Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Church's Spirituality and the 1900's

Jesus said that we are to go to all the world and preach the message the he has started. The era of the church in the west since 1900 has many interesting figures. These figures are dedicated to preaching along with bringing a renewed since of social justice. Jesus commands with the goal of baptizing the new believers and then to teach them that he had taught the early disciples. The 1900's separate themselves in that this era grabs the concept of going to all the world. Mission efforts increase and the actions of the dedicated believers is so proclaim the message throughout all the world, through all social classes, beyond race barriers, and beyond gender distinctions.

Mother Teresa seemed to cross all cultural and denominational barriers in her calling. She saw her faith and action as a dedication to God and his calling on her life. She stated, “As to my calling, I belong to the whole world. As to my hearts, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus.” The personalities of the era look beyond their limitations and allow the Holy Spirit bring to fruition the goals that Jesus established in his great commission to go, baptize, and make disciples. God's power of grace and truth permeate the anti-God culture that emerges in the second half of the 1900's. It is this dedication and search for God on a global scale that transcends cultural barriers so that the good news of Jesus is preached.

Thomas Merton writes on these thoughts prolifically. His confessions follow that of Augustine and is a story of a worldly young man who radically changes the direction of his life so as to devote himself to God. Merton changes his perception that he is to escape the world, but that he is to serve the world as a member of it. Holt records of Merton as: “Merton saw his responsibility in that world to be wider than prayer for it.” Merton himself writes, “Christian holiness is our age means more than ever the awareness of our common responsibility to cooperate with the mysterious design of God for the human race.” It is this since of responsibility that calls and spurs us on to serve the world in which we live so as to bring a message of the good news of the gospel to those around us on a daily basis.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a great illustration to this era's endeavor to reach beyond the message into helping the world see the message. The task is accomplished in the servant attitude that is so desperately needed through out all cultures. A servant heart looks to Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the grace to accept with serenity the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” and establishes a sense that change needs to take place and through God's grace and truth, believers present the message of Jesus for change.

Church has also developed the outreach programs in order to develop the spiritual life within the believers through the 1900s. Development of education, communication, and technology has advanced the work of the church in connecting people to Jesus and to each other. Richard Foster describes twelve spiritual disciplines that are organized into three categories. These categories are: “the inward, the outward, and the corporate disciplines.” Each of these disciplines bring about change with in the believer for the transformation of the soul. Foster writes: “The disciplines are the path of the spiritual life. This path leads to the inner transformation and healing for which we seek.” The healing of the soul and restored connection with the creator are realized in the practice of the spiritual disciplines.

Another development is in the area of equipping the believers for individual service. This was not a new development for the church, but that the equipping is accomplished through embracing of psychology and the recognition of individual talents for the purpose of propagation of the message and increased effectiveness for service. Karl G. Jung embraced this union of psychology and spirituality. His work is a major contributor for the development of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test that is widely used as a resource for spiritual direction and mentoring. The church in the 1900's is a church that takes the message and uses the knowledge of the psyche so as to maneuver an increased effectiveness in kingdom advancement.

The 1900's were an exciting time for the Kingdom of God. The advancement of the good news began having an greater global impact then ever before. The church in South America and Africa grew in great numbers. The church in Europe slowed down in its growth, yet the dedicated maintained a remnant of believers for the purpose of advancing the message of grace and truth. The Catholic and Protestant movements started seeing more cooperation, especially in the area of praying for unity. Believers also began serving other religions and cultures in the name of Jesus so as to win them. The words of Jesus to go, to preach, and baptize were embraced and expressed in new and creative ways that transformed lives and connected people to their creator for all eternity.

 Seeking transformation....you know I love ya, Don


Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005).

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