So! – Can You Tell Me What to Believe?

If the title of Ken Crispin’s book, A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief, gives you the impression that he will tell you what to believe and how to believe “in spite of” 21st century skepticism towards all things religious, you will be very sadly disappointed.

Very, very sadly disappointed.

It isn’t that he is hostile to things religious or things scientific. It is the case that he expects folks to think for themselves, to rationally consider the claims, proposals and arguments of theists, atheists, and agnostics and come to their own considered opinions.

Yes, that means you may be required, no, in his opinion ARE required to know what you think and why you think that way.

And, he offers the committed reader a start down that road.

He surveys a lot of the landscape of belief, skepticism, reasoning, and disbelief. He does it even handedly and which we should consider this work a “survey” he does dig down in several places, like Richard Dawkins arguments against theism and religion.

Be prepared to hear from many voices. Crispin has obviously read deeply and widely in the literature on all sides of these “debates” and brings to our attention the contributions of many writers. And he is not a stranger to documentation and footnotes. And that is a strength in this book. While he is surveying many ideas and writers, he leaves a trail the reader can follow to more deeply explored ideas and writers that capture his attention.

Know that Crispin doesn’t let anyone “off the hook.” Just because a writer gives the impression they are of a superior mind and intellect, claims to have the best of science on their side or can recite all the classical arguments for the existence of God, Crispin will not hold back applying his skills at logic and argumentation (he is a lawyer and former judge after all) to show the weaknesses and strengths in their positions. And even the holes in their arguments.

Oh, let’s not forget his sense of humor. At least that’s what I call it. He writes with a dry humor that can disarm and gently pick holes in what he sees as poor or lazy reasoning. He moves fast over much literature but with an ease that keeps the reader engaged.

As I read more into his book, I began making a list of folks I needed to buy copies for. For many years I was told I was too critical when it came to things religious, and needed to relax and not “think so much at church.” That never set well with me. If more of my church friends were willing to read Crispin’s book, and spend some time developing the “why” of their beliefs and not just the “whats,” they would have a much better chance of communicating with many more people.

Give Crispin a read. You might see why skepticism is both a skill and attitude that can enrich your life, and yes, even your “believing” or “disbelieving.”

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Does your journaling read like this?

A couple of weeks ago I posted a review about an album I had received, Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong. Then this past Saturday morning I was looking over some books at home and saw Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (edited by Bernard McGinn) (This link will take you to the book at and if purchased from that link will reward me with a few pennies.)

As I flipped through some of the pages I happened to stop at pages 360-361, which was an excerpt from George Fox’s Journal. I thought it a funny coincidence following up on the album pairing quotes from Quaker writers with plainsong.

And then my eyes fell to this –

“But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people, for I saw that there was none among them who could speak to my condition. When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then oh, then, I heard a voice which said: “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition”; and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.”

“Then the Lord let me see why there was none on earth who could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give him all glory …. that Jesus might have the preeminence, who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith and power. Then when God doth work, who shall hinder it? And this I knew experimentally.”

“My desire after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God, yet I knew him not, but by revelation, as he who hath the key did open (Rev 3:7), and as the Father of Life drew me to his Son by his Spirit. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see his love, which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowledge that men have in the natural state, or can obtain from history or books, and that love let me see myself as I was without him.”

I remember reading something from Fox’s journal years ago and had a hard time understanding him but when I read these words the other day, they seemed so clear and sensible.

Is that, in part at least, what Fox is writing about? There comes a time when you hear The Spirit’s Voice and all else begins to fall in place from there.

Can you recall a time (or times) when you so clearly heard The Spirit’s Voice, it made “perfect” sense, and you had a clear vision of where to go from there?

Give it a moment or two or three (or more) and see what comes to mind.

May I interrupt your thoughts for a moment to offer you something from my experience.

I recall an early morning class in church history in which the professor always offered at the beginning of class a thought from a writer he considered worth hearing from.

