The denomination I work for (The Christian and Missionary Alliance) requires its official workers to be licensed and ordained. I received my licensing while still attending Nyack and the Ordination process officially starts once you are placed in a church (February 2009 for me). It is a long and strenuous process filled with monthly reports, going on in-service retreats, meeting with mentors, attending seminars, reading numerous books, reading a few different translations of the Bible, writing numerous papers, etc. This past weekend, I attended on one of those above-mentioned retreats. Luckily for me, the retreat was held relatively close to home (38 miles away) at the camp I have been going to for the past 8 or 9 years. I also have a trailer there (Note: It isn’t officially mine yet, but I am currently making payments on it and I will own it in a few months)! Everyone else attending the retreat had to stay in one of the dorms and share a room with someone. Being that I have the trailer, I had my own solitary place to go to. That is where I wrote most of this from…
I’ve enjoyed my time on the retreat so far and I got to sit in on teaching/training from some of the leaders who work in the District Office of my denomination. I’ve learned a few things about myself and my leadership style as well as heard a few things that got me thinking and provided me with things to chew on and consider. I also had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with three other youth pastors from this district, two of which I have never met before. We discussed ways to get plugged-in to the schools in our ministries cities/areas; which is something that I’ve been thinking/praying about a lot lately. I’ve been looking for some ideas and in the course of 15 minutes, God gave me three great ideas through talking to those guys. But that is for another post…One of the speakers this morning taught the session on Spiritual Formation. She taught some key principles from a book written by Gary Thomas called “Sacred Pathways.” The first question she asked us was:
“Remember one or two times in your life when you felt especially close to God…What were you doing?”
This encouraged us to think back to a time in our life when we felt particularly close to God and made us think about what we were doing. Some answers given were:
“Being on a retreat designed for the purpose of making you get close to God,”
“Going through trials,”
“Being at the beach where she (the person who had this answer) gave her life to Jesus,”
The speaker then began teaching about things called sacred pathways. A sacred pathway is a means by which God draws a believer into a closer sense of spiritual intimacy and relationship with Him. The remainder of the session was going through the different types of spiritual pathways that exist and determining what we could most relate to. Those pathways were: Naturalists, Sensates, Traditionalists, Ascetics, Activists, Caregivers, Enthusiasts, Contemplatives, and Intellectuals. Before she even started, I looked ahead and pinpointed what I thought I was and it turned out that I was right.
I won’t go into much detail about what each one entails, but I will give a few characteristics of each pathway.
Naturalists sense God’s presence when experiencing God’s creation and can visualize scriptural truths, see God more clearly, and learn to rest. Their temptation is that they can get too carried away and begin to idolize nature (worshiping creation instead of the Creator)!
Sensates are individuals who love God with the senses (sound, smell, touch, sight, taste). Ezekiel is a Biblical example of this type of person (Revelation 1:13-17). Their temptation is that they can often worship without conviction but by emotion (based totally on sensory things). They can also worship worship…a.k.a. – they can get too carried away by the experience of worship rather than the object of it (Christ)!
Traditionalists express love for God through rituals and symbols. A Biblical example of this type of person is Ezra and Abraham. They enjoy celebrations and observances. Scripture meditation is an important source of nourishment for them (rightly so!). Their temptation is that they can often serve God without knowing God (1 Samuel 3:1,7), they judge others, and repeat things mechanically (often prayers)!
Ascetics are individuals who love God in solitude and simplicity. They enjoy disciplines of fasting, obeying as a means of honoring God, hard work, taking retreats, living simply (eliminating distractions), enduring hardships. Their temptation is that they overemphasize personal purity (spiritual refreshment must be balanced with ministry to others) and that they can seek pain for its own sake.
Activists are individuals who love God through confrontation (righting wrongs and social injustices). They stay active because they feel it is the best way to express love for God. Biblical examples are Elijah and Moses. Their temptations are: ambition and sexual sings, elitism and resentment (of others not like them), preoccupation with activity and statistics, lack of emphasis on personal holiness.
Caregivers express love for God by loving others. A Biblical example is Mordecai (Esther 2:7). Their temptation is that they are judging, they serve themselves by serving others, and they neglect those closest to them (family).
Enthusiasts love God with mystery and celebration. Their temptations are that they seek experiences for experiences’ sake, they are independent, and they equate “good feelings” with “good worship.”
Contemplatives love God through adoration. A Biblical example is Mary (when she sat at the feet of Jesus). These types of people rest in God’s presence. Their temptation is that they lose balance (they want to be alone with God and avoid being with people), they absorb the ego (God is always God and we don’t become absorbed into God), they forget virtue (need to develop self-discipline and self-control), and they get addicted to spiritual experience (not feelings, but God).
And lastly, intellectuals are types of people who love God with the mind. A Biblical example is Solomon (Psalms 49). They love intellectual training (church history, Biblical studies, systematic theology, ethics, apologetics, and creeds). Their temptations can be: loving controversy, knowing rather than doing, and being proud.
At the beginning, I guessed that I was a contemplative and an intellectual and based on the results of my assessments, I was right. After each category, the speaker gave us a 6 question quiz to assess if we fell into that category of sacred pathways. I scored the highest on those two categories.
After the session, we were given free time to go off on our own to think about, pray about, and think about these things some more. The way I process things is to write them down and sort through them in that manner. This is why I wrote this. Before I started writing and sorting, I went for a walk up into the woods behind the camp. I went to do some praying, enjoy nature (am I a Naturalist?, and shoot my gun. I had an excellent walk, did a lot of praying, but only got to fire one round from my pistol due to the sound of a chainsaw nearby (loggers).When I began to write and sort through some of these new concepts, I learned/recalled that there were certain aspects of each of these sacred pathways that I could relate to but there were only two that I scored highly on.
I learned that I am a contemplative and an intellectual. The main thing of a contemplative sacred pathway is that the individual loves God through adoration. This made me think back to one of my first posts on this blog “Reasons to Praise Him” Another reason that this means of connecting with God relates to me is that I often put a lot of thought into things. One of my friends (and former boss) used to tell me that he enjoyed reading my writings because I’m always thinking and bringing new concepts to things. I don’t always agree with this and sometimes feel like I’m just regurgitating what I’ve heard/read from others, but it’s a cool compliment to receivet. Thanks Dan!
I also learned that I am an intellectual. I sometimes don’t agree with this, but the more I think of it, the more real it seems to me. One of an intellectual’s main things is that the individual loves intellectual training (reading, studying, Biblical studies, systematic theology, apologetics, church history, etc..). I can relate to these things. My bookshelf at home and in my office is another confirmation to this intellectual sacred pathway. I am constantly purchasing and reading new books; I can’t seem to get enough!
In no way am I saying that these are the only two things I use to bring me closer to God, but they do seem to be two of the primary ones.
The reason I am writing is to: 1. Process my thoughts and 2. Find out what types of sacred pathways others use. Maybe there are some that I am missing, or maybe there are some corrections or new additions to the ones that I have listed here.
So, what are some ways that you are drawn into a closer sense of spiritual intimacy and relationship with God? I would love to hear your thoughts/ideas!