Christian Converser: Discipleship and Discipline

First published on Christian Converser
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As Christians we are sometimes known as “disciples of Christ”. We of course get that word from its use in the Bible, where in the four Gospels it referred to Jesus’ core team of 12.

Dictionary.com lists “disciple” with four definitions, the first three of which are related to Bible or church, and only the last one suggests that it could refer to anyone who follows any generic cause. It is said to be derived from the Latin root “discipulus”.

Now there is a very similar word also derived from that same latter root and that is “discipline”, which is both a verb and a noun; it names a set of activities that constitute being trained up in the name of a specific cause, and the execution of these activities in the pursuit of that cause. Again with Dictionary.com as our reference, the verb in particular refers to being brought “to a state of order and obedience by training or control”.

However we choose to live out our lives in the world in a generic sense, we cannot expect to have any real achievement without applying some form of daily discipline. These concepts carry over into the Christian sphere, and it is totally imperative for any believer who wants to serve in any kind of church ministry context that they will become disciplined, not just in the ways of Christ, but in every part and detail of their life as a whole. So becoming disciplined doesn’t just mean you should read your bible and pray every day; it means you should clean and tidy your house every day and mow your lawn.

At this point let’s look at a few Scriptures that make reference to the need for discipline in the life of a Christian believer. (You can do your own study at this point as well)

  • 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline” (adapted from NIV)
  • Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (MSG)
  • Proverbs 10:17 “The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good.” (MSG)

And there are others, we aren’t quoting them all here, but they make it clear enough that discipline is pretty important in the life of a believer, and that discipline is for the whole of life, not just in those activities that specifically reference our faith.

Of course, the key disciplines of faith are fairly important to us, and generally they relate to setting time aside each day to spend in the things of God. These have to be specifically related to personal devotion, and are more important than time spent in a ministry context. Whilst we may be involved in a ministry and participate in ministry activities on a daily basis, these are not a substitute for times of personal devotion. Neither are watching Christian TV or videos, listening to Christian radio stations or Christian music, praying for the needs of other people, etc. None of these can substitute for personal devotion or quiet time.

The important disciplines of personal devotion as a discipline in the life of a Christian believer are based around things such as systematic reading of and meditation on the Scriptures and personal prayer. Some people formally set aside a quiet time each day. Others may spread out this time over various intervals during the day. For example, we may listen to an audio bible during another activity, and then take a short break for reflection and meditation, and then take another break at some point for personal prayer.

From our personal perspective as authors of this blog, we often are taking those times in short breaks during another activity at home, and find in the time spent working on a computer, that is when we can be listening to the daily readings from our audio bible, and taking a short break for reflection, taking short times for prayer during the day, and usually one or more longer breaks and specific prayer activities. Our goal throughout 2020 is to become stronger and more regular in ensuring these disciplines are practiced every day, so that we can move ahead with our dreams and desires for future ministry activity. We believe someone who is undisciplined cannot expect to be involved in any significant ministry activity within a church; they may be able to involve themselves in a personal ministry that does not involve anyone else, but will not be called to lead in any capacity with other people.