That morning he read a couple of sentences from Thomas Merton. I think it was the first time I heard of Thomas Merton and I KNOW it was the first time I HEARD Thomas Merton. It was as though Merton spoke directly in my soul. It was truly a deeply spiritual moment. If I had not been so intimidated by the class, I might have shouted “AMEN!” I didn’t. But that day began my reading of Merton and began my finding some of the depths in his writing. I am sure I have missed more of the deep things he wrote about, than I have noticed, but I am thankful for what the professor offered that day.

What inbreaking of The Spirit can you recall today? Can you express thankfulness for those divine moments?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Part Memoir, Part Homily, Part Call to Arms, Part Tears, Part Hopefulness – Entirely Challenging

That’s at least some of what I find in Christopher VanHall’s “Reborn Again: Crucifying Christendom & Resurrecting a Radical.”

Christopher is willing to bear his soul to take us on a journey that not only goes geographically coast to coast across the USA but covers the spiritual geography from fundamentalist Christianity to a thorough going progessive Chrisitianity, with stops along the way to consider worship styles and litugures, biblical exegesis, and how Christianity morphed into Christendom and Right Wing Politics.

Do you think that is too much (or impossible) for 200 pages? Maybe not! But you can read the book and see for yourself.

Maybe the book needs a “warning label”? Something like – “This book may be hazardous to your casual Christianity, your easy believism, your self-satisfied religious life, and your closed mind.” Oh, and did I add the book might make you angry?

And it will anger some on both sides of the “battle” between Neo-Fundamentalism and Progressive Christianity. And that is as it should be. Both parties need to know who is on the other side and what they are thinking. Not what “we” think they are thinking and doing, but what they really are about. Christopher can help us all with that. He has lived on both sides.

Oh, did I mention, Christopher has some definite ideas on why so many young people leave the church and some definite ideas on what they don’t find at church, what they are looking for and what might help them start finding a genuine faith.

And he does all this with clear writing that is fast paced enough to not lose your attention.

Whether you consider yourself fundalmentalist, conservative, progressive, recovering fundamentalist, spiritual but not religious, atheist, seeker, or just plain curious, you really should pick up this book and find something to anger you, worry you and inspire you.

Christopher has hope and he wants you to get on-board with that.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Won’t You Read a Few Verses for Us This Sunday?

I heard, as I am sure many of you did, that on Sunday the actor Olivia de Havilland passed away at her home in Paris. I remember the name, mostly because I heard my mother talk about her movies, but other than knowing she was an actor, I did not know much about her.

At least, not until I read a post on Facebook that a friend shared in the Facebook group, “Celebrate What Christians Have in Common.” She posted a piece by Bishop Pierre D. Whalon (an Episocpal Priest serving at that time at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris, France) which was shared in “Anglicans Online” in 2012 (© 2012 Anglicans Online). Ms de Havilland often served as a lector at the Cathedral and Bishop Whalon had the good fortune to interview her and ask her about how she prepared to read Scripture at services in the Cathedral. Maybe we don’t think of the public reading of Scripture as a spiritual discipline but after reading the following remarks of Ms de Havilland, I invite you to consider that.

Below is an excerpt from Bishop Whalon’s 2012 article:

She showed me the texts she had read last Christmas Eve. Each was printed out in large type, and festooned with underlines, semi-colons, and other diacritical marks. “I think I prepare in a way the Church would not approve — I add punctuations.” ….

“I start on the preceding Monday by reading the texts I am assigned. The next day I re-read them, and I think the night’s sleep often helps me see things I hadn’t noticed at first.”

Then Miss de Havilland wrestles with the text, to find its underlying “architecture.”

“You have to convey the deep meaning, you see, and it has to start with your own faith.”

During the days that follow, she tries to figure out what the text means to her, and then how best to get it across.

…. “But first I always pray. I pray before I start to prepare, as well. In fact, I would always say a prayer before shooting a scene, so this is not so different, in a way.”

… To sum up, reading the Scriptures in church has to be an authentic proclamation of the reader’s faith. Preparation is essential — there are far too many last-minute readings in our churches. In order to get across the words so that they become for the listener the Word, not only must the reader be trained in the rhetoric of reading aloud but must also be willing to risk wrestling with God over the meaning. Not all biblical texts are comforting, as Miss de Havilland pointed out. People of faith always have doubts — only those who have no faith have no doubts. It is when we have well prepared the text, rehearsed the inflections to give various key words to as bring forth the meaning, and prayed for the Spirit’s help, that we can be authentic proclaimers of the Good News that lies in the Word written.

