“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” — Jim Rohn
If you asked most of the people in your congregation, it is very likely that they would say that they desire to grow closer to Christ. But, if you asked them to outline how they plan on doing that, you would most likely be met with silence. If you want to help your congregants become more Christ-like, help them begin by taking spiritual disciplines more seriously.
Spiritual disciplines are biblical habits that aid in the spiritual growth of a Christian.
According to The Wesleyan Means of Grace, while God’s grace is not earned, Christians should take part in “means of grace.” Divided into works of piety and charity, practices such as Bible study, prayer and charitable service can help accelerate, fortify and confirm a Christian’s faith. Without these, a person’s faith not only fails to grow but also becomes stagnant and ineffective in the church.
In addition, while there are communal disciplines (those that are meant to be performed in acts of community), there also are many practices that should be performed individually.
Given the importance of spiritual disciplines or practices, how can you encourage your congregation to make them a habitual part of their lives?
Preach about spiritual disciplines
While it may seem obvious that activities such as Bible study, prayer and corporate worship are important, you cannot assume that all Christians realize the significance of these practices.
Familiarize yourself with Wesley’s ordinances and modern-day examples of each, then preach about them. Use new ways to illustrate Bible lessons to capture the attention of your audience and help them think creatively in terms of personal Bible studies.
Check online for sermon ideas, including sermons by John Wesley. Consider including cultural examples that illustrate the need for Christians to become involved in activities that help seek justice, end oppression and aid the poor.
Pray with and for your church
Don’t just pray for your church, pray with your church, specifically in an effort to teach the people how to pray.
Many people, including people who regularly attend church, are uncomfortable praying. They think that there is a certain way in which prayers are to be said, certain words that they don’t know, and certain postures that they aren’t sure how to emulate.
Help your congregation improve its prayer life by scheduling times in which you all can pray together. Consider scheduling classes or workshops in which groups can explore ways to re-energize their prayer lives with new practices.
Encourage innovative ways to pray and help them to pray more often.
Promote opportunities to put disciplines into practice
Most churches offer several opportunities for congregants to participate in worship and receive the sacraments each week. By offering unique opportunities for worship in nursing homes, on college campuses and in prisons, you may open the doors for the uncommitted or new Christians to find a place in your church.
Many people also may not recognize that charity, generosity and self-sacrifice are actually spiritual disciplines. Promote service projects, such as food and clothing drives, feeding the homeless, and prison relief ministries, and point out that they are ways Christians can not only share love but also grow in their own faith.
Since getting started is often easier when you do it with like-minded friends, Sunday school classes and small groups that meet in homes are great ways to encourage your congregation to dig deeper into God’s word.
Remember, it’s important that your congregants also begin to incorporate these practices into their private lives. Ask your church to participate in special times of individual prayer, Bible study and fasting for spiritual renewal.
Provide resources for your congregation
Help your church get excited about spiritual disciplines by providing resources. For example, print a list of free internet sites, such as Bible Gateway, BibleStudyTools or YouVersion, that offer personal Bible study plans, multiple versions of the Bible and commentaries for further study. List them in your Sunday bulletin. Enlist a volunteer to teach a workshop on various ways to explore Bible passages or creative ways to study the Word.
Consider offering classes or visual aids that will help Christians learn how to grow their faith. Pass out read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans for your congregation to follow. If you have a church library, make sure that your congregation is aware of those resources.
While spiritual disciplines are as old as the church itself, they are as relevant today as when the church was founded. Help your congregation not only to desire to grow in their spiritual walk but also act to reach that goal.
Help make spiritual disciplines a reality in the corporate life of your church and in the individual lives of your congregants.