The Beneficial Way to Read Foster’s Celebration of Discipline

One of the most impactful quotes from Celebration of Disciplines comes from the section discussing two of the most important spiritual disciplines, solitude and silence,

“Goals are discovered, not made. God delights in showing us exciting new alternatives for the future. Perhaps as you enter into a listening silence the joyful impression to learn how to weave or how to make pottery emerges. Does that sound too earthy, too unspiritual a goal? God is intently interested in such matters. Are you?”

Celebration of Disciplines is a practical theology book, but I did not learn its practicality until years after reading it for my first time.

It took reading Celebration of Disciplines and many other best spiritual disciplines books for transformation to begin to occur, 

What is that transformation?

“The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits.” Celebration of Discipline

Today you will learn what I missed the first couple of times I read this profound book. More importantly, how to “exercise unto godliness” and establish “new life-giving habits” with Celebration of Disciplines as a useful guide.

Let’s dive in.

Celebration of Discipline Summary

Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is about as straightforward of a book on spiritual disciplines as it gets. Beginning with a brief but profound call to the spiritual disciplines followed by a chapter per discipline discussing these three fundamentals: 

  • Explaining the discipline
  • The fruits of exercising that discipline
  • And a few ideas of how to begin the spiritual discipline

Other than a few paragraphs which you could read every day for a month and continue to be inspired, there is not even a conclusion in this book.

This is much different than the other critical spiritual disciplines read, Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard.

Both are necessary for different reasons, 

Willard’s book is the most compelling “why” and “what” are the disciplines while Foster chose to write a monumental field guide.

What’s in this spiritual disciplines field guide?

Similar to a book written decades later, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Richard Foster discusses 12-spiritual disciplines.

Celebration of Discipline Chapters

Richard Foster chose to break Celebration of Disciplines into three parts, the inward disciplines, outward disciplines, and the corporate disciplines. 

Here are the Celebration of Discipline chapters from Richard Foster:

  • Chapter 1. The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation
  • Part I. The Inward Disciplines
  • Chapter 2. Meditation
  • Chapter 3. Prayer
  • Chapter 4. Fasting
  • Chapter 5. Study
  • Part II. The Outward Disciplines
  • Chapter 6. Simplicity
  • Chapter 7. Solitude (includes silence)
  • Chapter 8. Submission
  • Chapter 9. Service
  • Part II. The Corporate Disciplines
  • Chapter 10. Confession
  • Chapter 11. Worship
  • Chapter 12. Guidance
  • Chapter 13. Celebration

Celebration of Discipline “Exercise” Study Guide 

“Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting ‘high on Jesus’ will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be free” from Foster’s chapter on study.

What will free you?

It takes time to 

  1. Learn the liberating way of the spiritual disciplines (few explain this as well as Richard Foster) 
  2. Exercise the discipline to begin to experience these fruits

Worthwhile spiritual disciplines are more difficult than gardening or learning a language because: the hardest ones are the ones you need the most! 

Foster does not say specifically why he stopped at a list of twelve disciplines to include, I hypothesize after going through this book a few times now and learning:

The best way is to use this book instead of reading it.

Every month or so, focus on a different discipline in your life.

Twelve chapters delving deep into 13 spiritual disciplines, (solitude and silence are in the same chapter) one for each month over the next year, is a surefire way to improve fast with one disclaimer, warning from Foster,  

“Our tendency is to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years” Celebration of Discipline pg. 107.

I have gone through this book as a group study, it was beneficial. 

The transformation began to take place when I learned the most important spiritual disciplines, and incrementally add one on top of each other, instead of drinking from a fire hose and drowning.  

Pick up Celebration of Disciplines here and start using one chapter each month for the next year.

It’s hard to say what order is best,

Can’t go wrong with these four being your first ones 1. Solitude 2. Study 3. Worship 4. Prayer

I’ll bet you a dollar you will be a new person.


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