Thank you Ms de Havilland for your insights and thank you Bishop Whalon for sharing the interview and thank you Gloriamarie for posting on Facebook.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Why Can’t You Hear Me?

Why would Dr. Kim O’Reilly, a successful teacher, college professor, conflict resolution consultant and cross-cultural trainer who has her own consulting firm (www.Intercultural wade into the the conflict surrounding Christain faith, Scriptures and homosexuality?

Maybe because she is so familiar with those waters and the folks who live on both sides of the conflict.  She knows the people, brings a strong set of skills, and she can write an extremely readable book.  And on top of all of that, she really believes, “… we [can] get beyond the disagreements, divisiveness, posturing, entrenchment, and polarization we see playing out in our society today.”  (p. 150-151 in We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell, 2018)

I hope she is right and not just a dreamer with blind hope.

In We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality, Agree, Disagree, Take a Look she brings all skills to bear on the divide that exists between sincere Christians and homosexuals.

More than just a set of skills she comes to the divide having been raised as the daughter of a fundamentalist Christian missionary and preacher.  In chapter 2, “My Story,” she tells us she “was raised … to be conservative, to read the Bible, to have a personal relationship with God, and to attend church Sunday mornings and two evenings a week.” (p 10)  A little further in the chapter she tells us of the seven year process it took before she “came out” to herself as a lesbian and later to her family.

She knows both sides of the divide and brings to it a desire to see (and hear) true dialogue come about.  This book is her very personal offering to help that dialogue start.

Over 11 chapters she takes time to tell her story, to examine the scriptures used to condemn homosexuality, to discuss sexual orientation, stereotypes, marriage and why all this matters.

She writes in an easy to follow style, and has great skill in summarizing the many aspects and dimensions that are involved in this conflict.

In the last chapter, “What Can We Do?” she carefully describes the landscape of where dialogue can begin as we all move beyond stereotypes and name-calling.

She is very hopeful.  Given the firm lines that have been drawn by some in this “battle,” I have to admit I am not quite so hopeful.

Let me ask you a question.  If someone came to you and told you they had come to the realization they were gay and their church, which they very much wanted to be part of, was pushing they away, what you say to them?  Would you tell them to repent, get “really” saved and ask God to cure them; or would you tell them to turn their back on the church, their faith and their God and walk (maybe run) away from the Christian faith; or would help them find a congregation that would love them and help them grow as a disciple of Jesus?  I go with the third option.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Have You Learned to Read?

Last week I posted a few comments about one of the books from Renovare, Spiritual Formation Workbook, and I’ll like to follow up with some material from the introduction to Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups.  This is another book that grows out of the work of Renovare.  It has 52 readings from classic spiritual writings.  

What follows is a few paragraphs from Richard Foster’s and James Bryant Smith’s introduction to the selections.  They give some great pointers on how read the selections and provide a good understanding of what lectio divina can be.

A word of instruction needs to be given about reading these devotional classics.  These writers make no attempt to grab you quick and hold you tight.  They have no intention of tickling your ears and titillating your fantasies. They promise no easy steps to instant holiness, no guaranteed plan for personal prosperity, no surefire technique for peace of mind.

Since these men and women wrote before the modern notion of speed reading, they did not know to fill each paragraph with trite clichés and meaningless jargon. As a result, each phrase is pregnant with meaning and it is best to read at a measured pace, pausing often to reread, rethink, reexperience the words until we not only understand their meaning but are shaped by the truth of them. Jean-Pierre de Caussade counsels us: “Read quietly, slowly, word for word to enter into the subject more with the heart than the mind. … From time to time make short pauses to allow these truths time to flow through all the recesses of the soul and to give occasion for the operation of the Holy Spirit who, during these peaceful pauses and times of silent attention, engraves and imprints these heavenly truths in the heart. … Should this peace and rest last for a longer time it will be all the better. When you find that your mind wanders resume your reading and continue thus, frequently renewing these same pauses.”

