December 14th, 2009
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1996. 216 pp. $14.99.
Don Whitney is president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality and also serves as the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and as Senior Associate Dean in the School of Theology. Before becoming a professor, he had pastored for more than 24 years and though he does not currently serve as a pastor, he still teaches and preaches most every Sunday in various churches across the country. He also enjoys (not too sure that is a strong enough word) repairing and using vintage fountain pens.
Whereas The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is concerned with personal spirituality from a biblical perspective, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church (SDWTC) is concerned about corporate spirituality from a biblical perspective.
He writes in his introduction that he wants to invite people to enjoy the church as it declares the glory of Christ. He also wants to see the church pull away from the consumerism that has controlled her in recent decades. In twelve chapters, Whitney details twelve disciplines that should be found in the church body. Some of these are individual by necessity (researching the church) while most are meant to be done at a corporate level. The list of the disciplines found in the church include:
- going to church–obedience to Hebrews 10:15
- seeking baptism–a public display of faith is tantamount to a wedding ceremony (Eph. 5:31-32)
- joining a church–there is a measure of accountability in doing this (Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5)
- listen to preaching–God’s chosen means to spread the gospel (Romans 10:14-17)
- worshiping with the church– Heb. 10:25 applies here
- witnessing–corporate witness is stronger than individual witness
- serving in the church–Jesus modeled a servants attitude, so should we (Mk. 10:45)
- giving to the church–Paul discusses sacrificial giving for the poor and the ministers often in his letters
- attending the ordinances–Both the Lord’s Supper and baptism were meant to be public in the church
- fellowship with the church–this is modeled in Acts 2:42
- praying with the church–corporate prayer allows for the church to join together in unity to pray
- learning with the church–1 Tim 3:15 explains that the church is the pillar of truth
- researching the church–You need to know what the church believes and does before joining
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of Spiritual Disciplines found in a church, but each chapter details why it is important to seek these various disciplines.
What I most appreciate about the book is that Whitney seeks to root each of these disciplines in solidly in Scripture. He writes of these disciplines with a humble heart and the mind of one who has pastored for over 24 years. While these disciplines may not be directly commanded by God in His Word, though all can be found either by command, implication or in principle in Scripture. Based on those, Whitney shows that a healthy church will be involved in all of these at some level.
When I served as an associate pastor, pastor of youth, I took my students through both of Don’s Spiritual Disciplines books to show them methods by which they could walk closer with God. Four years later, I have talked with some of those students and have been told that these disciplines have impacted their lives and have helped them find biblically sound churches as they have moved around with college and such. More importantly, using these disciplines has helped them to avoid some negative church situations while looking for a local congregation to join in worship.
I would recommend SDWTC to any minister wanting to cultivate a love for the local body of believers, Christ’s bride, in the congregation that the Lord has made him the undershepherd. Unfortunately, in this day of watered-down spirituality, the glory of God found in corporate Spiritual Disciplines has been lost on many. I pray that through Whitney’s book, this glory might be revealed once again in churches across the land.