I heard this week, part of a CBC radio interview with a professor of religion at Duke University. As she was interviewed, I heard again about the decline in institutional faith based organizations. She went on to say the quote that I have often got from people. “I am not religious, but I am spiritual.” To which I have often replied, I am not religious either but I am spiritually alive because of a life changing relationship. That usually starts a great conversation about religion and spirituality. If the conversation continues, I ask more questions of the individual which allows me to talk about Jesus Christ, my life transforming relationship. Both words: religion and spirituality in our culture are defined with selfish pursuits as their end.
As the CBC interview progressed, I did come upon some gems from the professor. She said in her research that people are walking away from religious institutions because they are missing two key inner drivers or longings in their life: Compassion and Community. People long that these two needs be met since we are all spiritual beings as she intimated. Individuals are not looking for dead orthodoxy, staid religious rituals or the mechanical religious forms of the past but compassion and authentic community as she explained.
The early church demonstrated both of these spiritual essentials in the book of Acts. Take a look at Acts chapter 2 after the gospel is preached by Peter and it is received. The result is demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47. You see these two qualities lived out as they met one another’s needs by ministering sacrificially and practically with the love of Jesus Christ. Through a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, compassion and community are the results of gospel transformation. Without Christ centred living you will not have compassion and authentic community. Both are found in Christ. Both are the results of knowing Christ.
Now I understand, many Christian churches are dying in North America because they have forgotten to practice these two qualities with each other and newcomers to their churches. But like the good religious professor, they have forgotten the key person that produces compassion and community among people: Jesus Christ. There are many thousands of growing and healthy churches that do not get the media attention that are compassionate and growing in an authentic community because they are Christ-centered.
As I watch and hear the reports from the tragic hurricane that has hit Houston Texas. Compassion and Community are being carried out by thousands of people. I am glad so many of them are people of true faith who are making a difference through Christian organizations and individual followers of Jesus. Hopefully, we can all contribute as we help our neighbours to the south rebuild. Compassion and Community are needed in each of our lives especially in the tragedies of life.
The CBC interview missed the primary point or person necessary for these two qualities to impact people. It is really a three point alliterated sermon. Christ, Compassion, Community. Christ produces genuine Compassion and Community. When Christ is the centre of our lives, Compassion and Community break out!
I hope to share the link from the interview once I find it on the search engine of CBC.ca