Church Health Tip – Passionate Spirituality

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Spirituality is a little like laughter! Have you ever noticed the different ways people laugh? Some have raucous outbursts, some giggle, some start slow and build up like an earthquake, some sound like they are having an asthma attack. While we might prefer one style (or be annoyed by some styles), each style is an indicator that something has amused us to the point that we can’t keep it in.
So too, passionate spirituality might have many forms and expressions but each indicates a vibrancy of relationship with Jesus that we just can’t keep in. This last point is emphasised in the MSD ‘Indicators of Vital Healthy Churches’.

The congregational members have a genuine passionate relationship with Jesus and are open to the spontaneous, creative, intuitive promptings of the Holy Spirit. Prayer, the embracing of God’s Word as the final authority for life and ministry, and waiting upon God are essential spiritual disciplines. The faith of individuals is vibrant and growing with evidence of the Fruits of the Spirit. Such spirituality may be diverse but is observable.

It is understandable that each individual will have preferred ways to express that dynamic relationship with Jesus; the danger, however, lies in judging other people’s level of spirituality against our own preferred form of expression.
A few years ago I was challenged when I was given an article describing the various streams of spirituality and asked to create my own ‘recipe’ for my Christian spirituality. It was quite liberating to realise that it was not an ‘either/or’ choice. As I undertook this exercise I was also released from some judgements of others, who I came to realise were expressing a deep level of spirituality in a form that I was not strongly connected to; that opened a door for greater appreciation, and a new level of relationship could, and did, develop.
Richard Foster, in his book Streams of Living Water, identifies the following ‘streams’ of historical Christian spirituality.

  • The Contemplative Tradition Discovering the prayer filled life
  • The Holiness Tradition Discovering the virtuous life
  • The Charismatic Tradition Discovering the spirit empowered life
  • The Social Justice Tradition Discovering the compassionate life
  • The Evangelical Tradition Discovering the word centred life
  • The Incarnational Tradition Discovering the sacramental life

Now most of us would respond by saying that we want them all, which is surely true. But most people find a particular way in which they most often connect deeply with God. I like the idea of a recipe or percentage. What would your ‘recipe’ look like?

A simple definition?

In my early ministry experience, I witnessed a great response to a ‘loaded’ question. A visiting speaker was asked to define true worship; this was set against the old debate of ‘hymns verses choruses’ (a hot topic in that church). The answer given was that ‘worship is what the body does, when the heart’s in love with Jesus’. I think that is not a bad basic definition of ‘passionate spirituality’ as an indicator of church health. It rightly focused on motivation rather than the form of expression.
Passionate spirituality, whilst varied, can’t go un-noticed! It leaks out from people who have a deep relationship with Jesus.
So is your Church healthy? Maybe one of the questions to ask is, ‘Would other people describe the majority of our church as having a faith that is vibrant and growing with evidence of the fruits of the Spirit?’

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