We have a compulsion to bring polarities and dualisms where they do not exist.
There is a search out there for the spiritual. When is it also a desire for escape, an add-on to the material, an off-shoot? The spiritual actually is calling the material, there is no dichotomy, so in this way, Christianity is radical, in so much as it calls for the transformation of the whole of your life.
So what do we do with this quest for the spiritual?
A Midlands chaplaincy changed its name to 'Faith and Spirituality centre' and saw a huge increase in interest.
Do we just need to repackage what we are doing? How much are we giving in to
social mores or inculturating ourselves into context?
So 'Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own,' (John 7:17).
Are we being invited to build relationships and to walk the journey through with people? Do we have to look again at our evangelism programs and ask questions? Should we have programs?
We are to engage with people and address together what matters in our local communities so that justice and transformation can come.
Ramachandra in 'What is integral mission' explores how our calling is to love God and love our neighbour.'
So this takes priority over doctrinal assent - yes?
James Heard in Inside Alpha Explorations in Evangelism,believes that Alpha is for those who are de-churched, those who have some faith. It re-calls. Billy Graham recalled in the seventies and eighties, brought people back home again to the faith that they had deeply buried or even lost.
Do we need to start further back? Have people got this buried treasure or is there more the sense that they are beginning something truly new in our post-Christendom context?
There is the Emmaus course, which describes itself this way:
Emmaus: The Way of Faith is a course designed to welcome people into the Christian faith and the life of the church. It aims to involve the whole church in evangelism, the nurture of new believers and ongoing Christian discipleship. It is rooted in an understanding of evangelism, nurture and discipleship modelled on the example of Jesus in the story of the Emmaus Road.
One other way through all of this and the pressure to move on, which we often suffer from with courses, is where you go instead for something organic and creative, at the pace of the people in the group and in respondse to their areas of interest or puzzle. Become a group of people on a journey together.
So how do we balance the received set of stories that are peculiarly Christian with the exploration of individual stories and people's spiritual experiences? We need a definite content and a shape but the content should not dominate and time needs to be allowed to explore certain issues that might really touch people where they are vulnerable etc. Be holistic in approach. And to do this well, perhaps we need to be more responsible and creative, adapting and creating material to our own particular contexts.