Is there still a need in people’s lives to express their spirituality in some way, shape or form–and within community? Our western culture seems to have taken individuality to the extreme where religious community life has been secularized and devalued to the sidelines of life, and even ignored. Participation in religious community life has now become totally voluntary… but maybe this is good. It separates true and genuine Christian believers/seekers who voluntarily commit to their beliefs from those who follow Christianity due to involuntary happenstance or family heritage. As religious community life becomes more marginalized, what distinguishes the visible church from the invisible church will be pared down. The expression of true spirituality and religious life will become more apparent to secular eyes.
Morever, and more to my point, is that, people who voluntarily desire to become a part of an organized religious/faith community (a church) are not as prone to sliding into spiritual oblivion. Here’s a few cases I witnessed the past month that explains our human need to be in Christian community:
The other day, a stranger walked into our church during our prayer meeting. he didn’t know us, and we didn’t know him from Adam. I admired his courage to enter our church. I suspect the reason why he came might have been motivated by his desire to express his thanks to God for getting him a new job, after having been unemployed for the last four months. In our prayers together, I felt that our small prayer group was successful in helping him express his thankfulness to God for giving him a job. I ended up giving him a bible to take home, and we all welcomed him to come again to join us for Sunday worship and Wednesday night prayer meetings (may the Holy Spirit continue working in his life). Also another fellow had walked into our prayer meeting a month ago. I don’t know what motivated him to come but I sensed he had a need to come. He wasn’t a complete stranger to the church because he says he knew someone from a while back.
All of us need to have an outlet for spiritual expression. Without it, we will ultimately become disconnected from true spirituality. If the opportunity for one to access such expressions are denied them, will their spirituality become lifeless and formless?
[ next post expresses what we need to do about this disconnect. See previous post Part 2. ]
Have we, as a society, kept our spirituality hidden away too much from the eyes of others for the sake of being tolerant?
In my move from rural to urban, I have also noticed a big difference in how people approach spirituality (as opposed to religion). Spirituality in the urban setting (especially on the part of the postmodern generation), is much more individualized, where one person’s spirituality might not be the same as another’s approach. This is fine, but when one’s spiritual life is totally disconnected from the religious community life and privatized, there is a hidden danger. When a person’s sense of spirituality goes dry and empty without some kind of organized religion to support and back them up, their spiritual lives can slide into oblivion. They may lose their entire sense of spirituality and never know how far they’ve gone because no one is there to keep them accountable.
Has the expression of individual spirituality become too privatized?
[ next post expresses our lack or need of spiritual expression in society. ]
This will be the first post in a four part series. I want to bring up and provoke some thoughts about differences in people’s attitudes toward religion and spirituality in both rural and urban settings. The Church is at a critical moment in the 21st century. Either we work to survive and thrive, or we curl up and die in a corner. What has Christ called us to?
Have you noticed a difference in people’s attitudes toward religious and spiritual expression between rural and urban communities?
Having moved from a small community to a large one, I have noticed very big differences in the religious and spiritual landscapes between urban and rural settings.
In the rural setting, religion is still part of people’s normal everyday lives. Whether or not they participate in organized religion, the established Christian church is there and is accepted as an integral part of the community. It is funny how even non-church goers understand and accept the Christian church as part of being people’s normal everyday life. If the church were to collapse or close in a rural community, there would be a marked void in their life because they will feel that something is missing. I think this is due to how the church has remained somewhat integrated into the life of small communities.
In the urban setting, religion is hardly and rarely a part of people’s everyday lifestyle. If a church is not sitting there in front of their face, it can very easily go unnoticed and be forgotten. Furthermore, the impact of the Christian church is minimal and hardly felt in the midst of the busy and changing marketplace. If an urban church were to suddenly disappear due to deconstruction to make room for a new condo and business developments, most people won’t even notice. They will have forgotten that a church had even existed on intersection of Main Street and Central Avenue.
How is your local church integrated into your community (rural or urban)? Would there be an impact in your immediate community if your local congregation were to burn down or suddenly disappear?
[ next post touches on society’s approach to finding a connection with their spiritual lives. ]
Another great debate is coming up. Dr. Ehrman, a former evangelical turned agnostic, is going head-to-head again with Dr. Craig Evans. This time at Acadia University and St. Mary’s University, in in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Ehrman and Evans are going to debate each other again for two days. They might be sick of each other at the end, or maybe, one might convert the other?…Not. This should be interesting because they understand each other’s theology and points of view well. Theological spars like this are interesting because when both hold strongly to their own convictions. One might wonder why either do not come to the same conclusions.
Anyway, this will be very interesting. I wish I could be there myself, but unfortunately it’s way over in Atlantic Canada. If you in Nova Scotia, check it out. [Tickets seem to be all gone now. Maybe they’ll make the DVD or recording available online]. But there’s an “After the Debate will be held at Rock Church the next day, Saturday, Jan. 21 9:00-3:30PM.
Friday, January 20 at 7PM at Acadia University, and
Thursday, January 19 at 7PM at Mary’s University
FREE [SOLD OUT]
Acadia University and St. Mary’s University
Sponsored by The Navigators