Beyond “Spiritual But Not Religious”

How many people do you know who identify as “Spiritual But Not Religious?”

My understanding of SBNR is that these people believe there is a God and a moral code that revolves around unconditional love. They want to live inspired lives of meaning and purpose and usually get a lot of satisfaction from helping people. They are spiritual, and that’s great.

But, for as much as they love God, seek wisdom, and strive to constantly improve, they just don’t feel comfortable identifying with a religion, especially Christianity in the U.S.A. Religion to them is about outdated traditions, empty rituals, ignoring scientific insights, money-hungry preachers, egotistical leaders, and pedophile priests. Besides, they figure, the average churchgoer is not demonstrably better-behaved or better-off than the average non-churchgoer. The only apparent difference is, if you don’t go to church, you get more of your weekend to yourself.

I’m a pastor, and even I have to admit, if I had to choose between being spiritual or being religious, I’d go with spiritual every time. Fortunately, though, I don’t have to choose. Because what is better than being one or the other is my decision to be both spiritual and religious.

Spirituality is the goal, and religion is the admittedly flawed, human-created vehicle that helps us achieve the goal. Religion can be a beautiful thing when it is practiced by spiritual people. Religion is what gives spiritual people an excuse to congregate and pool their resources for the greater good. Practicing religion encourages you to study scriptures, something most SBNRs wish they did more anyway. Going to a spiritual church, you will learn how to pray more effectively, be consistently inspired, get involved in community service, and meet an extended family who will help you however they can.

Granted, all churches aren’t created equal, but so what? By all means, if a church isn’t spiritual, stop going so that they either get spiritual or go out of business as quickly as possible. But for all the negative press and as unpopular as is sounds in today’s world, the best thing many spiritual seekers can do is get involved in a good church.


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