www.spiritualdisciplines.org newsletter

Issue Number Four

March/April Schedule
Please pray for these ministry opportunities.

  • Mar. 13
    Alderwood Community Church
    Lynnwood (suburb of Seattle), WA

  • Mar. 810
    Wright Baptist Church
    Ft. Walton Beach, FL

  • Mar. 2224
    Jarvis Street Baptist Church
    Toronto, ON Canada

  • Mar. 2529
    Summit College
    Huntsville, ON Canada

  • Apr. 57
    Northwest Community Church (retreat)
    Phoenix, Arizona

  • Apr. 1113
    Heartland Regional Founders Conference
    Providence Baptist Church
    Ponca City, OK

  • Apr. 14
    Providence Baptist Church
    Ponca City, OK

  • Apr. 1921
    Raleigh Ave. Baptist Church
    Homewood, AL (suburb of Birmingham)

  • Apr. 2627
    Toledo Reformed Theological Conference
    Emmanuel Baptist Church
    Toledo, OH

  • Apr. 28
    Cornerstone Baptist Church
    Roseville, MI

Sample Chapters
From Don's Books

Do You Thirst for God?
from Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health

Silence and Solitude
from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Why Join a Church?
from Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church

A Spiritual MindSet
from How Can I Be Sure I'm A Christian?

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Other Articles/Resources Concerning Worship

Worship Experience, Christmas Eve Sunday

The Baptist Catechism

Why Join A Church?

A Third Ten Ways to Improve Your Church’s Worship Service

Almost everyone I ask believes that worship at his or her church needs improvement. Usually the changes they have in mind relate more to the songs that are sung and the style of music preferred than anything else.

As the title indicates, this is the third in a series of articles on ways to improve your church’s worship service, and in this article I write about reforming worship music according to the biblical phrase, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” For years I quoted, and yet overlooked, some of the most obvious teaching in Scripture about what we’re to sing in worship. And from my perspective as one who preaches and teaches in dozens of churches each year, most congregations would be blessed by a fresh look at this and other worship texts.

In addition, I offer some thoughts about “special music,” applause, using an overhead projector or PowerPoint vs. hymnals, and more. May it please the Lord to use this article to enhance the worship of Himself and the edification of His people in many local churches.

1. Sing psalms

Stunned. That’s how I’d describe my sudden awareness of how I had neglected a clear scriptural command. I’d been involved in the leadership of worship services for more than fifteen years before I realized what many Christians have long understood and entire denominational traditions have known for centuries: God commands us to sing psalms.

Click here to read the rest of this article.

New! Christian Life FAQ button

Because of Don's position as a seminary professor of Spiritual Formation, as well as writer and conference speaker on the subject, he is often asked questions about spirituality, the Christian life, and to comment on trends and current issues in this and related fields. The new Christian Life FAQ contains some of these questions and Don's answers. See below for a sample.

As you think about the rise of interest among evangelicals in spiritual formation over the past twenty years, what do you think has contributed to such an interest? In other words, why is "spiritual formation" a catchword among evangelicals?

There is an unprecedented interest in "spirituality" in the culture as a whole. A number of books on spirituality have been at the top of the bestseller lists in the last decade. The rise of curiosity about angels, neardeath experiences, psychics, etc., is further evidence. I read a survey where even a majority of atheists consider themselves "spiritual" people. Much of the reason for this interest is due to people getting more and more of the material prosperity they've always sought, and finding that it doesn't satisfy. The cost of this prosperity has also included a surge in the stress and complexity of life, and these pressures have caused increasing numbers of people to look for spiritual solutions.

Click here to read the rest of this FAQ

Spiritual Disciplines
Within the Church


Congregational worship is more edifying for the Christian than private worship, whether that worship takes place under the stars or on a couch with an open Bible, because we receive from more spiritual resources that are unavailable when alone. In the public worship of God we can experience the preaching of His Word, the spiritual gifts of other Christians, the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, congregational praise, fellowship, and many other things that we cannot receive in private worship.

I recognize that many Christians are in churches where the congregational worship experience often lacks depth and substance. If this describes your situation, you may wish you could say to me—perhaps through tears, perhaps through clenched teeth—"The worship at my church usually isn't edifying at all. And it is rarely more meaningful to me than when I worship God privately."

