Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Signs of Hope for the Church: Spirituality

When I was a young person in the church, I was blessed by being involved in a strong program of “religious education.”  I learned the books of the Bible, learned how to pray, and even learned some theology, church history, and Baptist polity.

Early in my ministry, I immersed myself in an emphasis on “discipleship” which included spiritual practices such as Bible study, scripture memorization, prayer, and witnessing.  Toward the end of that period I discovered Richard Foster’s work on historical spiritual practices and disciplines, taking my understanding of discipleship to a new level.

Today, believers in many Christian denominations seem to have rediscovered and begun to practice these spiritual disciplines that help us to go beyond knowing about God to knowing God personally.

Is it possible that the church in the 21st century is becoming more spiritual?  More of us are becoming aware of practices initiated by the church fathers and mothers and making them part of our daily lives.  This can only be a good thing!

How can we take this step toward a deeper spiritualty in our lives and thus empower us as we are part of the missio Dei?

First, we must unlearn some things.  We typically ask questions of the biblical text, but what if we let it ask questions of us?   In order to let the Bible speak to us through the practice of Lectio Divina, we must not only use the tools of biblical exegesis but interact with the text on a personal level.

Second, we must be willing to let go of certainty and control.  When we enter into a practice such as contemplative prayer, we give ourselves over to God and God’s presence with us.  This may have surprising results.

Third, we can become part of a small group to support us in our quest.  Real Christian growth takes place in a community of accountability.  We need others to challenge and support us in our spiritual journey.

These commitments strength us individually and equip us to be more effective in the Body of Christ.  In so doing, we embrace the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our faith community.

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