There is a technical word for this kind of reading and it might be helpful for you to know it – lectio divina, “divine reading.” This is a kind of reading in which the mind descends into the heart, and both are drawn into the love and goodness of God. We are doing more than reading words; we are seeking “the Word exposed in the words,” to use the phrase of Karl Barth. We are endeavoring to go beyond information to formation—to be formed and molded by what we read. We are listening with the heart to the Holy within. This prayerful reading, as we might call it, transforms us and strengthens us.

From:Foster and Smith, Devotional Classics, pp 2-3

Just as de Caussade counsels a quiet, slow read with frequent pauses in approaching writings such as have been selected for Devotional Classics, you will probably want to read the above paragraphs a few times to absorb as much of it’s counsel as you can for now.  Come back to it later and see what more speaks to you.  

And you might want to look into _Devotional Classics_.  Each of the 52 selections is accompanied by a Scripture passage, reflection questions and suggested exercises. It seems we might call it a “workbook” also.  


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Wisdom Finds Her Voice

The Proverbist of Hebrew Scripture tells us,

Wisdom shouts in the street;
in the public square she raises her voice.
Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.
At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say…
(Proverbs 1:20-21)

I wonder if Wisdom could learn a thing or two by listening to Paulette Meier voice the words of Wisdom she found in her encounter with the Quakers that she shares in her album, Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong.

Wisdom may have shouted or even “yelled” on the street corner, but plainsong might help the words take root.

A disclaimer first off – I am not a musician. In point of fact, I have Zero musical skills or ability. And no, I am not going to tell you, “… but I know what I like.”

I will tell you that these songs, sung in plainsong (a kind of chant, if I understand the term correctly), are beautiful as Paulette Meier sings them, have a quality that is rich in sound, rich in the Wisdom distilled from Quaker writings, and in themselves are not only a great introduction to Quaker spirituality, but should make everyone who hears them, dig deeper into the spiritual soil that Quakers have tilled for us.

And listeners can begin their exploration of the Quaker spirit with the liner notes that come with the album.

The liner notes are not only about the music but also about Meier’s background as a folk singer, peace educator, and her journey to Quaker spirituality where she found “inward mystical experience of the Divine Light was grounding and sustenance for the outward work to be done in the world.” As many before her, this balance of the Inward Light with a commitment to the work of peace in the world drew her to the Quaker faith.

Her reflections on her journey do not end there but give us a road map of the support she received from the Quaker community as she found herself moving more deeply into the spirit of Quakerism and becoming acquainted with the depths found in the Quaker writings.

As her reading took her to William Penn and George Fox, she found, “My troubled mind was eased whenever I reviewed a certain quotation of George Fox: ‘Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit. . . .’ I wanted to commit these words to memory, and when I did, a melody came with them. And thus began a practice of turning Quaker passages into chant-like songs.”

And on this album we hear some of what came of that practice, with the first song being,

Be still and cool in Thy own mind and spirit, from thy own thoughts,
and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God,
whereby thou wilt receive God’s strength and power from whence life comes,
whereby thou wilt receive God’s strength, to allay all blusterings, storms, and tempests.

But, don’t just read the words here, go to her web site where you can hear some samples of the songs, .

There are 22 songs on the album that Meier sees moving through four themes: (1) ”first is the act of centering deeply into stillness” (2) “second is the experience of the vision, the discovery of the hidden pearl,the Kingdom of God within.” (3) “The third is about spiritual relationship”, and (4) “the fourth describes the internal leadings that call us outward into the world.”

As I read and listen to these songs, I find myself thinking of how they could be used in a number of personal and group settings, even forming the core of retreat. Do I have any “takers” on that.

She draws from many of the Quaker writers, both male and female. Some of the songs speak directly to the Quaker belief that both the Inward Light and giving voice to that Light is not restricted to one gender. All voices are to be heard.

The liner notes include the words to the songs, information as to the sources of the quotes in Quaker writings and transcriptions of the music.

