My “Short List” of Seven Spiritual Disciplines
A question we hear is, “What is the most important thing I can do to grow in my faith?” It’s easy to come up with a long list, but after four decades of trying to grow and help others grow, here is my list, whittled down to seven:
1. A Disciple-Making Church
The mission Jesus gave us is, “Go and make disciples.” There are many “spin off” or “sub-“ missions, but make sure your church keeps the main thing, the main thing. In my opinion, disciple-making is a better description to shoot for than Bible-believing. Why? Because if you make disciples, you obviously believe, but not necessarily the other way around. And there is a huge difference between attendance and participation.
2. Personal Time with God
I try to think about God all the time, but that’s not possible. So I start almost every day by taking an hour to read the Bible, think about God, and talk to Him. By the way, He talks back—in such powerful waves that sometimes I feel overwhelmed with love, other times rocked at how he will open up a Scripture. I don’t know how a man can ever hope to have a reciprocal love relationship with God without investing substantial time into the relationship. The Bible is God speaking to us. We should not expect to grow deeply until we set aside quiet times when, without interruptions and distractions, we can tune our ears to hear the voice of God.
3. Your Wife
Easily the number one issue facing men in general is that marriages are not working as God intended. If you’re married, make your wife your best friend, after God, but before all others. Pray “with” her every day. Most men don’t do this. Why? Also, pray “for” her using the Marriage Prayer (68 words that capture the essence of what the Bible teaches about marriage www.themarriageprayer.org).
4. Male Friendships
Develop a few honest personal relationships with men and meet weekly. These can be one-on-one or small groups. You can meet for study, prayer, accountability, and/or fellowship. The main thing, though, is personal vulnerability and honest sharing—though depth takes time to develop (e.g., you’re not hiding your temptations or secret joys). A lot of lasting change takes place here, as you flesh out real life issues together. Couples groups are good, but there is an unparalleled bond that develops in a men’s small group.
5. Christian Literature
I don’t believe in Christian literature because I write books; I write books because I believe in Christian literature. Books change lives. It’s about education—what every parent knows is the secret of their children’s success. As in anything, those with education excel. In a few cases, the learning style may exclude books (in that case listen to podcasts, CDs, etc.). In 1656, Puritan Richard Baxter said, “See that in every family there are some useful moving books, beside the Bible. If they have none, persuade them to buy some: if they be not able to buy them, give them some if you can. If you are not able yourself, get some gentlemen, or other rich persons, that are ready to do good works, to do it.”
If you are, say, a computer programmer and you want to stay current in your field, or become a subject expert, or enhance your general skills, how do you do that? You take additional training. Whatever your ministry calling is—and we all have one (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)—take training in your area(s) of gifting. What if you don’t know what your calling is? Then first take training to discern your calling. Get your feet wet.
Once you have been practicing the spiritual disciplines just discussed you will begin to notice a close, personal, reciprocal love relationship with Jesus Christ. Your heart will be filled to the overflow with gratitude for all Christ is doing in your life, and the hope of what He will do in the future. You will long to do something to express your faith in acts of service. God wants every believer to have a personal ministry. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Yours for changed lives,
Patrick Morley, Ph.D.