Less religious, more spiritual?

Lo and behold I came across very interesting article on the CNN webpage that had something to do with faith. Of course, it’s not about one particular belief system or theological approach but there are important facets about spirituality worth consideration.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read an article about or heard someone say he or she was “spiritual” but not “religious.” It seems like these days there are negative connotations related to the latter designation. Being religious, for some, relates to theologial systems and specific beliefs and rituals. It has to do with a cold, formal expression of faith that requires staying within theological boundaries, and one group in particular doesn’t care for what religion is about–real or imagined. I’m talking about millennials, and the CNN article does a good job of pulling in information from LifeWay to describe the problem that churches are facing these days.

What I really like about this article, is the critique of spirituality as being self-centered and “ego” driven. When someone claims to be “spiritual,” he or she is saying that there may be certain aspects of certain belief systems that they like but there are other parts that don’t appeal. The “cafeteria-style” mentality isn’t new but has been attributed to “being spiritual.” Denominational loyalties and brands don’t have the same importance as they did several decades ago, and can be a turn off for those searching for faith in what can turn out to be in all the wrong places.

The point I’m trying to make is that community remains important for believers in Christ. Churches are still seen as “places” even those they need to be known more as people on a journey of discipleship and spiritual growth. The bad press that being religious gets extends to the word “Christian.” There is a growing reluctance to be identified as a Christian because of some baggage that gets places on the term by those who come up with additional requirements to fulfill in order to be a follower of Christ. This is not a new development and we have enough illustrations of this mindset in the gospels that we ought to learn something about it.

I don’t get keyed up if someone says he is religious, but I do understand why those who prefer being called spiritual whether they turn out to be that way or not. The main issue deals with relationships, first and foremost with God through Jesus Christ and then relating to others in the context of a church family. I get concerned when folks isolate and insulate themselves from the body of Christ, yet have become more understanding after hearing story after story about people having bad experiences in church.

I’m all for interfaith discussion and learning more about one another. There are areas of agreement and when we can work together to improve our communities and be better neighbors, we ought to do it. However, there are important distinctions between the faiths and these ought not be glossed over. We Christians can be confessional in expressing our faith without sounding preachy and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest. I hope the church can get up to speed with the culture and find ways to be effective in our witness.

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