One of the easy things about being a member of a traditional church is that someone else takes responsibility for providing programs for your spiritual growth. Your job is to choose the program and show up! This can work for us although, after some time, we may find it stifling and religious rather than life-giving.
But one of the challenges of stepping out of traditional church is that we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth and spiritual connections. The fact is, both of these are necessary for healthy, vital, Jesus-following living: spiritual growth and spiritual connections. They work together.
So, what does this look like when we are not relying on the programmed church to provide the programs for connection and growth? Indeed, more than likely a house church gathering (unless it has a lot of connectedness going on a daily basis) also does not meet all the needs we have for vital spiritual connection either.
Let’s reflect on some Biblical needs we have for sustaining spiritual health and consider the variety of ways we might go about deliberately building connections and gatherings into our life. The point is that there is no one program/gathering that fits every need, thus leaving the challenge to each of us to build in what works for us.
1. Spiritual Food - “Man cannot live by bread alone.” This is obviously a need that we can meet ourselves individually as we read and meditate on God’s word for ourselves. But others help us in the feeding process:
- A house church gathering where the word is broken open and shared with one another
- A Bible study with friends
- An online study or video or teaching - especially if there is additional interaction involved
- A discipleship group focusing on eating, digesting, and applying the word of God
2. Spiritual Friends and sharing life with one another - “Love one another…” and “Bear one another’s burdens…”
- A house church gathering of spiritual friends
- Coffee or a meal with spiritual friends
- An activity (hiking, working out, or anything) shared regularly with spiritual friends
- Prayer groups
3. Healing Community - “Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.”
- A house church community that is safe and open so that vulnerability with one another can be shared
- A 12-step meeting or Celebrate Recovery group
- A very good, spiritual friend with whom we can share openly and be honest with one another
- A close-knit group of spiritual friends who meet regularly for open sharing
4. Worship, Prayer, or Deeper Spiritual Life. This is, again, an area where we are able to pursue this on our own but spiritual connection with others help.
- Small group worship times whether house church or others
- Large celebration worship events
- Prayer meetings
- Spiritual / prayer retreats
- Contemplative prayer groups
- Nature retreats
5. Personal Mentors, Disciplers, and/or Spiritual Directors - “I am a father to you in the Lord…” This is probably one of the most important and least sought-after connection whether people are in or out of traditional churches.
- A discipleship group in which I am being discipled
- An informal or formal relationship with a mentor or spiritual director
- Any ‘elder’ that you have invited into your life to guide, direct, challenge, or support you
6. Mission - “Go into all the world…”
- A house church that shares a common, spiritual mission
- A house church that encourages us in our own personal mission and missional lifestyle
- Any group of people that we share a common, spiritual mission with
- Involvement in a local mission cause or organization
- Connection/involvement with others who are going on mission
- Going on mission to other places or peoples
Note that some of these connections can be done virtually and thus do not, necessarily, require a face-to-face encounter though the latter is often much more potent.
The point? We were never called to ‘go to church’ where others program our spiritual life. But, we have been called to an intentional Jesus-following lifestyle which does include regular spiritual connections. We need these to live vital, spiritually growing lives. Without the programming of traditional churches we will need to step into rhythms of connectedness that work for us.
Have you lost intentionality in several of these areas and feeling the dryness as a result? It may be time to ask God for some direction as to how He might refresh you and connect you to others who might support you in one or more of these areas:
- Spiritual food
- Spiritual friends
- Healing community
- Worship, prayer, and deeper spiritual life
- Mentors / Disciplers
- Mission partners or encouragers
What is your experience with taking responsibility to develop healthy spiritual connections with others? What can you add to the different lists of ways to connect?