The gang has cleared out for the evening now after a great “simple church” meeting in our home. Not much agenda to it, but started with discussion of themes from my post yesterday, Shabat Shalom. In the 1-3/4-hour discussion which ensued, it’s hard to sum up the wisdom or even to retrace all of the trails we followed together… but here’s one tidbit that stands out, since I’ve been thinking about spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines.

Dallas Willard lists disciplines of abstinance (solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice) and disciplines of engagement (study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission), which is a great distinction between two types of discipline — most of which have a corollary as well.

As you know, I could be called a post-charismatic. Observed: you can get charismatics to fast and pray, but it’s hard to get them to practice the other disciplines (see sample list above) or to talk about them at any great length, especially in the context of these disciplines as being agents of spiritual formation. I previously noted that this was different than the crisis-intervention mode of spiritual formation that happens at the altar every Sunday… but there’s something else of note here as well. Prayer and fasting in the charismatic context are intended as pursuits of power, with the end goal of changing circumstances around you – it’s external. Perhaps prayer and fasting may work both ways, but for the most part the other disciplines, particularly in light of the subject of spiritual formation, are internal. That is, they are properly practiced as a means not of helping to change our circumstances, but as a means of helping to change ourselves.

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