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Unpacking Buffet Discipleship

Growing Christians should be easy to spot. We are supposed to be different in our interactions with those around us and even the way we live our lives. As we grow in our faith and relationship with our Savior we learn disciplines and practices that help us develop into mature believers. As part of our discipleship, we learn the importance of reading Scripture for insight and understanding, prayer, fasting, accountability to other believers, Scripture memorization, sharing our faith….and the list goes on.

Some of these disciplines appeal to us more than others. Depending on our personality, we may find journaling more comfortable than sharing our faith. Or we may thoroughly enjoy small group Bible study but turn up our nose at fasting. In their article “Buffet Discipleship: Picking and Choosing in Unbiblical Proportions”, Wendy Martin and Karen Swanson describe how “many of us treat our spiritual lives like a buffet. Instead of following the entire menu of spiritual disciplines, we pick and choose what biblical guidelines we will or will not follow. While we know God prescribes a balanced diet of numerous disciplines, we tend to pick and choose in our spiritual lives just as we pick and choose in a buffet.”

Martin and Swanson make the valid point that just as consistently eating only the desserts and mac and cheese off the buffet would eventually lead to malnutrition and deficiencies, the same is true of our spiritual lives. If we only practice the disciplines we enjoy more inherently than others, we will most definitely begin to be unhealthy and unbalanced. The authors make the point, “Engaging in all of these disciplines is not easy, but we seem to forget that the root of being a disciple is discipline.”

In our fast paced society that is so bent toward feeding our cravings, we must very intentionally work toward making sure our spiritual lives do not follow that self-indulgent pattern of thinking. The article points out that when the disciplines in our lives simply reflect what we enjoy instead of what is necessary and right for growth it shows that “our focus is on our immediate enjoyment and not our long-term health.”

While, most importantly, making sure our personal life as a disciple of Christ is marked by balance and dedication, we also need to examine what we are teaching those under our leadership. Are we inadvertently emphasizing external disciplines (tithing, church attendance, serving) over and above internal disciplines (prayer, fasting, meditation)? We must first lead by example and carefully make sure we are personally practicing what we are teaching.

None of this may seem enjoyable or easy. As Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” And after all, a bountiful harvest produced from discipline can lead to a beautifully stocked buffet! Developing these disciplines, even the unpleasant ones, leads to a lifetime of harvesting what will last.

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