Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diversity in ways we experience God

In light of my previous post on diversity, I want to pass along some insight from john Ortberg's “God is closer than you think”. It spoke to me of the value of our rich variety of church traditions and styles, and some of the holes in how we try to provide opportunities for people to encounter God in our traditional church settings.
Ortberg's book seeks to encourage us that God can be found in many places that we don't expect. One chapter that really speaks to diversity and learning to celebrate it is 'Spiritual Pathways'. He shares 7 different styles of how people might be wired to find intimacy with God. Some of them are easily recognizable as 'legitimate' church styles. Others seem to be off the radar for much of the church. Here are the 7 Ortberg lists:
1.Intellectual pathway. Those who draw close to God as they learn about Him. Studying is key.
2.Relational pathway. Significant relationships (small groups, for example) provide a perfect place to meet God. You love being with people.
3.Serving pathway. Helping others is the key way to love God.
4.Worship pathway. Music, praise and adoration provide the vehicle for intimate fellowship with God. Just gotta have music!
5.Activist pathway. They walk out their commitment to God by doing something. With great zeal.
6.Contemplative pathway. Private reflection, meditation, and time alone with God. People are just distractions.
7.Creation pathway. Being in God's creation provides the best place to connect with the Creator.
It would be easy to say one of these is better than the others, that it conforms better to the Bible, that it is more 'spiritual'.
However, it would not be true.
However, that's the delusion we seem to be laboring under. Most of our expressions of 'church' tend to major on styles 1 and 4, with the rest ignored or left for a few exceptional saints.
As God has wired us differently when it comes to spiritual gifts, so it is true in how He has wired us to connect with Him. Singing a 'worship song' isn't inherently more godly than taking a walk in the park or marching against injustice.
In these days of uncertainty about the validity of the church in our culture, it would be good for us to recognize the diversity of ways God created for people to connect with Him. Majestic cathedrals might do it for you, or maybe you need a quiet room or a good book. Maybe you have to stay home from 'church' once in awhile so you can really meet with God.
As we re-think what church is, why it exists, and what it could look like, we need to broaden our understanding to see the diverse ways people might be looking to experience the Divine. Giving them more of the same old cliched expressions won't attract them, or benefit them if they are enticed in.
The traditional church setting of stained glass windows and a Sunday morning service doesn't meet every need. Some people need a cause to fight for, a need to help with, or a place to meditate. We can bridge the gap if we embrace the diversity God has designed, and facilitate some different expressions of how to connect with God.


Lon said...

great post Al... maybe diversity in itself is a pathway, sounds like one you might be able to lead the way in!

Peter Walker said...

Al, thank you. I had a conversation with a man in his 60s not long ago. It was less of a conversation - more of me listening to his rant and trying to be gracious. He was talking about the "lie" of diversity. That diversity shouldn't be CELEBRATED - it should be moved beyond. He valued cultural assimilation over diversity. He appreciated the "admittedly few blacks" in his small blue-collar town because they didn't stand out or point to their race. He called that "progress." I suggested it was perhaps survival - that his community would not tolerate a black man who stood out as proud of his heritage and unique from the local culture-at-large.

He rejected this suggestion.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness, compassion, humility and kindness.

Your friend,

Al said...

Thanks, Lon & Peter. You may not realize it, but I really value the comments of young men like yourselves. You are so many things that my generation isn't (like the guy you mention, Peter). Too many of us 'moderns' are terribly stuck in our way of thinking, and not open to anything else. In the church, that kind of thinking masks itself as fundamentalism, being true to the Word, or other nice sounding sentiments. Except it often doesn't leave much room for the ever expanding vista of truth that is available to us.
I am so grateful that God is helping me grow in Him, and guys like you two are a source of inspiration, dialogue, and often a new way of seeing the light. I'm not so worried about the future with you guys an influential part of it.


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