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Beware of Spirituality without Theology

I tend to throw around the word “spirituality” a lot these days. Maybe that’s because it seems to be so popular, so common, so “in.” “Let’s find our spirituality. What is your pursuit of spirituality? Spirituality is far more important than religion.” Etcetera.

I was even working on a sermon this morning where I was focusing on developing our spirituality. We are to grow spiritually. We are spiritual beings. We are to be a part of a spiritual community. Yes, yes, and yes.

But what does that mean?

Are you growing spiritually? Do you think about your spirituality? Or is spirituality for you too nebulous or ethereal?

What I have found over the years is that there are “thinkers” and “feelers,” and those Myers-Briggs classifications are not just for personality types. They also become fairly accurate descriptions of different approaches to the Christian faith.

Thinkers are theologians, academicians, and apologists. Feelers are worshipers, charismatics, and experience-seekers. Thinkers use their minds. Feelers use their hearts. Thinkers are into rational faith. Feelers are into spirituality. Or so we’ve been made to believe.

This dichotomy is not only false; it’s dangerous. Theologians who have no spirituality become arid deserts of benign rational thought. Worshipers who have no theology (good theology, that is) become experience junkies with a surface spirituality.

If you are someone who likes to study the Bible and listen to “deep” sermons, but you are not developing a contemplative life, you will become a Pharisee. If you are someone who could listen to Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture, or Hillsong all day, but you never crack open the Sacred Book, you will become a feel-good fan of the latest pop Christianity rather than a follower of Jesus.

Andrew Louth, emeritus professor of patristic and Byzantine studies in the Department of Theology and Religion of Durham University (how’s that for a mouth full?), once wrote,

Spirituality is necessary to theology to keep it in its proper vocation. . . . Theology is necessary to spirituality to keep it to its proper vocation. `He who prays is a theologian; a theologian is one who prays,’ to quote Evagrius. The danger of a non- or un-theological spirituality is, I think, that it will tend to become a mere cult of devotion, or devotedness, not to anything in particular but just in itself (“Theology and Spirituality,” Origen Society, 1974).

A healthy spirituality includes a Christ-centered theology. A healthy theology includes a Christ-centered spirituality. I challenge you to search your heart and your mind to see if both are working in tandem to cultivate “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Unsustainable

How are you doing with your play time?

Not sure you should even have a play time? Are you too grown up and mature for downtime, rest, and even . . . play? Well, maybe this is part of what you’re missing in life, and you’re beginning to pay the price.

Research conducted by Dr. Stuart Brown, psychiatrist, clinical researcher, and founder of the National Institute for Play, reveals that a lack of downtime leads to lower work productivity, social isolation, and even depression. Brown says, “The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression” (Dare to Lead, 107).

Through extensive studies, Dr. Brown and his institute have discovered that play increases empathy, creativity and innovation. It actually impacts our brain waves by creating a “cool down” from the frenetic pace of synapses permitting neurons to pass electrical or chemical signals to other neurons.

If you want to be more productive at work, become intentional about cultivating play and sleep. Dr. Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, puts it this way: “We have to let go of exhaustion, busyness, and productivity as status symbols and measures of self-worth. We are impressing no one” (ibid., 106).

Practically speaking, this means many of us need to make some changes. We need to establish boundaries by shutting off email and social media at a set time in order to focus on our families and our spiritual and emotional health. We need to stop celebrating people who work eighty-hours per week and stop bragging about how we’re tethered to our laptops, as though that somehow makes us important.

Are you living at an unsustainable pace? If so, you are opening yourself up to some dangerous side effects of depression, anxiety, and burnout. And you are continuing to feed a culture of workaholic competitiveness in which no one wins.

Jesus’ solution was simple. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31, NIV). Go with Jesus. Find a quiet place. Get some rest.

My mentor, Alan Ahlgrim, always says, “Change of place + change of pace + change of people = change of perspective.”

Not bad advice. Sounds like it came from Jesus.

Sometimes I lay awake at night with my heart pounding in my chest. Sometimes I can’t “shut off my brain” as I try to think through a problem at work. Sometimes I find the joy draining out of my soul. When these things happen, I realize that my work pace has overtaken my faith place, and I need to come away with Jesus, find a quiet place, and get some rest. And sometimes that even includes . . . play.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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