Lately I have read several books that have discussed the growing disenchantment with religion and yet maintain a heightened interest in being “spiritual.” In fact, we live in an area with a large population who express an interest in being spiritual, meaning concerned with deeper things than mere materialism, and desiring to live meaningful lives that make the world a better place. It’s just that many people do not think of church when they consider these things.
I receive some interesting newsletters that discuss ways people pursue spirituality. I will even admit to having tried some nonchurch avenues in my younger days when I was not a Christian myself – meditation being the least embarrassing one to confess to – and I would even say that such pervasive interest in being a spiritual person is encouraging to me.
I think there is a deeper meaning than mere existence, that life is purposeful, that good can and should be pursued and doesn’t just accidentally happen. But (and you knew there was a question coming didn’t you?) I wonder how church became a nonspiritual influence when it should be first and foremost bringing a message of spiritual life and health from the creator of all things. Perhaps it is the fallout of centuries of religious conflict in which churches vied for social power and the message of hope and reconciliation with God was lost in the arguments over theology and liturgy; or even worse, lost in the fight for political power and influence. And perhaps the modern resurgence of religion-based political movements has refreshed the perception that church is about power and control instead of life and hope and faith. And maybe the language we use when we talk about things that we cannot condone leads people to conclude that church is only interested in telling you what you can’t do. All I can say for sure is that more people are uninterested in church than are looking for a church home; but I don’t think that means church is no longer relevant or vital.
It might be fair to ask me why I think church matters, and my answer is simple: church as an organization may not matter at all, but church as an identity that describes the community of faith in God through the grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ matters a great deal. I read in the Bible about the people who came to believe in Jesus and the love that God showed through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and they were changed people; they became less materialistic, more compassionate, more determined to live with integrity, more concerned to bring forgiveness and reconciliation into the world, and the word used to describe this new community was church. It just didn’t mean the same thing to them that it has come to mean now. I am constantly reminded when I talk with the pastors in this area and I hear their concerns for the community, I hear their plans and dreams to help make our community a better, healthier, kinder place to live, and their desire to share an understanding of God and his love with everyone, and I think that’s what church is really about. It is about bringing people into an experience of God’s love and grace that can change a world one life at a time. And I think that matters. I think that is spiritual. I invite you to check it out.