More Cowbell? How About More Spirit?

May I ask you a question?  I am asking because I'd like this to be a rhetorical question, something for you to really consider.

Is our faith journey a...
1) Intellectual journey?
2) Spiritual journey?
3) Emotional journey?
4) all of the above.

I have been on my own journey to discovering and learning the spiritual side of the journey.  Recovering it, may not be too harsh a word either.  And while some in the Church today are arching their backs and drawing a line in the sand over the "new age" term: spirituality, it is nevertheless a reality for us who follow Jesus Christ.  This is a spiritual journey.

It seems to me somehow, in the passing of the years, we have, for all practical purposes, removed the spiritual side of faith out of the equation.  I recently attended the 5 Day Academy of Spiritual Formation sponsored by The Upper Room.  There, Dr. Bruce Rigdon discussed how the Church in the west sided with the idealist thought that the physical world was the definition of what was 'real.'  Prior to that point, the Church Universal understood the real world to be the spiritual and the physical world to be a reflection of this.

The Biblical writers saw no division, it was in Dr. Ridgon's words, "the whole ball of wax!"  Dr. Wilkie Au notes, "Christian spirituality offers us a truer understanding of the self and the nature of human fulfillment."  (The Enduring Heart, pg 40).  

Merely engaging in apologetics has failed to grow the Church.  Why?  Reason alone will not carry the day. Consider following the advice of any of our modern thoughts on atheism and we end up just as morally bankrupt as the Church during the Crusades.  Have millions died because of religious beliefs?  Sadly, yes, and how many have died at the hands of governments that have espoused atheism?  Millions again.

What I am more interested in is what will we do as the Church to address the spiritual bankruptcy of our culture.  The role of the Church is to do just this - to be this place - not of intellectual or emotional renewal but of spiritual renewal - to help us see the "real" and not follow the path of Narcissus and become obsessed with the "reflection."

Did you know that hidden in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, paragraph 629, section 6, there is a recommendation for the Annual Conference to have an Area of Spiritual Formation?  That it has its purpose to help develop the devotional life for people and families, CLERGY and LAITY?  

I have found the more I practice spiritual formation, the more I pray, the more I engage in reflection, the more I offer grace and the less I offer gripes.  But that formation isn't merely rote prayer practices that have been shoveled on us by modern publishing houses and contemporary authors.  Spiritual formation engages the width, depth and breadth of Church history and tradition.  

Christopher Walken, a United Methodist lay person, might prescribe more cowbell.  But the real remedy is found not in answers we come up with in our planning and studies.  It is in the reality that "God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24).  We need more spirit.  We've been doing far too much banging on cowbells.

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