During the season of Lent, our church hosted a Bible study written by pastor Adam Hamilton. I joked before that I was a little salty with Pastor Adam because he wrote the book before I did.
It was a study on five essential practices of the Christian life: worship & prayer, study, service, giving and sharing faith. In The United Methodist Church, when someone joins a local church, our membership vows include a commitment to each of those practices.
Another word for them is disciplines. But we don’t like that word. Not even spiritual disciplines. We have learned, though, that the more we practice such disciplines, the more our walk with God matures.
So, spiritual disciplines are always on my mind.
I’m always trying to figure out how to get the church more involved with them. For a while, I have considered my own book project that centers on our United Methodist membership vows. Since Pastor Adam beat me to it, maybe a daily devotional will do.
When we talk about spiritual disciplines or essential practices, it’s important to recognize them as a response to the grace of God. Because we know something about God, we respond. In that light, we don’t pray, for example, to get God to do something we want. We don’t go to church to make sure the Lord knows we’re still alive.
We’ve experienced the grace of God and we want to know Christ as Lord. That doesn’t happen by accident. So, prayer, worship, study, service, giving and even sharing faith become indispensable forms of knowing God more.
You can see all five of our vows lived out in a small passage from Acts 2. First, remember that chapter begins with the Holy Spirit’s anointing over the disciples. Divided tongues appeared over each of them and they began to speak in the languages of the gathered crowds of people in the temple. Right after that, Peter gave his first sermon and thousands of people believed in Jesus.
Here’s the line that gets me. It’s verse 42. As a result of what they had seen and what they heard from Peter, the people, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
My first reaction to that verse is to bless God. My second is to ask a couple of questions. How would you rate the church’s devotion today to such things? What about your devotion? What about your church’s devotion to do these things together?
When I talk about these things, people often affirm to me that they, for example, pray every day. That’s great. Keep doing that. But are we devoted to praying together?
Because that’s the key to what happened in Acts 2. The people shared their faith together. The apostles’ teaching relates to study. The breaking of bread and the prayers is worship and prayer. What kind of service did they offer one another if Luke says they all had “the goodwill of all the people”? They gave all their possessions to ensure they could take care of one another. And their community grew because people learned what was happening there.
Our five commitments are there. They always have been.
This is the week after Easter. We’ve just experienced the glory of the resurrection. This feels like the perfect moment to respond to the power of God with a devotion to knowing God more. Is that something you are ready to do?