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Local Voices: Spiritual, But Not Religious

By Shedrick Byrd

Last week our Sunday School class discussed the topic “spiritual but not religious.” The topic was one chosen by “The Wired Word” which is an adult curriculum received over the internet weekly that weaves current events into weekly Sunday School lessons.

The class found that topic very interesting since, according to the media and other sources, church attendance is on a downward spiral. On Sundays many pews are empty which leads one to wonder what’s going on with church attendance.

One question in the weekly lesson was how would you explain the difference between “spiritual and religious”? There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the definitions of spiritual and religious, so we assumed spiritual was a belief in God or a higher being and religious was a belief in God and is observed by the likes of a monastic order. That is, those who observe and believe in religious vows gather to express their faith.

Another question we encountered was is it possible to satisfy a spiritual hunger without believing in God? The consensus of the class was “no” because spiritual is a belief in God, the same as religious but religious people believe in worshiping in groups.

The scriptural reference to the questions was John 6:35, 44, where Jesus said, “I am the bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty … No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me …”

There seem to be many noises going through the minds of “none-group worshipers” (a phrase I came up with). I asked one of my golf buddies who golfs on Sundays why he didn’t go to church on Sundays. His comment to me was “SHAW.” When asked what that meant he said it was an acronym for “Stay Home And Worship.”

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He further said that sermons were boring to him. He just couldn’t get into going to church. Along with those comments, he also said he is a spiritual person.

It is my belief that many of the people who don’t go to church choose not to go because they do get bored with the sermon. My contention is they have not read and/or understood the Bible. When reading the Bible if you don’t understand that God spoke in parables, and the Pastor reads scriptures as the context of the message, you may get lost in the spoken word, and yes, be bored. I learned that at a late age.

As stated in the Wired Word, some spiritual but not religious people are attending protestant divinity schools to learn the “language of moral discourse.” They receive the training in congregational leadership that is embedded in a seminary education which they consider applicable to other fields.

Maybe there is something to that! They are learning to verbalize a choice or a decision from a spiritual perspective on how to appraise human conduct from a spiritual perspective and give advice about a course of action to others.

Maybe churches should become more familiar with the language of moral discourse and use it to steer the spiritual but not religious into the glory of learning the Bible and sharing the word in churches and group settings.

Let’s not just wait for Sunday. Let’s turn our Bible Study into Bible School and teach the language of moral discourse. Invite the spiritual but not religious – the likes of my golf partner – to attend our classes. Maybe we will get the SHAWs to church.

Shedrick Byrd is a contributor to the New Journal and Guide, and a Deacon at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

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