Part 1: Making meaning as a spiritual and religious community
People are driving by our congregations without even noticing that we gather weekly to worship a remarkable God. Remarkable means worthy of attention, which begs the question, how are we reflecting God in our congregations? Has our expression of God become so “head-focused” that we have undervalued the heart and soul of our faith that would communicate a remarkable God?
In his book, “A Whole New Mind,” Daniel Pink makes a compelling argument that in the past, the culture of the US (along with other countries) has over-engaged and over-valued what has been typically understood as left-brain thinking (linear, analytical, objective thought). He makes the case that by devaluing the right-brain (artistic, subjective, intuitive, thoughtful) side of humanity, we have also devalued what is emerging as essential to thrive in this changing world. The right-brain / left-brain theory originated in the work of Roger W. Sperry, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981. Today, neuroscientists know that the two sides of the brain collaborate to perform a broad variety of tasks and that the two hemispheres communicate through the corpus callosum. This new understanding of how the left and right brain works together offers insight for congregational leaders as we wonder out loud about religion (left brain) and spirituality (right brain) faith and our expression of a remarkable God.
Spiritual longing is all around us, yet “church” is not the default for people on this quest in part because most of our churches just aren’t all that spiritual if by spiritual we are talking about a mystical, visual, experiential space for wondering about God. A quick click of your search engine will tell you that spirituality and religion are two separate things occasionally blended together. I want to push back on this. While they may be split in some places, spirituality and religion are, like both sides of the brain, joined together. We call this faith.
What is the point of the church if it isn’t to nurture our spiritual lives as we are loved by God and learn to love like God? Isn’t that faith formation? I’m thinking, what could be more mystical than our sacraments? More visual than how we engage our neighborhood? More experiential than how we wrestle with our faith together? Do we have a branding problem, a behavior problem, or both?
Here’s a little homework:
Everything we do in our congregation preaches. Starting with your website (your front door) and your building, walk around and ask what sermon is begin communicated. Take a critical look at all of your print and digital resources and reflect on two questions:
- Who is this for?
- What is the overall message we are communicating?
Next week’s article will focus on making meaning through storytelling and design.