Watching the Australian Open Tennis, I am bombarded with images of the Nike “tick” logo on players’ clothing, and reminded of the company’s slogan “Just do it!”
And I’m also reminded that faith is a verb. Christian discipleship is about being and doing. Belief in action.
Andrew Roberts speaks of Holy Habits. Richard Foster writes about Spiritual Disciplines. Dorothy Bass and others describe Christian Practices. These refer to the faith-filled actions of followers of Jesus Christ that embody the Way of the people of God in the world. If the being of discipleship is about abiding with God in Christ and being transformed by the Spirit’s presence, the doing is about acting in ways that welcome and help to bring about the purposes of God for our world; doing or imitating the habits that we see in Jesus and his disciples, doing or participating in the ongoing ministry and mission of Christ.
Habits of Faithful Living
A common reference for exploring Christian practices is the description in Acts 2:42-47 of the life of the early church. How did the early Christians live as a community? What marked them as distinctive? Christian writers list a range of inward and outward Christian practices or disciplines. Here are some examples:
- Dorothy Bass – keeping Sabbath, singing our lives, hospitality, discernment, household economics, forgiveness, and honouring the body (and more!)
- Craig Dykstra – interpreting the Scriptures together, worshipping God together, giving generously and receiving gratefully, tolerating failures and encouraging one another’s vocations, working together to maintain and create life-sustaining social structures that accord with God’s will, and praying, both together and by ourselves (and more!)
- Diana Butler Bass – justice, healing, beauty, testimony, contemplation, worship, discernment, diversity, reflection, hospitality
Practices are disciplined in that they are patterned on following Christ. They constitute personal and communal rhythms of life, and they form, inform and transform our lives and our world. Practices are not simply imitation of Christ, rather they are a participation in the life of God and the Way of Christ.
From Being Disciples, SPCK, 2016.
One of the four lenses on congregational discipleship and mission in my doctoral research was Learning Christian Practices. If a congregation is a lifelong learning community of Christian discipleship, then one essential learning dynamic is that of growing in Christian practices. Hearing from church leaders around the country sbout how this was happening was incredibly enriching and encouraging. Christian practices are inherently connected with the mission of God.
Practices shape disciples – we learn discipleship as we live it
Disciples share practices – habits of faith are not for us but for the world
Growing in Christian Practices
From May 2023 Port Phillip East Presbytery will be offering resources for exploring and deepening our Christian practices as a way for congregations to be intentional about growing disciples.
The Mission & Leadership Development Committee (MLDC) has a team working on resources on these practices.
- Resources for two Christian practices will be produced each year
- Each practice comes with two months of resources for use in worship, small groups, and personal or household settings
- The resources are recommended for use by congregations between Easter and Advent – you decided when to use them
- You choose how many of the three practices you wish to focus on. Each year we will add three additional practices to choose from.
- Resources will be free to download, and will include some recommended, optional resources for purchase from Christian publishers.
This is designed as an optional, whole of congregation discipleship formation focus for a particular period of time. The approach includes exploring the biblical and theological bases for Christian practices as well as learning through experience and from experience. Christian faith and living are formed in community.
Our first Christian practice for 2023 will focus on prayer.
We’re excited to be providing this approach towards broadening and deepening our intentional faith development in congregations.
Dr Craig Mitchell
Presbytery Minister – Church Development