The fourth recommended spiritual disciple of the DOC is active church participation.  From the beginning Dr. Day made it clear that the DOC was intended to augment church participation, not replace it.  Since the movement has been ecumenical for nearly its entire history, it does not matter whether the church with which one is affiliated is Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant (denominational or independent).  But the vision of the movement always has included the recommendation of active church participation. 
 
            In my personal journey I joined a church when I was twelve, after attending a class taught by our elderly pastor.  Through my high school years I actively participated in that church, though how I understand that concept today is quite different from what it was then.  I attended Sunday school and Sunday services; and when of high school age, I sang in the choir and participated in the church’s youth group. 
 
            After high school graduation I spent four years in the Air Force and basically slid into an inactive relationship with the church.  In the meantime Tillie and I married and had our first child.  When we returned to our hometown, we resumed church attendance; but our participation was limited and distant. 
 
            Since those days I have learned that our situation during those years was quite common to many church people.  And it still is true today.  It is easy to float around on the fringes of church participation.  One can feel a part of it without committing much of oneself; and in most churches, little is required. 
 
            In my own case the problem was lack of commitment.  I wasn’t just lacking commitment to the church.  I lacked commitment to the Lord of the Church.  It was only when I was twenty-six years old that Tillie and I finally made a full commitment of our lives to the Lord Jesus.  That was the turning point in our lives.  We were living in Tennessee at the time, and we were in a local church with a fiery and dedicated pastor and preacher.  We grew spiritually very quickly under his tutelage, and then only months later a friend introduced us to the Disciplined Order of Christ. 
 
            We attended our first DOC retreat in the summer of 1964.  I was deeply impressed by the literature of the movement, but even more deeply impressed by the people who were part of it.  I quickly saw active church participation modeled by Christians who were dedicated to Christ in ways I never had experienced.  I discovered the world of classic spiritual literature.  I learned that there are levels of prayer and meditation that I had not yet entered.  I saw that the fruit of the Spirit really could manifest itself in the lives of real, everyday people. 
 
            And all the while it was clear that the deeper Christian life was to be lived out in the world and the local church.  I met people who were passionate about working on behalf of the poor.  Social concerns and issues were not just points of discussion for these people.  They were matters for Christian work that included getting one’s hands dirty. 
 
            If one were to ask me what the differences are in my understanding of active participation in a church today compared with my understanding those many years ago when Tillie and I began the journey, I would answer as follows.  First, the activities as such are not that different.  As a retired minister whose primary ministry for about thirty years was a teaching ministry, I teach a Sunday school class.  I am active in the church’s men’s and senior citizen’s groups.  I serve the administrative side of church affairs by serving as chair of the finance committee.  And I mentor students from a nearby seminary who do a practicum type of course in our local church. 
 
            The big difference from those early years is a developed sense of commitment, not only to my denomination, but also to the local church fellowship.  I believe the DOC strongly influenced that loyalty in me.  Over the years I have seen an increasing willingness on the part of Christians in general to take a consumer’s attitude to the Church.  If their local congregation makes a decision of which they do not approve, they leave.  If the pastor doesn’t preach the way they prefer, they leave.  If they are miffed in some way, they leave. 
 
            I rarely have seen that attitude towards the local church in the DOC.  The people of the DOC are much more likely to pray for their pastor than to leave their church because of him.  They tend to understand that they cannot always have their way in a local church situation.  And because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, they rarely get miffed; and if they do, they get over it quickly. 
 
            May your local congregation bless you.  And may you enjoy your active church participation. 

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