Generally when we think about what it means to practice our faith as Christians, we think about private, individual activities. Quiet times, devotions, Bible studies, memorization and meditation, etc. We also think about “sinning less” and solving life’s problems.
In short, the way we think about our “spiritual life” is generally individualistic and compartmentalized. That is, it mainly involves just me getting more holy, and it’s something I do in addition to my “normal life.”
The reason we think this way is that we’re Western Christians, and we’ve been taught to divide our lives up into two parts: the “spiritual” spaces where we can experience God and sense him working in our lives (think church services, Bible studies, prayer times, etc.), and the normal, “everyday” spaces where we’re pretty much on our own.
Not only that, but our culture prioritizes individual achievement over communal life, meaning we spend our lives striving to “be somebody” and we miss out on just simply being with others. This individualistic mindset has given rise to a “lone ranger” kind of Christianity, where getting closer to God becomes something I have to figure out and accomplish on my own.
This way of thinking has been the “operating system” of our Christian faith in America for many years and as a result, the ways we practice our faith tend to be individualistic (we strive to be independent and self-reliant), dualistic (we adopt an “us vs. them,” right-or-wrong mentality), cerebral (we become overly focused on the mind and neglect our bodies and emotions), and technique-oriented (we want to hear “Ten Easy Steps to a Happier Life”).
The tools we’ll be using in this training don’t mesh very well with a Western individualistic mindset, so before we learn how to use them, we want to introduce the foundational “operating system” that they run on. This operating system is what we call “everyday spirituality.” Before we can unpack that phrase, though, we need to say a few words about what God is doing in the world and in our lives.
In other words, we need to talk about God’s mission.
God as initiator
“Mission” is a word that is used a lot in Christian circles these days. It often refers to what Christians do to serve the needy in their communities, or to bring help and healing to people in faraway countries.
But the mission we are talking about is not first our mission as human beings to fix our world (and our own lives). Rather, the “mission” we are talking about is God’s mission—or, if you like, “what God is doing in the world.”
God is intimately involved in the world he created, and is always working to bring healing and salvation to his people (including you and me!), whether we are aware of it or not.
Everyday spirituality recognizes that mission is not something the church does for God, it’s something the church does with God, because God was doing it first, before we even recognized it. Everyday spirituality assumes that everything we do as the church is an act of joining in with something God is pioneering.
The Father is the initiator of every good thing that happens in our lives and in our world..
Jesus as pattern
Everyday spirituality also assumes that when the church pursues healing and wholeness—that is, when we “do mission” —that we are to do it in the same way that God does it. God’s ultimate act of mission was sending Jesus, so we look to Jesus for cues on the posture we must take in mission if we’re going to actually be joining God in his work.
“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you,” Jesus told his disciples. The “as” there means “in the same way… with the same posture…”
Jesus wasn’t merely one element of God’s mission to bring healing to the world, he was the ultimate revelation of the God who is on mission. Jesus shows us what God is really like. When we look at Jesus, we’re seeing a perfect representation of God the Father.
Jesus is our pattern for mission. He shows us how we are to pursue healing and wholeness in our world and in our lives.
Holy Spirit as catalyst
Finally, everyday spirituality recognizes that pursuing wholeness—whether in our own lives or in the world around us— is never something we do in our own strength and ingenuity. It’s always with God, never simply for him. And it’s always empowered by the Spirit, never simply something we do in our own strength.
The Holy Spirit is how God is with us now, guiding and empowering mission in our everyday lives. A big part of learning to walk in faith is becoming more constantly aware of the Spirit’s presence and power among us as disciples, or followers of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit, then, is the catalyst for our pursuit of healing and wholeness.
6 axioms for everyday spirituality
Now that we’ve seen how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work to bring healing to our world, we can move into the six axioms that lay the foundation for this everyday spirituality.
We’ve tried to distill a lot of theology (a word which simply means “things we say about God”) into simple axioms because we need simple “hooks” like these to help us keep this reality in mind as we practice our Christian faith. We need a way to keep these foundational truths present in our minds and bodies, because if we don’t, the tools we’re going to learn won’t work as designed.
Here are six key assumptions we make about our world and life with God that inform and influence our missional spirituality that we will attempt to construct in our training.
- God is always present and at work.
- God is like Jesus and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all.
- We meet God in reality.
- God cares more about our discipleship than we do.
- What God wants to do through you he will first do in you.
- The goal of discipleship is divine union (not moral perfection or doctrinal certitude).
They may seem quite simple to you, but we’ve found that most people don’t actually live their lives as if they were true. Our first task in this training is to lay out these axioms and begin to give a vision for what life would be like if we really believed them to be true.
Over the next six weeks, we’ll cover one axiom per week, doing some reading on it and engaging in an exercise with it.
Questions for reflection
- What thoughts or feelings does the phrase “everyday spirituality” stir in you?
- Which of these axioms is most intriguing to you? Why do you think that is?
- Which of these axioms brings up the most questions for you?
Come to our next DNA group ready to share and process your reflections from these questions.