Israel Galindo, writing In The Hidden Lives of Congregations – Discerning Church Dynamics says ‘Understanding the hidden spiritual style of a congregation will help its leaders and members appreciate that no one congregation is for everybody’ (see chapter 6 for more on this).
Academically Galindo gives us a range of spiritualties to consider and even choose from:
- Many mainline churches lean towards cognitive spirituality sometimes known as the spirituality of the head focusing on concepts and doctrine.
- Affective spirituality pulls on our hearts and emotions as we experience the faith.
- Attractive to searchers are churches that tend towards a pilgrim spirituality. Faith is a continual journey that is open to questions and exploration.
- Often existing as a sub-set of a congregation are those members who are drawn to a mystical spirituality full of contemplation, spiritual discipline and intimate reflection.
- Living out faith in action, and believing that faith is action are those who practice servant spirituality.
- Similar to servant spirituality but with much more emphasis on “mission” is crusader spirituality.
This list, along with its very brief explanations, is obviously not exhaustive but sometimes it is good to limit your options so that you can focus. Considering your own church, can the spiritual style easily be discerned? Is it visible or is it hidden? If it is hidden how does effect the whole church especially when we think about systems theory? I suggested in one of the choices above that that particular style of spirituality may be a subset. In practice your church is likely to have multiple styles co-existing, but ask yourself do they coexist well?
There are examples of Jesus exhibiting all of these styles. As a teacher and interpreter of the law his spirituality was cognitive. The disciples daily were influenced by his affective spirituality. The journey from the stable to the cross embraced pilgrim spirituality. The times when our Lord took his disciples to one side and opened their minds was full of mystical spirituality. Examples of servant spirituality are crammed in page by page in the gospels and the Great Commission is often seen as the foundation of crusader spirituality.
Jesus may have been able to be a good practitioner of each of the styles but very few of us, or the churches that we lead and belong to, can be as good. It is important that we reflect on our own spiritual styles, both visible and invisible. When we can identify the styles we will understand better how we react and appear to those who wander through our doors and how we interact with each other. Galindo gives the example of a well pressed family walking through the doors of his church for the first time, each member of the family holding their own copy of a well-thumbed bible. The greater, who happened to know the spiritual style of the church well, tactfully told the family that they were most welcome but that the church down the road may be more suited to them. Recently I have been visiting a number of different churches, I think it is time that I go and find time to reflect on what spiritual style I encountered in each, and how that was compatible with my own style.