Do Christians know how to be spiritual?
John Drance, DLT, 2005, 240pp, £12.95 ISBN 0 2325 2632 X
Drane challenges how we have packaged Christianity in such a way that engaging with this increasingly ‘spiritual’ generation is made more difficult. Before some people might get worried, the author does recognise that not all ‘spirituality’ is good, healthy and Christian!
In the first chapter Drane takes us on the journey from religion to spirituality. Religion has become a negative word connected to institutions, while spirituality is more open and positive in common parlance. Because material prosperity has not delivered happiness, people are opening their inner lives more easily and so becoming more spiritual. Drane argues that this reflects an openness to three key questions: how do we think about the universe; who do you think you are; what do you believe about belief?
Drane traces spirituality in everyday life when so often Christians have not been seeing God there. He illustrates his point about everyday spirituality by quoting writers that many Christians would not read, such as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to spirituality in the work place, published in 2002. Drane writes ‘From a missiological perspective, the sense of emptiness and the need to fill spaces with something of meaning - even if it is only organic food or environmentally friendly washing powder - represents a desperate search for reality in our culture, which Christians should neither ignore or ridicule’. We should thank God that Drane is helping us to see the world in which we live with the eyes of discernment and vision and helping us be more effective in mission.
We are reminded that some Christians demonise the new spirituality without the discernment that Drane demonstrates. I was challenged when he wrote ‘The extent of any individual’s personal spirituality can be gauged by the level of enthusiasm with which they want to share their story with other people’. Stories are a key part of life for millions - sometimes living out the soap stories. Drane challenges us to know our story - and the Christian story - and to share these in the everyday world.
My own experience echoes the Drane’s comments in chapter four: ‘Christians seem to be lacking any confidence in speaking about their own spiritual journey not only with people in the wider culture, but even with others in their own congregations’. Perhaps we could try next Sunday!
Using models of engagement from the Bible and Christian history, this book helps us with signposts for a better future and could help us with a practical theology for fresh expressions of church. Sometimes when reading and when hearing about current church experiences, I wanted to ask ‘How do we know that experience is of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?’, but this book has many things to say to help us reach the lost. It helps us understand our world, but also helps us be biblical in our living and mission. I warmly commend it.
Reviewed by Andrew JM Barker, who is currently involved in a variety of projects but joining the Melton Mowbray Circuit in 2007 to spend half of his times helping the circuit look at Fresh Expressions.
Headline, Autumn 2007, p.26