Let me close with one more of the songs drawn from the words of George Fox,

Be patterns, be examples in all countries,
places, islands, nations, wherever you come;
that your carriage and life
may preach among all sorts of people and to them;
then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world,
answering that of God in everyone ;
whereby in them ye may be a blessing
and make the witness of God in them to bless you.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this album free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Let’s Open Our Workbooks to Page ….

In previous posts I called your attention to a couple of devotional apps and in each case gave some focus to the spiritual principles and practices that form a foundation for the writers and the apps. Today I want to spend a few minutes looking at a short book that is a great resource for congregations, classes and individuals wanting to explore what a spiritual formation group can offer.

The book is, A Spiritual Formation Workbook: Small-Group Resources for Nurturing Spiritual Growth by James Bryan Smith with Lynda Graybeal with a forward by Richard J. Foster.

This workbook grows out of the work of Richard Foster and Renovare. If you do not know about Renovare, you need to. A great way to see what they offer would be to subscribe to their Friday email. You can find info on that here – . At the bottom of the page you can enter your name and email address to subscribe to their weekly email which highlights some of their available resources. You will find info on articles, podcasts, and webinars in the weekly email and on their website.

Now back to the workbook.

First, on the back of the workbook I have, it claims to be a “… beginning workbook for Spiritual Formation Groups featuring guidelines for starting a group, study plans for the first nine sessions, and a questionnaire that helps map the way ahead. Based on six major dimensions of the spiritual life found in the life of Christ and Christian tradition … this workbook provides all the necessary ingredients to start and maintain a Spiritual Formation Group.”

I know. You are thinking, “So what? What else would a book with such a title claim for itself?”

And yes, that’s true. And this book follows through. It provides you with what it promises.

It is not a book of devotions. It majors on the mechanics of how to start a formation group, gives details for how the first weeks can develop and how the group can go on from there.

And it really is a WORKBOOK! Each week will have reflection questions and exercises to keep the group engaged. And it is for a group. A basic premise is that from week to week different members of the group will facilitate the meeting. You will not sit back to listen to someone lecture or read for the entire session. But, there is enough support throughout the book, that this will not be a burden on any member.

Over the course of the several weeks the group will look to the life of Jesus to call attention to six areas of our lives, (1) devotion to God, (2) virtue in thought, word and action, (3) empowerment by the Spirit, (4) Compassion toward all people, (5) proclamation of the good news of the gospel, (6) harmony between faith and work.

Oh, did I mention “homework.” There will be exercises the members select to do between the meetings.

There it is in a nutshell. A lifelong work. It begins with details for these several weeks and then leads the group members to see how they might go on in the intentional work of spiritual formation.

Do you see a time and place you might want to “try on” this workbook?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry by Ragy Girgis

Psychiatry? Is Psychiatry going to solve our problems with Satan, demons and demon possession? It’s about time!

But how? Medication? Electroconvulsive therapy? Psychoanalysis? Jungian Analysis? Oh, maybe one of the forms of behavioral therapy? So many options.

While Dr. Girgis will present a case for how psychiatry can help us understand demons and demon possession, it will be as he combines his training as a psychiatrist, his experience as a clinician working with those with serious mental illness and his reading of a number of biblical texts we most often regard as examples of demon possession not only as a psychiatrist but as a practicing Christian.

Early in the book he tells us that, “the goal of this book is to help change misconceptions that have historically pervaded Christianity … about serious mental illness … to provide an … educational account of untreated serious mental illness, with the ultimate objective of decreasing the stigma about serious mental illness in the Christian community and increasing the acceptance of psychiatric treatment.” (pp 13-14)

Did you notice in those few short lines the repetition, “… serious mental illness”?

If you, you have been introduced to two things you will find in Dr Girgis’ book. (1) He is very intent on us understanding his focus will be on “serious mental illnesses, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.” (p 4) (2) He seems to regard repetition as a necessary part of educating the reader. He will repeat himself.

He reminds me of the minister who said that a preacher must tell them people what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. (Surely, you’ve heard that before!)

