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Speliopoulos Module 8 Celebration of Disciplines

Introduction
Richard Foster wrote his book Celebration of Discipline in 1978. The book cover of the
1998 reissue states that it has sold more than 1 million copies. What is this book about and why
is it apparently so relevant to so many seeking a closer union with God. Foster covers the need
for a revisiting of what he calls spiritual disciplines. While the book has caused quite a bit of
controversy in Christian circles, this shall not be the focus here, but rather the topics discussed in
the book will be reviewed.
The Nature of the Spiritual Disciplines
Foster addresses the need to overcome superficiality in our time. Superficiality is, of
course, not just a problem in a persons everyday life, but, in particular, in the spiritual life of the
believer. The digital age has brought with it many distractions, leading believers away from time
they may have spent in years gone by without televisions, without internet, without Facebook
and Twitter. Such a time was certainly more conducive to times of reflection as Foster
demonstrates throughout the book through quotes by writers from centuries past. Foster believes
that the closeness to God can be achieved even in the busyness of modern life. He advocates a
number of spiritual disciplines, which he subcategorizes into inward, outward and corporate
disciplines. The inward disciplines, according to Foster, are meditation, prayer, fasting, and
study. The outward disciplines contain simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. Finally, the
corporate disciplines incorporate confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
The Purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines
Foster writes that the keeping, or rather internalizing, of the spiritual disciplines, is
something that will bring about victory over the enslavement of ingrained (sinful) habits (1998,
4) and a transformation in the believer that will ultimately allow him or her to experience what is
written about closeness to Christ in the Scriptures.
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Speliopoulos Module 8 Celebration of Disciplines

In Fosters thinking, the spiritual disciplines can also lead to death rather than to life, as
Foster clearly states when he writes that when the Disciplines degenerate into law, they are used
to manipulate and control people. (1998, 10) Instead Jesus Christ Himself needs to serve as the
ever-present Teacher and Guide (1998, 10) so that the spiritual disciplines can bring about
genuine change in His people. In order to help others, Foster seeks to share instructions on how
to actually practice the spiritual disciplines.
The Process of the Spiritual Disciplines
With the inward disciplines, meditation, prayer, fasting, and study, Foster describes areas
of Christian spiritual life that seek to address the one-on-one relationship of a believer to God,
one that is not externally visible to others.
Meditation seeks to dwell on God Himself, to listen to Him and be open to communion
with Him. Foster believes that this needs to be a regular practice, which can be aided by
assigning time, place, and posture to the time of meditation. Prayer is an area that needs to also
permeate the life of a believer. Most noteworthy, Foster describes a technique termed Flash
Prayers, developed by Frank Laubach that seeks to instill a constant prayer mode in the believer
for those he or she encounters in the course of the day, including and more specifically strangers
(1998, 44). Fasting is a topic that Foster highlights from a biblical precedent, which he believes
carries into the church age. All believers should develop a routine of fasting, allowing them to
focus more fully on Christ. This fasting can range from skipping a meal or two to multi-day
fasts. Finally, study seeks to incorporate both the study of Scripture and the study of books about
faith more directly into the believers walk. Here the intent is not to read simply for devotional
value, but to allow true insights into what is read by studying the text in-depth.
The outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service are those that can
be observed by other. Simplicity means to evaluate ones life to see what can be done away with
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Speliopoulos Module 8 Celebration of Disciplines

or given away to others in order to focus on the important thing in the life of the believer: God.
Solitude incorporates the stepping away from the busyness of life to find a place where the soul
can find the rest to be in communion with God, such as a park, a church sanctuary, or even a
storage closet (1998, 122). Submission exhibits itself in the attitude displayed toward God, the
Scriptures, the believers family and others one encounters (1998, 122). Service can be a very
visible part of the outward disciplines, yet Foster writes that it is not a code of ethics, but a way
of living. (1998, 134) This service can be both hidden, i.e. providing a service where the
recipient/s is/are unaware of it coming from the giver, and open, e.g. hospitality to others or
sharing the Gospel.
The last group of disciplines, what Foster calls corporate disciplines, involves confession,
worship, guidance, and celebration. Confession to other believers is important in the Christian
life (James 5:16) (1998, 145); it is also necessary if the believers prayers are to be heard.
Unconfessed sin can put a distance between God and the believer. Foster writes that both giving
and receiving confession are critical disciplines that need to be learned and practiced. Worship
ranges from the corporate praise of the Savior to individual times of lifting up and ascribing
worth to God. As much as the described, stilling the activity of the flesh so that the activity of
the Holy Spirit dominates the way we live (1998, 167) can lead to worship, in settings where
one may not look for it, e.g. in the recognition of a person we encounter as an individual rather
than a passing element in life. Guidance involves helping others along under the guidance of the
Holy Spirit, i.e. providing godly counsel (1998, 182). Finally, celebration is the discipline Foster
describes as at the heart of the way of Christ. (1998, 190) It provides a path to joy for the
believer. Foster writes that to elicit genuine celebration, obedience must work itself into the
ordinary fabric of our daily lives. (1998, 190) It involves singing, dancing and shouting
corporately showing the joy of the Lord in our lives. (1998, 197)

Speliopoulos Module 8 Celebration of Disciplines

Conclusion: The Product of the Spiritual Disciplines


Foster believes that the implementation of the spiritual disciplines will turn a believer
from being stoic about his or her faith and turn them into a child of God who does not simply
believe in God, but believes God. He or she will see a transformation in their spiritual life that
will allow the truths of the Scriptures to be illuminated to a much higher degree and create true
communion with God for the believer.
Three areas of disciplines are described by Foster in his book: those that are inward and
therefore not directly observable, those that are outward and will be seen and possibly judged
by others the believer comes in contact with, and those that are lived out in Christian community.
Each of these can bring about spiritual formation in the believer, create a true dependency on
God, rather than the world, and form a heart of worship and obedience to the Lord of the
universe.

Speliopoulos Module 8 Celebration of Disciplines

REFERENCES
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. New York, NY:
HarperOne, 1998.