The Church in Antioch, which I think is a great model for our church today, was a disciplined church. Look at Acts 13:2-3; “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
It seems that corporate worship and fasting were common practices in the church in Antioch and that God spoke in the context of those disciplines. It also looks like the response to God’s call involved still more disciplines as the church fasted and prayed before sending Paul and Barnabas off. I believe we would be well served to follow the church in Antioch’s example.
March 1 was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period, excluding Sundays, of preparation for Easter. It is common in this season to fast and/or take on a spiritual discipline to help us remember what Jesus did for us in his passion and resurrection as well as to help us live out his great commission of making disciples. Disciples and discipline go together.
Dallas Willard, in his excellent book, “The Spirit of the Disciplines” lists solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice as disciplines of abstinence. He also lists study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession and submission as disciplines of engagement.
To follow in the example of Antioch, I’d suggest each of us adopt at least one discipline of abstinence and one discipline of engagement this year for Lent. Giving up something that reminds you of all Jesus gave up for you and engaging in something that develops your relationship with him will grow you as a disciple and give you the fuel you need to do the work of evangelism that we will be looking at in our Lenten Sermon series.
In particular, given the example of Antioch, I’d recommend that your discipline of abstinence be fasting. Fast a meal or even a day a week and use your hunger as a prompt to think about Jesus.
For your discipline of engagement think about taking on worship. Be in worship every week in Lent and at the special services too. Lenten disciplines can help us flourish as a church that makes disciples and thus grows God’s kingdom just like the church in Antioch.