In the preface he goes about outlining what he will present. He spends a number of chapters (chapters 2 – 12) presenting his case. And in the Conclusion he summarizes the ground he has covered. Before I frighten you away from the book, let me add, he does all this in 112 pages that is very readable and not at all sluggish.

In each of the biblical scenes and personages he address (Moses, King Saul, King David, Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Gadarene Demoniac, and an “exorcism” in Capernaum), he will argue that we need not understand it as demon possession but can better understand it with the tools and perspective of modern psychiatry.

He speaks of “The Bible com[ing] from a different narrative culture that could not explain things in terms of Enlightenment rationality…. When reading … and understanding the Bible stories, one must recognize that these two narratives (pre- and post-Enlightenment) produce two narratives that are different but readily and largely overlap…. We can honor them both.” (p 64)

You need to read this book to see for yourself if he was able to honor both. I think he did a good job.

I would like to turn this book loose in a group at church and see what kind of discussion we could have and what we could learn from Dr Girgis.

And most importantly, I would love to know how successful he can be in helping us get past the stigma associated with mental illnesses. I can only hope and pray he is successful with many.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Let’s Make Disciples – The Restoration Project

Sometimes I think if I hear another person announce,

— “We need more discipling in our church! These people have never been taught what it really means to be a Christian. We’ve got to start telling them!”
— Or, “Discipleship – that’s what we are missing and until we get everyone on that page, the church will just go on spinning its wheels.”
— Or, “More Discipleship Groups! That’s the answer, more Discipleship Groups! Let’s get them going right now! Here you go, sign up here.” —

I will just have to scream!

Don’t get me wrong. I am firmly convinced we need to pay attention to discipleship and how folk who want to follow Jesus get a handle on what it entails to be Jesus’ disciple.

It’s just that we might be shouting so loud about discipleship the word is losing its meaning and we really don’t know what we are saying. We are just repeating “pretty” words.

Three weeks back, I wrote about the daily devotional app, Lectio 365 ( ).

I mentioned that the folk who crafted it built it around what they identified as three priorities (to be authentic; to be relational; and to be missional) and six core practices (prayer and worship; creativity; hospitality; justice; mission; and learning).

That is fairly typical of those discipleship programs/methods that have a chance of making an impact on people’s lives. They take seriously the foundation they build on. They not only take it seriously, they make it explicit and clear and offer it in such a way that it can be actualized in one’s daily life. After all, what good is a “mission statement” if it is only a statement with no thought to the mechanics of how the mission is realized?

One Discipleship program that has been around a number of years and has proved worthwhile in a number of settings is, The Restoration Project.

There is a website devoted to the program, , and a book by the same name. Actually, there are two websites, the other being, .

You will notice on their home page the mention of seven core practices, Pray, Worship, Serve, Give, Learn, Listen, Join. Elsewhere this is described as three practices and seven vows.

The practices are to spend twenty minutes a day in prayer, one hour a week in worship, and serving four times a month. That’s getting specific with your practices. In addressing “serving” they write “you will have to commit sufficient time and energy to actually slow down and get to know the one you intend to serve. Serving means you will have to extend yourself beyond writing a check and taking a walk. Serving means you will have to do something real.”

An essential component is the “Discipleship Group.” Yes, they talk and write about discipleship groups.

In the “Liturgy for the Gathering of a Discipleship Group” the seven practices/vows are identified as,

  • (1) setting aside time regularly for prayer,
  • (2) praise God in “my” Christian community weekly in worship,
  • (3) serve others by working toward giving an hour a week in service of the poor,
  • (4) be a good steward of money by giving ten percent to the church,
  • (5) “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 236) the Holy Scriptures,
  • (6) listen to God’s call on my life, and
  • (7) join with others in a Discipleship Group so “love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

Did they spell it out enough? Too much?

I am not claiming the pattern offered by The Restoration Project is the only structure for discipling folk. It almost seems every week some group offers a new pattern and a new name for their particular approach.

Nor, will I claim theirs is the best.

What I will claim is they have put thought and prayer into what is offered and it is practiced in a number of churches, from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Rafael, California, and points in between. And people value being part of the process.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}