Discipleship and the Disciplines


Got my hands on a couple of new books today. "Shalom Church: The Body of Christ As Ministering Community" by Craig L. Nessan and "The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives" by Dallas Willard.

Yes, yes, everyone, I know the latter was written ten years ago. But it's new for me okay! These literary explorations are part of my broader project of integrating discipleship and the disciplines for post-Christendom contexts. Interestingly, the author of Shalom Church is neither an Anabaptist nor a Quaker but a Lutheran. He approaches the marks of the church – one, holy, universal, and apostolic – from a discipleship perspective rather than a doctrinaire one.

Interesting thought occurs to me. Even when the Evangelical Left calls for the reconciling of evangelism and social action, piety and personal transformation are still often left out of the conversation. I thinks there's a need for deeper exploration of communitarian and personal holiness.

6 thoughts on “Discipleship and the Disciplines

  1. “Spirit of the Disciplines” has been one of the most influential books in my life. I used the book for a course I taught on Discipleship at a small Christian college for 7 years, and inevitably in every class a student would ask, “why wasn’t I told to read this book years ago?”


  2. You’re right Matt. Sometimes a balanced spirituality is a bit like making a spaghetti sandwich – just when you think it’s all crammed in, it falls out the other side. That tension is clear in Anabaptism which has traditionally majored on corporate over personal discipleship (e.g. rich in corporate discernment but poor in spiritual direction).


  3. @Phil. Yes, balance is difficult, which is why I appreciate books like “Streams of Living Water” by Richard Foster. Personally I swing very much towards the “neo” end of the Anabaptist spectrum, having been strongly informed by both the contemplative and evangelical traditions. But, I’m no eclectic, at least not any more, having firmly commited myself to Christocentric Christianity. Out of the mix though comes a desire to explore what the Anabaptist commitment to reconciliation looks like, when applied to the inner world and the ways of the psyche. In this respect I’m particularly interested in the interface between Anabaptist and Orthodox Christianity.


  4. Actually, I was reading more of The Spirit of the Disciplines and I noted Dallis Willard breaks them up this way:
    Disciplines of Abstinence – solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice
    Disciplines of Engagement – study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission
    I’m guessing that Acts 2 is his primary source for many of these disciplines of engagement and Matthew 6 is his primary source for many of these disciplines of abstinence.


  5. Yeah, interestingly enough, the Abstinence/Engagement concepts Willard teaches about would be the main thing I always associate with that book. I recently read Brian McLaren’s “Finding Our Way Again” which I think is another worthwhile volume touching on similar material and which I highly recommend for people newly following the Jesus Way, or who want to explore more about how ancient disciplinary practices can enhance their contemporary faith-life.
    McLaren’s approach, is very interesting because he explores disciplines common to other faiths than Christianity, in an informative and inclusive way whilst holding to his personal testimony of the reality of Christ in his faith-life experience.


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