Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Does your church hit all spiritual styles?

Looking at Gary Thomas' Sacred Pathways in spiritual formation at the seminary. He reminds us that we don't all experience God as naturally the same way. It only makes sense that God would speak to each of us differently depending on our personalities and dominant intelligence.

It is not an excuse to relate to God in only one way--we should expand our experiences of God. And some congregations will almost inevitably minister more to one set of styles than another. But it is worth asking the question. Does your church unthinkingly minister more or less to only one type of person?  Here is my modified version of Thomas' list of styles:

1. The Idea Person
So is your church just about ideas, just hitting one type of person? Is your church just about hearing some nifty ideas on Sunday morning?

2. The Ritual Person
Is your church just a place for the person who likes things like liturgy, saying creeds, taking communion?

3. The Activist
Is your church just about politics and what is going on in the world that needs to be stopped? Is your church just about doing things in the community?

4. The Emotionalist
Is your church just about excitement and getting an emotional rush, miracles, tongues, the public exercise of spiritual gifts?

5. The Caregiver
Is your church just about helping people who are suffering or in need in the congregation?  Is it about fellowship and being with one another?

6. The Contemplative
Is church primarily about prayer and waiting for God? Is it about mystery and deeply personal experiences of the divine?

7. The Monk
There is a kind of person who most experiences God by self-denial and retreat. Fasting and silence are the kinds of things that are tickets to divine encounter.

8. The Senses Person
There is a type of person that encounters God most easily through the senses--the eyes, the ears, the smell, the taste, the touch. Maybe this person can build something for the church as an offering to God.

9. The Nature Person
There is a person who most easily encounters God on a lake, in the woods, or climbing a mountain.

So we shouldn't say that one way of encountering God is better than another, although there are some that aren't optional. Coming together in worship is not optional for the nature person. And the idea person is impoverished if s/he doesn't take communion. The activist needs some ideas to be active about. Etc...

But is your church a one stop shop?  Do you just give ideas with no plan of action? Do you lack actions that are repeated and have a common story behind them? Do you have retreats? Do you have something for the person who needs to do something with his or her hands?

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