A note from Kelly King: How do you view the word discipline? Do you see it as a negative or as a punishment? In today’s article, Stephanie Edge explains how we should look at disciplines of engagement—especially related to Bible study and prayer. As a leader, developing the discipline of being in God’s Word every day is one of the most important things you can do.
Most of us do not jump up and down in celebration when we hear the word “discipline.” But, perhaps, we should open our minds to a broader understanding. According to Dallas Willard, “A discipline of the spiritual life is, when the dust of history is blown away, nothing but an activity undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and His kingdom.”1 I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to cooperate with Christ to advance His kingdom agenda. Willard goes on to say that “Spiritual disciplines, ‘exercises unto godliness,’ are only activities undertaken to make us capable of receiving more of his life and power without harm to ourselves or others.”2 To serve effectively as leaders, we need God’s power.
Could it be there is more to the concept of discipline than we originally anticipated? Willard identifies two primary categories of spiritual disciplines: (1) disciplines of abstinence and (2) disciplines of engagement. Disciplines of abstinence—activities we would abstain from or stop for a period of time—include fasting, solitude, sacrifice, etc. Disciplines of engagement—practices that we would willfully take part in—are worship, prayer, study, fellowship, etc. Although Willard’s lists are not exhaustive, they are examples for us to consider implementing.3
While either category of disciplines would prove beneficial, I would like to focus on what we might refer to as two of the primary disciplines of engagement: Bible study and prayer.
The Bible is different from any other book! “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Benefits of spending time in the Word are found in this passage. The Bible: (1) teaches, (2) rebukes, (3) corrects, and (4) trains its readers so that ultimately, we can be prepared for the work God has for us. If we want to be good leaders ready to face the task at hand, we must spend time in His Word.
Secondly, prayer is an important spiritual discipline. Jesus made prayer a priority and a practice in His life. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus dismissed the crowds and went up on the mountain to pray. He spent an entire night in prayer before choosing the disciples (Luke 6:12-16). In John 17, Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples, and all believers—that means you and I. Through prayer, Jesus discerned God’s will for Him (Mark 1:35-39). And, it is through the discipline of prayer that you and I will find where God is leading us as we seek to follow Him.
According to Billy Graham, “Nothing will help us grow spiritually more than spending time alone with God every day, reading His Word, and praying. Time alone with God is essential to our spiritual welfare.”4 Likewise, spending time with God is essential for our leadership. “You can’t lead people farther than you are in your own spiritual health.”5 So, let’s reconsider the spiritual disciplines available to us to help us grow in Christ’s likeness. How disciplined are you?
Stephanie Edge has a passion for teaching God’s Word and ministering to women. She served in Women’s Ministry in the local church for sixteen years and worked in College Ministry for ten years. Stephanie graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. She also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an Associate Professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and teaches adjunct for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
1 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1988), 156.
2 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1988), 156.
3 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1988), 158.
4 Billy Graham, Wisdom for Each Day (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 276.
5 James D. Berkley ed., Leadership Handbook of Management and Administration (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 99-104.