Richard Foster wrote Celebration of Discipline "for all those disillusioned by the superficialities of modern culture, including modern religious culture." He struck a nerve. Since its publication in 1978, Celebration has sold more than 1.5 million copies in 14 languages. Through his writing and his ministry, Renovaré, Foster has reintroduced evangelicals to spiritual formation. Brandon O'Brien talked to Foster about it all.
Why did Celebration of Discipline do so well?
It appeared at a point in history when people sensed the way we were doing ministry wasn't working. Leaders were lost to moral failures. People wanted something more substantial. There was a longing to connect to the great historical conversation about the growth of the soul. Most people were only aware of the early church and then us today—maybe a few had heard of the Reformation. With Celebration I introduced people to the historical conversation.
If superficiality is the curse of the modern age, what's the curse of the postmodern age?
Distraction. With the Internet and entertainment, so many different ways to keep people's minds constantly shifting, they don't have to think. And, of course, churches sometimes play right into that—with fast-paced services that keep people jumping all over the place. That's why solitude and silence are among the most important spiritual disciplines for today.
What other spiritual challenges are unique to our age?
We have taught a gospel for some decades now that has cut people off from a life of holiness and discipleship with Jesus. We have preached, "Assent to certain truths and you'll get into heaven when you die." The main focus has been getting into heaven. The gospel of Jesus—"repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"—is about entering into a life with Jesus now. And that includes heaven, of course, when we die. But life formation begins right now.
How does this affect holiness?
Today discipleship is thought of as a sort of extra for the ...