Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The journey is all

Paul Lavender again makes a helpful point, one that Dan Kimball makes in his book Vintage Christianity, which is that people see their spiritual lives as a journey not a destination, that they are in perpetual motion, with nothing fixed and settled. To a great extent they are not looking for answers, rather their spiritual lives are nourished by questions, by exploring, by seeking fresh ideas and experiences.

For some Christians this is a difficult notion because we have been discipled into the view that we have 'the answer', that 'the answer' is everything that matters and that people need to hear 'the answer' - regardless of what question they're asking.

Of course, it should be pointed out, that such a view of spirituality applies to a minority of people. The Kendall research - published as Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead The Spiritual Revolution - suggests that while many people in Kendall are attracted to alternative spiritualies, they still constitute an underwhelming minority of the general population - about the same or slightly less than the number attending church.

Bob Mayo - whose research I've alluded to before - would go further, especially in relation to young people, and say that they are not on a spiritual quest of any kind. They are happy in their 'midi-narrative' that life owes them material comforts and a good time, but issues of spirituality are matters of indifference to them. They go clubbing because they like music not because they are looking for a transcendental experience of some kind which the boomers and Gen Xers before them might have been (if Tom Beaudoin in Virtual Faith is to be believed).

All this, it seems to me, points up the strength of a going and waiting strategy suggested in the last blog. What kind of journey are our neighbours actually on? We might assume they go to the gym and yoga because they are seeking contact with some higher power. But they might go because their mates do it, they want to shed a few pounds or they fancy the yoga teacher. We might assume they visit old church buildings only because they have penchant for medieval architecture when in fact they yearn for contact with the mysterious and the divine.

All this suggests we need to listen rather than guess, go where they are, hang around and wait to hear what makes them tick. In this process we'll make new friends - a hugely valuable thing in its own right - and we'll hear what makes our new friends tick. Only then should we be praying for the insight into how we introduce our new friends to our old friend, Jesus.

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