One of the more encouraging aspects of the Body of Christ in the past two to three decades has been the growing interest in the application of classical spiritual disciplines to daily life. For a time, sensitive churches heard the voices of their congregants who voiced a God-driven desire for a deeper walk of faith than what they had been experiencing. New programs and ongoing “formation groups” sprang up, providing sincere believers with a forum in which to learn, discuss, and especially, practice the kinds of spiritual disciplines that nourished and gave life to Christians since the example of Jesus himself.
In spite of this emergence of interest in spiritual disciplines, an increasing number of churches are now losing focus, direction, and in many cases, interest in providing these vital services for their members. Unfortunately, more and more churches are returning to the status quo where superficiality reigns supreme and church leaders are satisfied having their congregants spend lifetimes splashing about in the urine-warmed waters of the spiritual wading pool. Sing a few hymns (or praise songs), hear a sermon about something meaningful to Christians living two centuries ago, and put your tithing envelope in the plate – that is about as deep as it goes in many churches these days. Once again it seems complacency and shallowness are rearing their smiling heads and the Church body universal, moving in mindless lockstep, is beginning to pay the price.
In addition to the church’s general lack of focus on the spiritual disciplines and their strategic necessity in the life of the believer, two other problems seem to complicate the issue and result in either lackluster commitment to practicing the disciplines or, even worse, a general paralysis on the part of Christians when they attempt to make the disciplines a vital part of their walk of faith.
First, even though many churches are now speaking directly to the importance of the spiritual disciplines, it seems that this renewed focus spawns a loud and most often irrational outcry from fundamentalist believers who feel practicing the classical spiritual disciplines is somehow either a “New Age infiltration of the church,” or worse still, “the work of Satan.” This resistance is usually based on the general lack of understanding of what advocates of the spiritual disciplines are trying to accomplish. Writers such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren, and countless others are branded “arch-heretics,” “apostates,” and even “dupes of the enemy.” This is highly unfortunate because nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of leading people away from the truth of the gospel, these authors are, instead, making a compassionate attempt to direct people toward experiencing the very heart of the gospel.
The blather and fear-based banter of these self-appointed doctrinal “watchmen” only serves to confuse sincere Christians even more and many times prevents them from finding the true heart of the gospel message. Even worse, it keeps them bound in the chains of a narrow, rigid world view which is devoid of spirituality and arid when it comes to Christian love.
A second problem stems from the fact that the classic spiritual traditions were formulated centuries ago and are often wrapped in language and tone that is quite alien from our 21st Century world. I know from personal experience that studying the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages is a very fruitful endeavor, but can be quite a challenge due to the archaic language used in the texts. What is needed is a reformulation of the disciplines that is both understandable and engaging to the modern reader.
With this thought in mind, here at LifeBrook we have developed a method of exploring the principles that are contained in the classical spiritual traditions that is hopefully more pertinent and practical when it comes to life in the 21st Century. In brief, we teach workshops, seminars, training programs, and e-courses based on the following breakout of the disciplines:
Discipline of Consecration
Discipline of Connection
Discipline of Cognition
Discipline of Contribution
Discipline of Community
Discipline of Comprehension
Discipline of Calling
Discipline of Cultural Engagement
Discipline of Cultivation
Consecration includes: decision, determination, diligence, commitment, perseverance, patience, etc.
Connection includes: prayer, meditation, contemplation, solitude, nature
Cognition includes: taking thoughts captive; tearing down strongholds; mindfulness; positive thinking; sacred imagination.
Contribution includes: sacred service; spiritual gifts; mission; sacrifice, and most importantly, continuing incarnation.
Community includes: our family and friends; our church; our community; our nature; our world.
Comprehension includes: sacred study of Scripture and other inspirational writings; understanding of God’s Great Story; realization of where we fit into the “Big Picture,” including the role of the church in the coming years.
Calling includes: discovery of where we, as individuals, fit into God’s unfolding story in terms of our calling, our mission, and our vision of how to live out our God-ordained destiny.
Cultural Engagement includes: making ourselves ready to incarnate God’s plan within the context of post-modern, post-Christian culture in general and our own unique cultural setting in particular.
Cultivation includes: ongoing growth in Christ-character by internalizing a Christian value system and acting in accordance with it; and the development of a Christian worldview, along with the capacity to have our actions consistently flow from said worldview.
We fully recognize that this methodology does not represent the final word as far as contemporary expression of the spiritual disciplines is concerned. We have found, however, that looking at the spiritual technology of the Christian tradition in this way helps students and seekers understand the disciplines more clearly.
It is my profound hope that an increasing number of churches will come to understand the importance of equipping congregants with practical, time-tested methods for deepening the Christian walk of faith. In addition, we here at LifeBrook have helped establish non-denominational, faith-based small groups in several states that are studying and applying the spiritual disciplines as outlined above. These groups, called LifeBrook Fellowships, are providing an ongoing venue in which interested persons may come together and share the Christian journey in a positive, well-organized, and fruitful way.
If you would like information on how to start a LifeBrook Fellowship in your area, please feel free to contact me at:
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved
- Remedies for What Ails the Church: Christ’s Proactive Love (Part One) (ldturner.wordpress.com)
- Spiritual Discernment in an Age of Uncertainty (lifebrook.wordpress.com)
- Living as a New Creation (Part Two) (lifebrook.wordpress.com)