The work of growth is ultimately God’s, but we can employ tools that support and assist this process. We are active participants in our own discipleship.
One of the keys to this for many Christians has been to look to the past and to see what has worked for others in the discipleship journey. These broader traditions and writers of the Church were known to our early Army leaders and in fact many were held up as examples of Christian faith and practice. (This is explored in greater depth in the book, Other Voices (C Faragher), which explores the contemplative tradition in the spirituality of The Salvation Army.) From this broader tradition we find that a number of practices for the Christian life have been widely practised and upheld as disciplines for Christian living.
The disciplines are not so much about “being” disciplined as exploring “ways” of learning about God. They are similar, however, to the discipline of the athlete in that they suggest a “rule” or method that one adopts with the intended purpose to train, correct, mould, or perfect. So they are tools for training, moulding and perfecting us in the Christian life.
Their goal is to facilitate spiritual growth and Christian community. They are concerned with our lifestyle (they are holistic in their approach), our practice of faith and its impact upon us and others.
The goal of Spiritual Disciplines is transformation and healing. They assist the Christian disciple in that process of being completely conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. The transformation is God’s work but the cooperation is ours.
By themselves the disciplines do not and cannot change us. However, they help us to hear God, to be aware of God, to focus on God, and to experience God.
They are a number of disciplines that can be identified. A useful starting place is the list of disciplines that Richard Foster gives in his classic text Celebration of Discipline. He refers to them as:
Inward Disciplines – Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study
Outward Disciplines – Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service
Corporate Disciplines – Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration
A brief summary of these disciplines, (linked above) can be a starting point for your thinking. How do these disciplines find a place in your life?