Habits transform our faith
By Kelly Skilton
In his book, Surprise the World. The Five Habits of Highly Missional People, Michael Frost explores five ‘regular rhythms or habits that transform our everyday lifestyles’ (P.17): Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn and Sent. Some of these practices are things that we could be doing subconsciously, however, taking the time to explore these habits can help us in our discipleship journey. I really encourage you to read the little book (or even search up a blog or article) and see what the BELLS rhythm is. Along with exploring these five areas, Frost suggests little ‘challenges’ each week to help encourage us to put our faith into practice. So what would these challenges look like in out digital spaces? How we are integrating these habits into our digital practices to help build community and journey alongside others?
Below I touch on a couple of thoughts …
BLESS – ‘I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.’
There are many ways to bless people, and one of the ways Frost points toward is ‘Words of Affirmation’. Affirming people through digital mediums is a super easy way to enter into this missional habit. Sending a text message or email, phoning somebody, or writing a gratitude post on social media are all ways we can engage with blessing each other. It may not be an easy task, however, taking the time to point toward someone else’s gifts, skills or talents is such a simple way to build them up, encourage them and also communicates that they are seen and known.
Perhaps start with one person this week, and work your way up to three!
EAT – ‘I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.’
Hospitality is a big component of Jesus’ ministry and it should be in ours, too. So how do we translate ‘eating’ into our digital practices?
In eating together we are called to learn what it means to accept the outsider, offer generosity to the poor, and have fellowship with all people, regardless of whether they’re ‘us’ or ‘them’. In fact, this is the very heart of the table Jesus invites us all to eat from – one of acceptance, generosity and inclusion.
So, it could be said that our online eating practices are about offering places of radical hospitality. Are we creating spaces where people can connect together in life-giving ways? Do people feel welcomed, loved and included in the words, images or links that we share?
Perhaps we could take this prompt to encourage us to engage in our social media differently. Rather than using it as an observer, seeking out how to glean more and more information from others, what would it mean to use social media as a place of hospitality? How could you create a meeting place within your digital practices?
LISTEN – ‘I will spend at least one period of this week listening for the Spirit’s voice.’
This practice is a solo one. Silence, solitude and prayer are important spiritual disciplines, however, being able to tune out myriad thoughts and sounds that distract can be difficult. What would it mean to create a music/sound playlist to help centre your prayerful practices? Perhaps there are some worship songs, some soundtracks, or even just the humming of brown noise that can work as a buffer to help silence our wandering minds.
LEARN – ‘I will spend at least one period this week learning Christ.’
Taking the time to learn more of Jesus is something that keeps us growing deeper in our own faith journey. Frost suggest three ways we might wish to spend our time, all of which can be enhanced through digital exploration:
1. Study the Gospels. Read, reread, and reread again… Whether read alongside a commentary, read in different orders, or even alongside a group of peers – changing how you engage with the Gospels helps to uncover new things from the stories again and again.
2. Read about Jesus. Find some books, articles, podcasts and blogs that question, explore and ponder more about who Jesus is.
3. Further Viewing. Take some time to explore the fast array of visual dramas, movies, YouTube clips, etc. that are on offer. Each may give a different window into the life of Jesus.
You don’t have to do all three each week; just start with one and spend some intentional time learning Christ.
SENT – ‘I will journey throughout the week about all the ways I alerted others to the universal reign of God through Christ.’
All these habits can help grow our own spiritual maturity, but a key part of being a disciple is journeying alongside others. Participating in the world with neighbour and community means seeking out God’s justice, grace, reconciliation and love for all people. These Kingdom of God characteristics do not cease to exist in the digital space, so how are we journeying alongside others through our social media or other digital encounters?
Taking the time to journey alongside others is how we form community together. Hopefully the BELLS rhythm can be one simple step toward our digital connections becoming places of friendship, discipleship and community.