October 2, 2018 webmaster

Fostering Authentic Spirituality in the Church

There are many reasons why someone decides to follow in the way of Christ. Some come to follow Christ at different ages, different life stages, and from different perspectives. Some come to follow Christ because of a personal circumstance or developed perspective. Some choose to follow Christ mainly because they were born into the culture of Christianity; it stands as a safe environment for them because they were deeply rooted in it from the beginning. These people have often learned to rarely question the faith because doing so would be tantamount to doubting or rebelling against their faith community and God. As a result, the individual, quite often, never fully transitions from the faith they grew up with to a faith that is their own. This can create a mental list of “do’s and don’ts” or other boundary markers that comprise their eschatological perspective – one where continuing with the faith is a battle between going to heaven and avoiding hell.

As a result, the individual, quite often, never fully transitions from the faith they grew up with to a faith that is their own.

In my work as a pastor, I encounter a great many congregants who exhibit this type of conforming faith. Thankfully they have a great appreciation for Christianity and have made a decision to follow God. But, unfortunately, the faith that they have embraced relegates Jesus as not much more than the provider of proverbial “fire insurance.”[1]

My task when faced with these people in the church is to first create a safe atmosphere for them to ask questions about their faith appropriately[2] and, second, to help them come to a faith found in Scripture as it relates to their walk with Christ.

Some faith communities today, though they may encourage biblical discussion through small groups, seldom grasp the full importance of questioning when it comes to seeking genuine sanctification. Leaders are not uplifting their spiritual daughters and sons in the faith if they hush questioning voices regarding the very real complexities and perplexities that come part and parcel with following Christ.

After all, questions are what accelerate relationships forward into intimacy.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship with your spouse or your best friend. Questions ensured the conversation’s movement. Questions and the following answers helped explore similarities and differences between you. Questions can open the door to reveal the real person that lies just beneath the surface. [3]

In order to truly commit ourselves to an authentic functioning faith, our church communities would do well to consider cultivating an environment that encourages the sacred art of questioning. We may do this by being open with our questions about the faith and by modeling what it means to embrace the unknown answers through dependence on God.

In order to truly commit ourselves to an authentic functioning faith, our church communities would do well to consider cultivating an environment that encourages the sacred art of questioning.

God desires unity over uniformity. Therefore, grace should become our chief dialect as Christ followers. Your brother or sister in Christ will not use the same metaphors and analogies to express Christ that you will. For instance, some Christ-followers may attribute God as holding characteristics that resemble an eagle, while others might assimilate God to holding characteristics more similar to that of a lion. This variety mobilizes the Gospel to be all things to all people. Instead of thinking the church must know every answer, we as church leaders should consider embodying a humility that shifts perspective into acknowledging God’s transcendence. Appreciation should be spent on the fact that we have not fully “arrived” at understanding all matters pertaining to Christ, and we should instead concentrate on becoming more like Christ in our everyday lives.

Instead of thinking the church must know every answer, we as church leaders should consider embodying a humility that shifts perspective into acknowledging God’s transcendence

If we can cultivate communities where questioning is not feared but seen as an essential component of our faith journey where answers are biblically based, founded in Christ, and explored by the Spirit, we will be well on the way of nurturing an authentic spirituality.

How can the church begin developing this type of transparency?

  1. Create safe communities where new or experienced church-comers can ask questions without fear of rejection.
  2. Create a protected environment where those who have studied and gone through their own spiritual questioning can provide those asking questions with tangible resources or guidance in finding answers.
  3. Along with the Spirit’s direction, continue to think through answers to questions as a pastoral staff by reading books, blogs, and recorded accounts. Be aware of what culture is currently questioning and filter it through deep research, prayer, and dialogue in order to prepare for when they are brought to public attention.

In this way, we can help foster communities of deep and genuine spirituality.


[1] See Miroslav Volf’s Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace for a more in-depth look at this phenomenon.

[2] See Philippians 2:12-13. While these individuals must question and at times wrestle with their understanding of God in order to arrive at their own personal commitment, they must do so by leaning into the faith and trusting that God will reveal Godself to them in a personal and powerful way. In these instances, they are encouraged to seek the support and guidance of more mature Christ-followers who have gone through this process themselves.

[3] See David Dark’s The Sacredness of Questioning Everything where he states, “I believe deliverance begins with questions. It begins with people who love questions, people who live with questions and by questions…”

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