Lessons from the “Rule” of Benedict

by Pete Scazzero

Benedict (480-547 AD) lived during a time when the Roman Empire was disintegrating and eventually founded twelve monasteries near Rome. To guide these monks to live a simple, orderly life around Christ, he wrote “a little rule for beginners” now famously known as the “Rule of Benedict” (RB). This “Rule” became one of the most powerful documents in shaping Western civilization and has guided tens of thousands of people around the world over the last 1500 years.

In this podcast, I expand on the 7 primary lessons (or gifts) from the Rule of Benedict that have profoundly influenced my life and leadership since my first exposure to it in 2003.

These 7 lessons are:

  1. Rhythms and the Daily Office. Benedict structured these prayer times around eight Daily Offices. He realized that stopping for the Daily Office to be with God is the key to creating a continual and easy familiarity with God’s presence the rest of the day. It is the rhythm of stopping that makes the “practice of the presence of God,” to use Brother Lawrence’s phrase, a real possibility.
  2. The Tool of a Rule of Life. The great gift of a Rule of Life is that of regulating our entire lives so that we prefer the love of Christ above all things, so that our way of acting is different from the world’s way (RB 4:20-21). This remains a life-changer for me, our church at New Life, and a key component of The Emotionally Healthy Discipleship Course.
  3. Silence, Stillness, and Few Words. One of the great gifts of the monastic tradition is the value of the spiritual practice of silence. Benedict formed communities to guard this value, writing: “The wise are known for their few words. There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence.”
  4. The Necessity of Giving Up Our Self-Will. I didn’t fully understand how much my will clashed with God’s will – on a daily basis – until my entry into silence and stillness before the Lord. In his introduction to the Rule, Benedict writes: “This message is for you, if you are ready to give up your own will.”
  5. The Goal of Humility. Until this point I had never heard of such a goal for leaders. My primary goal was to grow a bigger, more effective ministry. Benedict’s Rule slowed me down to learn this: “What I do matters; but who I am on the inside matters much more.”
  6. Welcome Every Guest and Visitor as Christ. Based on Hebrews 13:2, I found this language much more motivating and biblical than the focus on “caring for our customers” that was the emphasis in many of the larger American churches in my early days.
  7. Seeing our Communities as a School for the Lord’s Service. Benedict’s careful focus on deep formation/discipleship in his Rule challenged me to take my discipling efforts to the next level. It put flesh on Jesus’ slow, educational-process of “making disciples,” giving me a more patient, longer view of working with people over a long period of time.

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