As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus.(1 Peter 2:4-5)
This passage intimates that a healthy church is a spiritual building in the process of construction.
One of my old books of sermons (Gaius Atkins; bet you never heard of him!) has one titled “Craftsmen of the Soul.” Though the language is dated, Atkins makes the great observation: We never labour at our souls alone; we have fellow-craftsmen, seen and unseen. And he speaks of those who have learned a great secret: They are the true craftsmen of the spirit who, having put their souls in their own hands, put them in His pierced hands, to be shaped to timeless uses and fashioned to timeless beauty by the Master-Craftsman.
The healthy church is full of spiritual artisans, each building-up one another, and together being fashioned into a temple worthy of God. Yet how often that spiritual craft gets sidetracked!
After all, we have bricks and mortar building to take care of. And we want more youth. And our parking lots are too small. And we want our worship to be exciting and attractive. And the leadership seminar with the expert who is going to teach me the secret to “doing it all.” And don’t forget the burden of church “business,” or the demand for visits, or the endless counseling, or ….
In doing all the “things” we need (?) to do in order to revitalize our churches, we often neglect spiritual fundamentals. Our churches become like “whitewashed sepulchres,” clean and neat and looking good—but nothing alive inside.
Jim Cymbala (Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire) makes a good argument that church renewal (church health, if you prefer) is rooted in the spiritual life of the church. He quotes Charles Spurgeon: The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. Cymbala claims that every historical revival or church renewal of any significance grew out of a prayer meeting. And makes the counter-claim that doctrinal purity has never brought renewal, but instead distraction and self-deception.
We, the “professional” leaders of the church, are often the most neglectful of our own spiritual being. We do lots of intercessory prayer, but do we often pray as a personal conversation with God? We do lots of Bible study, but do we often read the Bible just to hear God for ourselves?
Obviously, the first call is for us to attend to our own spiritual health. But that is not where it ends. The task of leaders, lay and ordained, both now and in the years ahead, is to create the environment in which people can be formed in Christ, discover how God has gifted them, and then enable them to live out their discipleship in a world which is exhilarating, bewildering, and at the same time altering at breakneck speed.(Richard Kew and Cyril Okorocha Vision Bearers)
“Spirituality” is a buzz-word today. For many it is a substitute for “religion,” or “faith.” Spiritual transformation is a dynamic of two movements: self and other. It requires self-knowledge, -understanding, and -reflection. But it also requires the “other”—spiritual friends and co-travelers, and fundamentally the Other, God.
Biblical spirituality is never something we achieve. It is always a building under construction. It is dynamic and alive, or it is a worthless sham.
© American Baptist Churches
of the Great Rivers Region
Permission to copy for noncommercial use is granted