Spiritual Discipline of Having Fun

by Heather Zempel

Article is posted by permission from www.heatherzempel.com


I have a tendency to take myself far too seriously. If someone corrects me, I am quick to make excuses (if only they knew the challenges I had faced). If someone criticizes, I am quick to defend (if only they knew who I was). If someone praises me, I am quick to wonder how many other people have taken notice, as well. But the reality is…I love people better, worship God better, and get more out of life when I don’t take myself so seriously. Alternatively, I don’t honor others, I worship myself, and I don’t have nearly as many laughs when I do take myself too seriously.


Fun is both a spiritual gift and a spiritual discipline. I’m convinced that the blessings of God require discipline and the spiritual disciplines double as spiritual blessings. For instance, confession is a spiritual discipline, but we find when we practice it that we receive the gift of healing (James 5:16). Reading the Word is a spiritual discipline– it takes intentionality, practice, and energy–  but it also brings spiritual blessing (Joshua 1:8). Likewise, leadership and prophecy and mercy are all spiritual gifts, but we are instructed to nurture them, grow them, and steward our leadership in them with the discipline of an athlete, patience of a farmer, and focus of a soldier (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Timothy 4:15, 2 Timothy 2:3-6). Fun is no different. Sometimes fun overwhelms us. We laugh until we hurt, we worship until our words dry up, we play until we are sore, and we are returned to childhood in the magic of DisneyWorld.  Fun comes naturally and without effort.

Sometimes, fun is more like a discipline. We have to plan for it, prepare for it, and be intentional with it. I don’t want to stretch the idea too far, but I see parallels with the practice of Sabbath. Sabbath was given to the children of Israel as both a discipline (to reflect the character and ways of God- Exodus 20) and as a blessing (to celebrate their freedom from slavery- Deuteronomy 5).

I’ve made a conscious decision that fun will be a part of my life. I love the times it just happens, but other times I have to be intentional and strategic about pursuing it, recognizing it, and living in it.

Heather Zempel currently leads the discipleship efforts at National Community Church in Washington, DC where she oversees small groups, directs leadership development training, and serves on the weekend teaching team. Heather is the author of Sacred Roads and Community is Messy, and you can read about her ramblings on small group environments, discipling the next generation and SEC football at heatherzempel.com.