APPLICATIONS FOR LIFE
“I’m spiritual, not religious” said the man I met at the grocery store, the woman in the park, the mom at back to school night, the people I met at the party. It’s never the starting point of a conversation. But it ends up there – a lot. Usually, it’s the response to their realization of what I do for a living. And as I’m reaching for the chicken, watching the kids play, waiting to meet the new teacher, or hoping to connect with people – I wonder about their need to say it. Is it to hold me back from inviting them to church? Limit any reference I might suddenly make about the Bible? Stop the conversation right in its tracks?
In today’s world, this kind of self-identification is a phenomenon. According to CNN, the “I’m spiritual but not religious” community is growing at a rapid rate. In a 2009 survey by the research firm LifeWay Christian Resources, 72% of millennials (18 to 29 year olds) said they are more spiritual than religious. The phrase is now so commonplace that it’s spawned its own acronym (“I’m SBNR”) and Facebook page.
Rejection of organized church lies at the heart of the SBNR movement. While Christian denominations differ widely in their understanding of scripture, theology and system of governance – issues of conflict, abuse of power and lack of relevancy have equalized the perception of what it means to be Church, no matter which church you are talking about.
I get it. I can understand why people would push back from Church. Many has been the time the Church has gotten it wrong; been too focused on drawing lines while transgressing other boundaries; been hurtful; lost its way. While Christ is at the Church’s head, leadership falls to humanity whose ongoing fault is being human.
But I don’t get it. I don’t understand what anchors the spiritual but not religious movement, other than the rejection. There is something about it that’s incredibly individualized, and free floating. As much as I too love the idea of sampling the best of all religious traditions into one mix – Where is the worship? The mission? The fellowship? The Church has gotten many things wrong, but it is not the sum of its failures – any more than I am….or you are.
Spirituality and religion are not mutually exclusive. Nor are they polar opposites. Each can be defined by journey. Each can shape the other. The choice to take spirituality alone, is in some sense to go it alone. And it is not God’s intention that anyone makes the journey alone. It’s time to relearn the value of community. To help people experience the joy in worshipping together.
To live into the expectation:
∞that when you are sick and in need – we will visit with you, pray with you, and help if we can.
∞that when you have something to celebrate – we will affirm, and cheer
∞that when you are struggling to figure out where to make a difference in the world – we will open opportunities
∞that when you have questions – together we’ll search for answers, never knowing if we’ll find them but learning as we go
At its heart, the Church is centered on community. And for the next year – we are going to center on life applications that stand at the heart of the community.
Spiritual and not religious? We’ve got an app for that.