Monday, October 17, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Formation 6: Introduction to Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines are important. However, before i talk about them, let me say:
the Christian life is not to be lived in solitude. it is to be lived in community. therefore, any individual activity must find its significance within the community, not simply as a "boost" for someone's "personal walk".
Dallas Willard says about spiritual disciplines,
"What is a discipline? A discipline is an activity within our power, something we can do, which brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort. Discipline is in fact a natural part of the structure of the human soul, and almost nothing of any significance in education, culture, or other attainments is achieved without it."
In other words, disciplines are like the drills we do at soccer practice. They aren't the actual game, but they help us play better when we get in the game. If we want to live appropriately, we need to discipline ourselves ahead of time.

There are many approaches to spiritual discipline. Some of the leading authors in the field are Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Donald Whitney, and Mel Lawrenz. The following is my approach.

Through living in community, we become aware of our areas for growth because our brothers and sisters lovingly point them out to us. Aware that we cannot simply change those things, we must engage the formative work of the Spirit to bring growth. In order to open ourselves to the work of the Spirit, we undertake disciplines related to the area in which we aspire to grow.

Foster identifies the following disciplines:
  • meditation
  • prayer
  • fasting
  • study
  • simplicity
  • solitude
  • submission
  • service
  • confession
  • worship
  • guidance
  • celebration
Willard would identify among others, the following key disciplines:
  • solitude and silence
  • fasting
  • scripture meditation
I would add:
  • service and sacrifice to the community
  • witness to the world.
If you are looking for a starter project for engaging in these disciplines with a community, check out "A Spiritual Formation Workbook". It will guide you through eight weeks of meeting together and help you create habits for your community that can last a lifetime.

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