F ollowing Jesus. Growing in faith. Discipleship can be both an intensely personal practice and a communal one. From Scripture reading to small groups, from silence to spending time in creation, there are a great variety of spiritual practices, and many different ways to practice them. (Just think of how many different ways there are to pray.)
Discipleship is about becoming more like Jesus in all we think, say, and do. The goal is not only look like Jesus, but also to do what Jesus does. That means inviting the Holy Spirit to form us in the character of Jesus, as well as the competencies of Jesus—being and doing more like Christ.
Being formed in those ways means regularly seeking God and God’s will for our lives, then aligning ourselves with that. Here, six believers share spiritual practices that have been formational for them. Not every spiritual practice works for everyone, but consider trying on a new spiritual practice this week to deepen your relationship with Jesus.
Interested in exploring deeper discipleship as a congregation? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hearing from God
Retired pastor, missionary, and professor
Third Reformed Church
“I think of the call of God to Abraham, and Abraham gets a call from God: go to another country. And then God doesn’t seem to say anything to him again for 15 or 20 years. If God spoke to me once in my life, that would be enough. I don’t need constant calls from God [but] I’ve had this a couple of times. When we were in India [as RCA missionaries] and unexpectedly had a request to come teach at Central College [in Pella, Iowa]—that was a strange feeling for me, because it seemed like that’s what I should do. I had not been anticipating that at all.
“From time to time, God seems to say something special to me. I don’t expect it, I live without it most of the time. God doesn’t have to talk to me every day.”
Elder and retired teacher
Trinity Reformed Church
Queens, New York
“We talk—we just talk, talk, talk in prayer, and we don’t really allow God to do the talking, to experience God’s language—I believe this is silence. I was introduced to a more contemplative lifestyle by an Ursuline nun who was just instrumental in teaching me centering prayer. My whole world opened up. My perception of God enlarged to such a degree. I feel like a totally different person now.
“Centering prayer is quieting yourself down. It’s an intentional opening up to God. You let the thoughts go. This is so calming to me. I felt God is wrapping his arms around me. At this point in my life, I need that centering prayer to allow God’s presence in me to change me. And he has, dramatically.”
Grove Reformed Church
North Bergen, New Jersey
“There’s just something that happens when I become part of the worshiping body that doesn’t happen when I’m alone. Hearing the voices of people sing in unison songs to the Lord—it feels like you’re being strengthened by the presence of brothers and sisters that are encouraging and loving and gracious toward you.
“Sometimes I walk away from a Sunday morning feeling spiritually filled or moved or encouraged—all those things. Also, community has the power to speak truth into your life in the way you can’t get anywhere else. A preacher can say a lot through a sermon, but there’s something about a small body of believers and having conversation with them that leads to growth.
“You want that sense of nearness to God because you love him, you love who he is. He’s worth it, and therefore the practices, the rituals, are worth it, too.”
Lynn Ann Huizingh
Pastor of care and equipping
Faith Community Church
“I take a week to get out of Dodge and find a space where I can be quiet. A lot of times it’s silent retreat. [Beforehand], I’ll always pray about what am I supposed to take with me? Sometimes it’s a book by a Christian author. Sometimes I feel like God will elevate a passage of Scripture or one of the letters to focus on in that week.
“Those three weeks out of the year have been good opportunities for sometimes clarity or redirection, sometimes rest and renewal. Sometimes if I’m going and have questions I want to ponder, that gives me more time to be quiet and to be still.
“[Solitude] gives me permission to say no, because I know what I’m supposed to be about—whether it’s growing in my own personal development, or how I’m supposed to be at work in the ministries that God has given into my care.”
Missionary and church planter
“I was a very new Christian, not even two years old [in my faith] yet, [had just moved to Thailand]. I just remember one night I felt so spiritually drained and weak. I read the Great Commission in Matthew 28. I said, ‘Lord, if I don’t get discipled, I’m going to die. I really need help right now.’
“That Sunday I went to a church and said, ‘I need to be discipled. Who do you have to disciple me?’ God was providentially preparing a missionary from Augusta, Georgia, who had just moved to Thailand to do mission work with campus ministry; his Thai wasn’t up to par yet, so he took me on.
“[Six months later he said], ‘Rawee, I taught you how to fish. I’ve given you everything I can give you. You go and see if you can make other disciples, and I’m going to be alongside you in that process.’”
Listening to the Holy Spirit
Cultivate volunteer and seminary student
F Street Neighborhood Church
“I pray for the Spirit to give me a word to guide me for the coming year. The 2019 word was soar. It came to me through a couple different ways. [A friend] saw this picture of me on a cliff, and rather than running and jumping, I ran and … I flew, I soared. Then I had this other picture where I wrapped my arms around a giant eagle that landed behind me, and I flew with it.
“The word unfolded a lot for me through the year. I started leaning into that, and eventually it led to a job change and a career shift. I ended up moving, literally soaring across the country in a plane. [I had been] desiring freedom and adventure, and I was looking upward, but throughout the year I realized I was going to be landing somewhere else. I landed in Lincoln.
“Our God wants to speak to us. It’s not like the Spirit is silent; it’s just taking the time to listen.”