Cassian encourages me to call both myself and the larger church to a level of “apartness” difficult to understand living in the wealthiest country in the world. But I am challenged to go forward to pressing in here at NLF to go outside the box of contemporary church life and be a community that learns from the riches of the monastic tradition. So here is the third (of four) sections of the NLF Rule of Life we have only. Read more.