Ministry Resource: Spiritual Growth

DOlsonby Dr. Richard P. Olson
Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Theology

At Central Baptist Theological Seminary we recommend that early in their time at seminary students take a course called Formation for Christian Ministry. Part of what we do in that class may be enriching for persons in your church. Early in the class, we introduce two closely related concepts – disciplines and practices – provide books to learn about them, and assign trying and writing about one discipline or practice each week.

The word “discipline” is closely related to the word “disciple” and describes activities a person attempts with the goal of growing as a Christian. Similarly, Christian practices are
“. . . things Christian people do together over time in response and in the light of God’s active presence for the life of the world” with the goal that this will “create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us.”

CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE

Richard Foster wrote Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth over thirty years ago, and it has been widely read ever since. He speaks of twelve disciplines:

Meditation
Prayer
Fasting
Study
Simplicity
Solitude
Submission
Service
Confession
Worship
Guidance
Celebration

PRACTICING OUR FAITH

Dorothy Bass worked with a group of scholars of the spiritual life and edited Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People. They describe twelve somewhat different practices:

Honoring the body
Hospitality
Household economics
Saying yes and saying no
Keeping Sabbath
Testimony
Discernment
Forgiveness
Healing
Dying well
Singing our lives

Each week of the Central course, students are assigned to read a chapter from each of these books, select a discipline or practice, engage it for a week in some way, and write a one‐page journal reflection on doing so. In this short journal they are given these topics:

- As I tried the discipline/practice of . . .
- Here’s what I did . . .
- Practicing this discipline was . . .
- Practicing this discipline made me feel . . .
- What did I learn about God while practicing this discipline? . . .
- How did I come to understand the work of the Holy Spirit through practicing this spiritual discipline . . .
- Other reflections . . .

Then each week, part of the class is given to small spiritual growth groups, where they talk, share, and reflect on these ventures, along with getting to know a group of people, sharing their struggles, becoming community. Some students have been so excited and helped by this experience that they take one or the other of these books to their church and introduce it to a Sunday School class or other small group and report that it met a hunger for spiritual enrichment among the people at their church as well.

Here are some other resources or contact Dr. Olson, dolson@cbts.edu or Rev. Robin Sandbothe, rsandbothe@cbts.edu for more info.

- Way to Live ‐ teen version of Practicing Our Faith. Also www.waytolive.org
- On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life ‐ for people in their 20s
- www.practicingourfaith.org ‐ the website that corresponds to the book

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