Spiritual Discipline for an Age of Distraction

By Britt Hester, Minister of Youth and Christian Education

Back in the fall, our Sunday Bible Study Leadership Team met to discuss study options for the season of Lent. We poured over different books, topical studies, and curriculums, but nothing seemed to stick. After a while someone mentioned the book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster. After a short discussion about the book, we decided this was the resource we would use for our Lenten study.

While Celebration of Discipline means a lot to me personally, it had been years since I first read it. In fact, it was first published in 1978! How could a book published in 1978 have anything relevant to say in 2020? Upon revisiting it for the first time in years, it turns out Celebration of Discipline may be more relevant today than it was 40 years ago.

Richard Foster wrote Celebration of Discipline after a rough start to his pastoral ministry. Following graduation from seminary, Foster was called to pastor a small church in a thriving region of Southern California. Like any recent seminary graduate, Foster was charged with energy, ready to make his mark on the church and world. Yet, after three months or so, he had given the church everything and then some, but nothing changed. Foster lamented, “I had no substance, no depth. The people were starving for a word from God, and I had nothing to give them. Nothing.” It was after this realization that his journey toward writing Celebration of Discipline began.

During this period of searching and longing, Foster discovered what so many of us are searching for in our own lives. In the frantic busyness of modern society, we have lost our ability to focus. Contemporary culture and state-of-the-art technology have made it impossible for us to be alone, to be quiet, and to find rest for our weary souls. In fact, Foster writes in the preface to the 40th Anniversary edition of Celebration of Discipline, “Distraction is the primary spiritual problem in contemporary culture. Frankly, when we are perpetually distracted, we are unable to discern the Kol Yahweh, the voice of the Lord.”

As a result, we are inviting you to journey with us through this timeless resource during the season of Lent. Beginning on Sunday, March 1st, we will meet in the chapel for a combined class to study and discuss chapters from Foster’s classic text. Over the course of six weeks, we will have three different facilitators leading us: Rachel Shapard, Dan Stallard, and Marshall Hill. Through this study, we hope you will be able to grow in your knowledge and practice of the spiritual disciplines highlighted in Foster’s book. But, above all, we hope through this study you will be able to slow down, focus, and discern the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God. After all, in world of competing voices, there is no voice greater than the One who says, “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls,” (Jeremiah 6:16a).