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As a new Christian coming out of an agnostic family, my first encounter with so-called spiritual disciplines came through my youth pastor. Upon my baptism, he was quick to say that my next step as a Christian was to start spiritual disciplines—that is, start waking up early to have a “quiet time” with God that mainly included Bible reading and prayer.
As a 14-year-old boy interested in getting better at playing sports and dating girls, I didn’t see how these spiritual disciplines would affect my life all that much. I knew I needed forgiveness for my sins, but I had already covered that in my profession of faith. These spiritual disciplines, I was told, would make me a better person—more “godly”—but I felt like I was doing just fine.
Experience - Stretch - Church - America - Disciplines
My experience might be similar to yours. It’s probably not a stretch to say that just about every evangelical church in America discusses the important of spiritual disciplines. These disciplines often include Bible reading, prayer, stewardship, and fasting. We often think we’re doing them for personal growth. However, in Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World, Kyle David Bennett—assistant professor of philosophy at Caldwell University in Caldwell, New Jersey, where he also directs the Spirituality and Leadership Institute—challenges the overly individualistic practice of spiritual disciplines.
While reading Isaiah 58:1–12, Bennett was struck by the way spiritual disciplines are described:
Bennett - Israelites - Focus - Neighbor - Benefit
What did they get wrong? According to Bennett, the Israelites (like us) lacked “a focus on the neighbor and the benefit that these disciplines have for one’s neighbor” (13). In other words, even when we nail our “quiet time,” we stunt the power that spiritual disciplines can have on the world around us.
Brazos Press (2017). 208 pp. $17.99.
Book - Way - Disciplines
This book offers an alternative way of understanding the classic spiritual disciplines that makes them...
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