I have been spending the past couple of days in San Diego at the General Minister and President's National Pastor's Conference of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). My friend, Diana Butler Bass, has been the speaker. On Wednesday morning she laid out the context for the way in which we do ministry in this day and age. In the afternoon she dealt with perceptions of the church, or religion, and spirituality. All the polls tell us that there is a growing number of people out there who are uncomfortable with traditional religion. Many of them describe themselves as spiritual but not religious (apparently about 25% of the population -- and more so among those under 35 and living west of the Rockies!).
So, as we who are in the "religious profession" must take stock of these trends. We must ask ourselves about context and perception. Although a majority (55% in a Newsweek/WP poll) said they were both spiritual and religious, suggesting that for many there are possibilities for renewal in what is loosely defined as "spiritual," the question then is: What do these terms mean? If you did word association, what words would you use for each? Then ask yourself where you stand in the mix. And finally, as you look at these words, do you see one side of the equation as positive and the other being negative?
And just to get the process going I want to share a YouTube video that Diana shared with us, It's from a British comedy team called Mitchell and Webb. It's called the Rude Vicar. Hopefully, that's not how most of us clergy come off, but the perceptions of the church and religious leaders are rather negative -- and it's not just the media's fault!