At a Renaissance Weekend panel discussion regarding the changing nature of spirituality, I shared three areas in which I believe people in our western culture are desperately experiencing need:
1. To know and to be known.We connect a lot through social media and social conventions like happy hour, but we are profoundly lonely. We have 700 “friends” on facebook, but feel completely friendless–who understands the real us, wants to know what we think and feel, knows our ugly sides, and likes us anyway?
Our compelling need for connection has moved us into this hyper virtual networking era. But with a disastrous effect: we are placated with “pokes”, “pings”, “walls”, and “tweets” and therefore oblivious to the fact that we fundamentally lack relationship. We were made for connection–deep, relational unity–with God and with each other. That is the true nature of spirituality. Woven into the fabric of our souls is a profound desire to know God and be known by Him, to know each other and to be known by others.
2. To overcome serious (secret) struggles and suffering.It would appear that we are a more open and transparent society than ever before. Everything from the articles we read to the desserts we eat are plastered on the world wide web for all to see. Yet, I believe our social networking “transparency” is a facade for true transparency and authenticity.
For example, we struggle more deeply with assaults against our body and soul than ever before–broken families and relationships, addictions, health problems, financial crises, and wounded sexuality (e.g., porn, affairs, etc.) But we don’t share these things on the world wide web, or with anyone, actually. Who knows us that well? Who can we trust to listen to us, help us, and not pile shame onto what we already are feeling? We desperately want and need help, freedom, and victory in these areas. But we don’t even know where to turn for help. Even if we had someone we could trust, who has the power to free us?
3. To make a meaningful contribution to something significant that will last beyond their lifetime. We need to make a difference. A difference beyond ourselves. A difference beyond our lifetime. This isn’t a generational phenomenon. This is a human phenomenon. We were made for more than this. We were made for eternity. Imbedded in the essence of our humanity is an awareness of, and pursuit of, the eternal. We see this in stories of our cultural subconscious, from Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Life to the recent fascination with vampires. And we don’t just want eternal life, we want to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.
In my experience, the only answer to each of these needs is Jesus. Jesus knows us and made us to know Him. Our deep need for relationship can be fulfilled vertically with God. And was meant to be–God put that need in us so we would seek Him. He also made us to have unity and spiritual relationship with each other. So our deep longing for relationship is an expression of God in us. An inherently spiritual expression. Similarly, Jesus alone heals us, frees us, and helps us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is our healer. And by His blood, we overcome.
Our only answer to our most shaming, most impossible struggles and suffering is Him. And when the church is composed of people who truly follow Him and are filled with the power of His Spirit, they are agents Of healing and victory. Spiritual doctors, if you will, and the church is a spiritual hospital. Finally, Jesus gives us eternal life, real eternal life (unlike fountains and vampires). He also invites us to make eternal differences in the lives of others. He commissions us to heal others, bring them hope, and offer them life and joy instead of death and despair. There is no greater calling than this. That’s why I love ministry. and for which I believe Jesus Christ, as expressed through His body, the Church, is the only answer.