Bethlehem Lutheran Church

37000 Union Lake Rd, Harrison Twp., MI 48045
(586) 791-3030

Spiritual Matters

40 Day Lenten Discipline Challenge

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on March 2, 2011 at 12:15 AM

Dear Friends in Christ,

Several pastors in our cluster are challenging their congregations to grow spiritually during Lent by taking a 40-day discipleship challenge. The challenge was devised last year by Pastor Ben Sandin from King of Kings in Shelby Township for his church. This year he has made his booklet available to those churches who wanted to buy it for use in their churches. I did consider it, but the Holy Spirit led me to use the general idea and then structure it especially for our church. Instead of being based on the five marks of discipleship, our challenge is based on the discipline of Lent to which we are invited each year during the Ash Wednesday service, as follows:

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. (Ash Wednesday service, ELW, Leaders Desk Edition)

This year I hope to make it easier for you to accept this invitation, whether or not you are able to attend the Ash Wednesday service.

Here is the general outline of the challenge:

  1. Set your goal(s) for the forty days and write it (them) in the space below.
  2. Think about how to meet your goals.
  3. Write your plan on the calendar linked at the end of this entry.
  4. Keep track of your progress on the calendar.
  5. At the end of the forty days, prayerfully evaluate how you did. Set new goals.

Helpful suggestions:

1. Don’t be too ambitious. It’s okay to choose one discipline to concentrate on or to add to what you already do.

2. Make use of the opportunities the church provides or create opportunities at home:

  • Self-examination will be incorporated into the Wednesday services and a short daily “examen” will be provided for those who want something to use at home.
  • A time for repentance will be part of the Ash Wednesday and Maundy (Holy) Thursday services.
  • A quiet prayer time will be part of every Wednesday service during Lent and the Good Friday service. Take part in the Holy Week prayer vigil. At home, you might want to say a daily prayer using the acronym ACTS (Adoration [praise], Confessions, Thanksgiving, Supplication [asking on behalf of others and oneself]) or find suggestions on the internet.
  • There are several ways to fast: e.g., by giving up food, by giving up a bad habit, or by giving up something pleasurable. As far as food goes, you might decide to skip lunch every Wednesday and break your fast at the Lenten supper provided by the church. You might also fast on Holy Thursday or Good Friday. (Be sure to check with your doctor before undertaking a fast from food, especially if you have any medical issues whatsoever. Young children should not fast.)

      As far as other kinds of fasts go, Lent is a good time to make healthy changes in your life, by giving up smoking or an unhealthy diet, as long as you plan to continue the good habits after Lent.  Giving up a pleasure, such as watching television, reading novels, etc. for forty days can help you feel close to Jesus, who gave up so much more. You might also consider the kind of fast called for in Isaiah 58: one that involves changing attitudes towards others and sharing one’s time and substance.

  • You can practice sacrificial giving by skipping a pleasant but costly activity during Lent and giving the money you would otherwise spend to the church to support our service project or to a favorite charity. Such activities might include a daily visit to Starbucks, eating out once a week, eating lunch on Wednesdays, smoking, a weekly visit to the hair dressers or taking a trip.
  • As our service project (work of love) this year, we are looking into the possibility of doing something locally, perhaps for a hospital or nursing home. I will let you know more when I know more. You might also watch for ways to practice random acts of kindness—or deliberate acts of kindness, such as visiting our shut-ins.
  • Find strength through word and sacrament by attending Sunday, Wednesday and Holy Week services; by reading Scripture; and by remembering your baptism (perhaps by tracing the baptismal cross on your forward every morning, as Luther suggested).

3. Take the challenge with someone else. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. Families can do this together, too. Tailor the goals to each family member. That’s easier to do if each person has his or her own calendar to use. You will find extra on the small table in the narthex.

4. Be creative!

My goal is to...

I will do the following to reach my goal...


May you enjoy this challenge and be blessed in the doing of it!

Download the Discipleship Challenge Calendar & Letter

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