Now that people are proudly proclaiming their independence from the stodgy, doctrinal, and archaic bonds known as organized religion, what is happening to the churches?
In this new age of spirituality, what happens to that “old time religion”?
There was a time when proclaiming to be “spiritual, but not religious” would get you blank stares and make you the recipient of an immediate intercessory prayer. What is this new phenomenon?
Many religious types have a level of suspiciousness about this airy proclamation of spirituality not tied to a denomination or recognized faith group.
Suspicion aside, embracing this new population of spiritually liberated people leaves those who still hold the church dear questioning why it is that we stay.
Why are we still holding on to religion?
Now that the church has become a battleground, people are finding God in their local coffee shop, where the Eucharist is served daily and our neighbor is the latest electronic gadget.
The new “church” requires plenty of caffeine, a little polite conversation, and personal space; lots and lots of personal space.
I love the way God can use even our trite phrases and our desire to be free as an opening for transformation. God is offering us God’s second son, the church, as a living sacrifice.
Perhaps the understanding of church—a righteous truck stop where humans receive rest, refuel, receive nourishment, and are cleansed—must die so that we might live into an understanding of God that is of some earthly good.
I’m not ready to give up on the church yet, but I am willing to rethink how we “do church.” I am willing to forsake the church as we know it if it means we begin to awaken people to a spirituality that does not require them to check their questioning and exploration at the door.
The practice of spirituality within an intentional community holds us accountable to ourselves and to other people.
Knowing the specific tenets of one’s faith and having a dogmatic understanding of spirituality is only part of life in the church. Listening to eloquent sermons and volunteering in soup kitchens is only a part of developing our spirituality.
Christians don’t simply mature in faith because they attend worship service weekly.
The process of becoming mature doesn’t necessarily happen just because one is growing up and getting older. Maturity is not based on the number of years you spend doing a certain thing. Maturity is about how one learns to cope with and respond to experiences that inform our interpretation of our reality.
It is no longer enough to take stock of our lives and conclude that our failings, shortcomings, and weaknesses have to do with changes in the way we choose to practice our faith. We don’t have to be in bondage to the idea of what faithful Christians look like.
We will be engaged in spiritual work for the rest of our lives. There will be times when inspiration will flow like a river and there will be times of deep drought. It is part of the journey.
The idea is that we must stay engaged in work that sustains and nourishes our souls and become a part of a community that helps us to feel connected to something greater than ourselves.
We must recognize we are ALL spiritual – in the church and outside of it.
Felicia Deas is an Atlanta area minister, writer, and live music enthusiast. She’s at her best when she’s not taking life too seriously.