The classic book on spiritual disciplines is Richard Fosterâ€™s, â€śCelebration of Discipline.â€ť There are other good ones, but this one is a classic. The book is broken down into three kinds of spiritual disciplines with four disciplines in each category. It looks like this:
The Inward Disciplines
The Outward Disciplines
The Corporate Disciplines
Foster makes it clear that these are not the only disciplines. Iâ€™m glad he said that. It is important for restoration people to understand that there is no set number of spiritual disciplines. We do not need to waste time and energy debating which disciplines are real disciplines, how many disciplines there are, criteria for disciplines to be truly spiritual and on and on.
Iâ€™m not trying to be funny. I can just see a 13 week series in Bible class on the necessary criteria for true spiritual disciplines, where they are found in the Bible and how often they are used and by which people. The discipline used most is the best discipline. Or maybe the discipline used most by Jesus is the one we should really pay attention to.
Anyway, one reason I like that there is no set number of disciplines means I can make a suggestion (new to us) of one discipline that is seldom tried in restoration churches â€“ which is why it will be a post-restoration spiritual discipline.
I love the subtitle to Doug Pagittâ€™s book, Reimagining Spiritual Formation. It is, â€śA week in the life of an experimental church.â€ť Cool. But more than cool, experimentation is a way to become a seeker again, like we talked about a few posts ago.
What I like about experimentation is that it gives room for newness, renewal, and experience â€“ and all without obligation. Experimentation is permission to fail without an eternal commitment to it. When an experiment fails, who cares? When the one and only right way fails, weâ€™re toast. When something is not an experiment, but is the one right way, then weâ€™re stuck with it, trying to make something function that just wonâ€™t.
If you went to fifty random Churches of Christ across the states (and in many other nations) you would find significant evidence that we have an aversion to experimentation. How would you know this? You would find the exact same thing in about 45 of them.
How does that happen? Far too many churches have beheld the pattern and effectively eliminated any experimentation from their worship, their fellowship, discipleship (almost completely impotent), ministry, and evangelism. Even for churches that are breaking the mold, most of them are breaking the mold in exactly the same way.
-Singers w/mics seated in the rear, then in the front pews, then standing.
-Contemporary songs (Free Indeed, Hallal, Zoe)
-And the really crazy churches do a special song, usually during communion (The heretical super crazy churches have a female sing the special song).
OK, Iâ€™m not saying cosmetic changes (some are actually quite substantive) such as these in the worship service are bad, but at the same time we are like a bunch of junior high girls all going to the bathroom at the same time to try on Suzyâ€™s new makeup, the gloss with the violet glow-in-the-dark sparkles.
Post-restoration churches will try out a bunch of things, a bunch of new (weird, obtuse, relevant, meaningful, lame) things and will do so without having to pass an act of congress (dozens of elderâ€™s meetings, three year studies, member surveys, weighing political issues, counting who will leave, gripe, or withhold contribution).
How? Experimentation will not be merely an option (which itself would be a gigantic leap forward in most restoration churches), but it will be a discipline, a spiritual discipline. To leave it out would be to miss something instrumental in entering the mystery of God.
Post-restoration churches will take every one of the disciplines in Fosterâ€™s list and experiment with them. Sure, prayer, but are there only a couple of ways to pray? Service. Yes! Letâ€™s get jinky with service! Isnâ€™t there confession beyond the almost extinct and humiliating walk down center aisle to make the general, â€śI sinned, pray for meâ€ť statement, leaving everyoneâ€™s mind to wander into realms of evil you never even entered, as they hug you, smile and give assurances of prayer? Nothing wrong with it, but is it the only way?
Post-restoration churches will discover, invent, and practice spiritual disciplines never before imagined, and/or will practice classic disciplines in ways never before dreamed. These practices will be around as long as they are useful, then be obsoleted or upgraded to something meaningful to the moment.
The once solid patterns of church life are melting â€“ going from solid to liquid. Some people fear the change and bemoan the loss. Their fear is understandable. But it is not the solidness or liquidity that matters. What matters is not that it is solid, liquid or gas, but whether it is still H2O. RM churches are guilty of putting their faith in the state of the water and not the water itself.
Experimentation is not just a neat idea, but rather it is a portal through which the mystery of God can be entered.
Letâ€™s experiment with spiritual disciplines, art, music, drama. Letâ€™s experiment not only with the elements of the worship service (which will evolve into gatherings), but with every aspect of life. Letâ€™s blur the line between church life and secular life.
Letâ€™s get jinky with experimentation.