Spiritual But Not Religious (Pt. 2)
The idea of being "spiritual, but not religious," is not a new one by any means.
In the 1940s and 50s, my grandfather used to drive the twenty-plus miles into town on Sunday mornings with my grandmother so she could attend church in the little farming community where they lived. He would sit outside in the car reading the newspaper while she worshipped inside with the faithful--wanting nothing to do with organized religion.
Yet, he had read the entire Bible from cover to cover at least three times during his life, he had a deep faith in God, maintained high morals, and was more loving and kind than most Christians I have known.
But in the past decade, the number of people who maintain a personal sense of spirituality and connection to the Divine without actually being connected to a religion has exploded.
However, according to a Pew Research study on religion in America, many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.
They see the importance of a vibrant spiritual life, they just don't see the point of going to church.
After the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, churches swelled in attendance as millions of people sought solace in their local congregations. It didn't take long, however, just a few months for those numbers to go back down, and then to keep plummeting.
People came seeking some meaning, some peace and hope after our horrible national tragedy. They came in need of Jesus, to truly see him and to hear how it's Jesus who can heal the hurt, raise the dead, make all things new. Instead they found the same old arguments over who's "in" and who's "out." They were told that 9/11 was the judgement of God on our sinful nation.
They came seeking Jesus and they found us instead.
There is this poignant moment in the Gospel of John where some non-Jewish, Greek speaking people approach the disciples with a request: "Sirs," they say to them, "we would like to see Jesus."
At my former church, one of the pastors who preceded me actually typed that line on to a piece of paper and taped it to the pulpit. Each time I got up to preach I read it. "...we would like to see Jesus."
The Church is supposed to embody Jesus to the world, to show the world what it looks like when God gets what God wants. The Church is often called the "Body of Christ," or the "hands and feet of Christ." It's our mission to know and show Jesus.
All of the arguments, the debates, the division and disunity are distractions from the very pits of Hell, keeping us from being Jesus to those who simply want to see him.
May you take time to show Jesus, to embody Jesus and to be Jesus to everyone you come into contact with today. May you break down the walls in the hearts of those spiritually-minded but church-hurt people in your life by demonstrating what the Church is really all about. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.