Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your silence; all your waves and your billows have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. –Psalm 42:7-8
Depth. It is the essence of the spiritual journey…..to go deeper into God’s love and grace. Psalm 42 seems to suggest that the depth of our souls cries out for a deeper and more intimate relationship with our Creator. In John 10:30 Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” Jesus is bearing witness to the state of relationship we are all invited to partake in…….the ever deepening union of our life with God’s in Christ.
Willow Creek Community Church’s well know REVEAL Survey discovered large numbers of the congregation were stalled spiritually and wanted to go deeper in their inner spiritual life, but felt the church wasn’t helping them get to the next level.
The heart cry of most congregations is the desire for a deeper intimacy with God. Most pastors and staff have heard at one time or another members express a desire to “go deeper.” But, what do they really mean with that expression? Not surprisingly, people assign different meanings to “going deeper.”
A helpful lens to understand what people mean when they express a desire to go deeper in their faith and relationship with God are the spiritual temperaments found in Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways….Discover Your Soul’s Path to God.
9 Sacred Pathways For Drawing Nearer To God
Gary Thomas’ research suggests that there is more than one spiritual prescription for growing deeper in our faith and demonstrating our love for God. Through biblical figures, reading the classics of the Christian faith and questioning others about their spiritual journey, Thomas discovered the various ways people find a growing intimacy with God.
Thomas uses the following 9 “spiritual temperaments,” or sacred pathways, as a way to explain how we each love, relate, draw near and connect with God differently. Most of us will not have just one pathway, but rather a predisposition to two or three that predominate.
NATURALISTS: Loving God Outdoors
Naturals go deeper in their love for God by surrounding and immersing themselves with all that He has made. They see God in everything and are replenished by being outdoors and connect best with God through nature.
SENSATES: Loving God with the Senses
Sensates go deeper in their love for God by using all of their senses to become lost in the awe, beauty, and splendor of God. When they worship they want to be filled with sights, sounds and smells that overwhelm them.
TRADITIONALISTS: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Traditionalists go deeper in their love for God through rituals, symbols and sacraments. They have a need for structure and discipline in their worship.
ASCETICS: Loving God in Silence, Solitude and Simplicity
Ascetics go deeper in their love for God by getting away from the noise of the world and being alone with God. Their faith is more internal than external. They desire to life a simple life, characterized by personal austerity and in a manner that allows for silence, prayer and acts of devotion to God.
ACTIVISTS: Loving God through Obedience
Activists go deeper in their love for God by passionately confronting injustice, standing against evil, and doing great things for God. They are energized by social, missional and evangelistic causes.
CAREGIVERS: Loving God by Loving and Serving Others
Caregivers go deeper in their love for God by serving others in His name. They are energized and sense God’s presence when they are loving their neighbors and caring for “the least of these.”
ENTHUSIASTS: Loving God with Delight and Celebration
Enthusiasts go deeper in their love for God through excitement, praise and emotion. They have their hearts moved and are inspired by experiencing joyful, expressive and celebrative worship.
CONTEMPLATIVES: Loving God through Adoration
Contemplatives go deeper in their love for God through private prayer, adoration, reflection, introspection and listening to God. They avoid anything that chokes out their love of God and have a large capacity for prayer. The images of God as Loving Father and friend best characterize their view of God.
INTELLECTUALS: Loving God with the Mind
Intellectuals go deeper in their love for God through study, robust discussion and stimulation of their minds. They feel closest to God when they learn something new about Him.
The Church’s Role in Helping People Go Deeper
Too frequently churches try to mastermind the ultimate spiritual growth strategy that works for the masses. Or, default to more in depth Bible study and a greater emphasis on prayer as the only viable approaches to going deeper spiritually. Yet, another finding of the Willow Creek REVEAL Survey is that everyone’s spiritual journey is unique, that each person needs something different at the various stages of their spiritual journey to maintain spiritual vitality.
As Thomas’ research suggests, the role then of church leaders is to not develop a one size fits all spiritual growth strategy, but to help people first identify and understand how they most naturally relate to God. And then continually provide the resources and encouragement so they can develop new ways of drawing near to Him and experience a deeper inner spiritual life.
Posted on May 30, 2017