by Craig Etheredge
In this post I share three spiritual disciplines and ways you can challenge your church to practice.
1. Reading and Memorizing God’s Word
This can seem like the most elementary discipline, but it really is one of the most important. Scripture is our direct line to insight from God about almost every situation we face. It’s a source of advice for those facing difficult situations. It’s a source of accountability and conviction for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It protects our minds when anxiety or negative thoughts try to distract us. It’s the very resource that equips us for everything.How can it be all of these things for us? Because it’s the Word of God.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
So how can you implement this discipline in your church? Maybe, as you’re preparing for your sermons each week, identify a specific verse and challenge your people to memorize it each week. Are you going through a specific book of the Bible for the next few weeks? Ask your members to read along with you. Also, Grow Groups are also great ways for small groups (3-5) of people to be trained how to walk with God by modeling and accountability. You could start your own groups by inviting others to dig into God’s Word together.
The main reason many people struggle to read the Bible on their own is because they don’t know where to start. Be their shepherd and show them how to meditate on and apply the Word.
Did you know you can pray to God without actually needing something? And not just for blessing meals either.
When you’re in a relationship with someone and you want to see it thrive, you probably talk to and spend time with that person on a frequent basis.
In fact, do you have anyone in your life that only comes to you when they have a problem? They want you to drop everything and help them through their crisis, but as soon as the crisis is over, they go on with their life doing what they want. You might be examining your life and thinking that this friend isn’t a great friend.
Thankfully, God doesn’t look at us the way we might be thinking about that person in our life. But if we’re wanting to truly build a relationship with God so that when the crises come, we have to have a fervent prayer life. In fact, Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Be constant in prayer.
How can you get your church to put this into practice?
First, teach them how to pray. Many people have only seen prayer when it’s done blessing a meal or when there’s a time of tribulation. Teaching your people tools to help structure their prayer time, such as the P.R.A.Y (Praise, Return, Ask, Yield ) prayer model, can help make prayer feel more approachable. A Grow Group is a great place to train your people how to pray by modeling and challenging them to develop consistent conversations with the Father.
Second, like we suggested earlier with Scripture, set a period of time aside for your people to focus on prayer as a church. Some Christian organizations have done 48 hours of prayer or prayer calendars for a set number of months, setting aside either a specific amount of time, a topic, or even both, can make prayer more intentional.
Fasting is a touchy discipline. The Bible is very specific that fasting should never be done in a manner that is focused on being seen by others (Mat. 6).
But fasting was one of the disciplines that Jesus did specifically during his time in the wilderness in Matthew 4.
And in Matthew 6, Jesus specifically says, “when you fast.” From context clues, we can take these words as a directive that fasting is supposed to be a part of our spiritual disciplines.
So, is fasting just for food? In short, no. Fasting can really mean fasting from the pleasures of the world. It can be food, television, social media, or anything else that can cause you distraction from God.
Does fasting have to be for 40 days like Jesus did in the desert? No. Fasting can be for any period of time. It could be one meal or one week of fasting from television, etc.
To get your church started with fasting, you should begin by demystifying the idea of fasting. It can be extremely intimidating and, if fasting from food or water, should be done in a safe manner.
And like the other disciplines we’ve discussed, inviting your church to be a part of fasting can help normalize it as a spiritual discipline. Invite your people to prayerfully consider fasting for a set period of time.
Remember, you are the shepherd of your congregation. The most effective way for you to guide your people in making these disciplines a part of their everyday lives is through your example. Whether that means investing in people personally or shaping the culture of your church to one where personal investment is the norm. What a great joy we have as leaders to help those we are called to serve walk with God faithfully.