"Spirituality" and Life in Christ
(Note: Background for this post may be found at two previous entries of mine: What It Means to be a Christian, which was posted here, and Spirituality with a Capital "S", which is at the Element MySpace.)
Here is a great passage from Dallas Willard's The Great Omission:
I'm sorry to say this, but too much of what we call Christian is not a manifestation of the supernatural life of God in our souls. Too much of what we call Christian is really just human. And now I'm going to say something really terrible, so brace yourselves or stop your ears. The church of Jesus Christ is not necessarily present when there is a correct administration of the sacrament and faithful preaching of the Word of God. The church of God is present where people gather together in the power of the resurrected life of Jesus Christ. It is possible to have the administration of the sacraments and the preaching of the Word of God and to have it be simply a human exercise. And the misunderstandings of the church in this respect is one of the things that create a primary problem for the integration of theology and spirituality. Because, as was emphasized yesterday, a bad theology will kill any prospects of a spirituality that comes from life in Christ.
. . . [L]ife in Christ, and therefore biblical spirituality, has to do with obedience to Christ . . . [L]ife in Christ is a matter of the "spirit" . . . [S]piritual life is a matter of living our lives from the reality of God . . . Christian spirituality is supernatural because obedience to Christ is supernatural and cannot be accomplished except in the power of a "life from above."
The will to obey is the engine that pulls the train of spirituality in Christ. But spirituality in many Christian circles has simply become another dimension of Christian consumerism. We have generated a body of people who consume Christian services and think that is Christian faith. Consumption of Christian services replaces obedience to Christ. And spirituality is one more thing to consume. I go to many, many conferences and talk about these things, and so often I see these people who are just consuming more Christian services.
1. I like that Willard begins with an indictment of Spiritless religion but immediately draws in the equally errant alternative -- Spiritless "spirituality."
2. The integration of theology and spirituality! Yes. What tends to happen in evangelical communities these days is an either/or tyranny. Either a church is mired in soulless intellect, or it radiates an emotionalist spirituality. And neither option, regardless of lip service, is vitally connected to Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. This is why discipleship, obedience, community worship, and true religion are necessary (that's worshiping in spirit). And this is why theology, study, reflection, preaching, and teaching are necessary (that's worshiping in truth).
After all, the Great Commandment does not give a buffet option to the choices of "heart, soul, mind, and strength."
3. Which brings me to my favorite thing about this passage, and that is the connection Willard makes between "being in Christ" and "biblical spirituality." I read reviews online for a certain book by a certain famous speaker/writer today, and while many of them championed his vision for the Kingdom of God and the implications for such a counterculture, the most obvious thing that seemed to be missing from this Kingdom description was the most important one -- namely, that the Kingdom of God thrives on Jesus Christ as King. The vision of the kingdom I read about as explored in this book was all about personal fulfillment and cultural expansion, community revolutions and political and artistic renaissance. Those are all great things, as far as they go. But none of them gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to really enjoy Christian Spirituality, and what it means to really live and love in the Kingdom of God now present.
So many churches today define themselves -- and advertise themselves! -- based on what they are against, or what they are not. This often works in appealing to people, especially if it reflects current fashions on what (or who) is not fashionable.
And too many times these self definitions and advertisements creep into the philosophical culture and collective identity of the community, so it becomes less about marketing and much more about message.
America has an abundance of churches that are against boredom, "religion," traditionalism, sophistication, formality, insensitivity to seekers, etc. What the world is really in need of -- and what the call of Scripture upon the biblical community mandates -- is a church that is for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that worships, lives, eats, reflects, follows, and revolves around Jesus Christ. And that isn't ashamed or afraid to say so, market research be damned.
The point of Christianity is Jesus Christ himself.
My prayer is that Bellevue Community Church continues in its great love for the Savior, which as many of us have discovered, only multiplies and magnifies its love for the lost, for the broken, for the hurting, for the impoverished, and for each other.
That is Spirituality. That is life in Christ.