Still, the potential is always present in congregational worship for greater edification than you could receive from private worship. Even in those churches where the Sunday morning ministry is of the flippant/entertainment variety or the dry/stiff sort, there are many opportunities for unanticipated breakthroughs by the Holy Spirit. Something from the sermon may be surprisingly nourishing to your soul. The words of a hymn, solo, or choral piece may strike you with unusual force. Someone may pray for you, or you may hear a prayer that conveys to God something in your own heart that has been longing for expression. The preacher, or a friend, or someone leading in worship, may be God's mouthpiece to say a word of encouragement or direction just for you. These are blessings you forfeit by absence from church.

[Taken from pages 7879 of Don's book, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church.]

Read a chapter from this book.

Family News and Notes
  • Twentyfifth wedding anniversary in Williamsburg. The three Whitneys had a terrific time in Virginia in January. After preaching in Richmond we went to Colonial Williamsburg for four days to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. One of the days was split between nearby Jamestown and Yorktown. We came away with a deeper appreciation for our country's history and freedom, as well as a new appreciation for the life and faith of men like Patrick Henry.
  • What's a halfsabbatical? This semester I'm on a "halfsabbatical" from the seminary, meaning a sabbatical for one semester as opposed to an entire year. A sabbatical is not a vacation, but an approved, guided time away from classroom responsibilities in order to return to the classroom better qualified. Before a professor can take a sabbatical (which is possible only after a certain number of years of service), three separate groups (fellow faculty, administration, and trustees) must approve not only the sabbatical plan, but also the means by which the professor will report afterwards. Most professors do additional study or research (typically at another school or even another country), broaden their experience by teaching elsewhere (often on the mission field), or write. My sabbatical project is to write a book. NavPress has given me a contract for a book to be called Simplify Your Spiritual Life.Laurelen
  • Caffy's ministry. Caffy spoke in February to a student wives' group on the Midwestern Seminary campus. She continues teaching her Precept class at North Pointe Baptist Church each Lord's Day. Her days this winter have been filled with teaching Laurelen, grinding wheat and baking bread, sewing, and artwork. And all of us have enjoyed the recent arrival of longtime friends, Andy and Janet McClurg to the Kansas City area. Andy took early retirement from Lucent Technologies in Chicagoland and came to Midwestern to finish the M.Div. he's pursued bitbybit over the past few years.
  • Ecclesiastes 12:12 testimony. (1) In early February I finally finished the long chapter (nearly 12,000 words) on "Private Worship" for the book on worship being written in honor of the late Dr. James Montgomery Boice. The tentative title is Give Praise to God and it's scheduled for release in late 2002 or early 2003. (I'll let you know when it's available.) Twentytwo authors, including fellow Southern Baptists Al Mohler and Mark Dever, contributed to this book. (2) Your receipt of this newsletter represents another longerthananticipated labor. The article "A Third Ten Ways to Improve Your Church's Worship" is twice the length of the first two in the series. This mostly has to do with the controversial nature of the greater part of the subject of this article, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." And I took extra care with it because I'm anticipating that the three articles will be published together in a booklet, and that eventually I'll be able to expand the material into a small book. If you have other ideas of ways churches could improve their worship services, please let me hear from you at Don@SpiritualDisciplines.org. (3) Now my primary writing focus is on my sabbatical project, a manuscript for NavPress called Simplify Your Spiritual Life. If this title triggers any suggestions, I'd also be happy to hear them via the address above.
  • At least some of this writing gets read. A great review of Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health appeared in the January issue of The Banner of Truth magazine. You can read it at www.SpiritualDisciplines.org/rev10q.html.
  • The wood stove makes a great winter. The worst thing about this winter is that it has been too warm! Our two woodburning stoves make me look forward to cold weather, and when it's 72 degrees in February (as it was last Sunday), it's way too warm to burn off some of the two cords of red oak split and stacked in the backyard. But when it's cold, there's nothing like enjoying my daily Bible reading by the fire, or stretched out in front of the stove reading books aloud with the family. Speaking of which . . .
  • What's the family reading now? We finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) our reading of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and are into a couple of quaint books from the 19th century, The Lamplighter and Cabin on the Prairie.

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