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Christian Life

“Sacred Pathways”: A Wonderful Book that Helped Me Grow Spiritually

The most consistent way that I know of to grow with God spiritually is by spending time in prayer and reading the Bible, but other things can add to your spiritual walk. Earlier this year I discovered a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. Sacred Pathways is all about how we most deeply connect with God. This book let me experience a freedom and growth in my relationship with God unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

Over and over again we give Christians the same spiritual prescription: ‘You want to grow as a Christian? All you have to do is develop a quiet time and come to church every weekend’ (Thomas, Sacred Pathways).

In his book, Thomas identifies nine different ways that people may relate to God (all quotes from Sacred Pathways):

  • Naturalists: Loving God Outdoors – These Christians love spending time outdoors and they believe that all of nature declares the glory of God (Psalm 19). These Christians prefer to pray while sitting by a river or walking through a meadow. “When they are outdoors, their heart soars to worship God.”
  • Sensates: Loving God with the Senses – These Christians feel closest to God when many of their senses are engaged. Sensates enjoy the smell of incense; beautiful works of art and old, magnificent architecture; and classical music or formal language. “Whereas some Christians might find such a sensuous onslaught distracting, these Christians delight in it.”
  • Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol – Traditionalists feel closest to God while enjoying rituals such as communion, tithing, and attending regular church services. “Traditionalists have a need for ritual and structure.”
  • Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity – Imagine medieval monks and you will have a pretty clear idea of how ascetics love to spend time with God. “Ascetics want nothing more than to be left alone to pray in silence and simplicity.”
  • Activists: Loving God through Confrontation – Activists are all about justice. They feel closest to God when they are fighting injustice. Activists may favor causes like Invisible Children. “They define worship as standing against evil and calling sinners to repentance.”
  • Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others – Mother Teresa is a prime example of someone with a caregiver pathway. Caregivers “often claim to see Christ in the poor and needy, and their faith is built up by interacting with other people.”
  • Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration – Enthusiasts worship God with joyful celebration. They love clapping, dancing, and shouting, all for God. “These Christians are cheerleaders for God and the Christian life.”
  • Contemplatives: Loving God through Adoration – These Christians enjoy simply sitting at the feet of God like Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42). Contemplatives enjoy journaling to the Lord and even writing love letters to God. “These Christians seek to love God with the purest, deepest, and brightest love imaginable.”
  • Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind – These people love to study God’s Word and Christian principles. They often enjoy a good debate about topics such as infant baptism, women in the church, and predestination. “They may feel closest to God when they first understand something new about Him.”

I still recommend regular prayer and Bible reading for anyone who wants to grow spiritually, but these aren’t the only ways we can grow with God. None of these pathways is better than the others–they simply allow us to experience God more fully. I recommend trying each of them to find yours.

Which of these sounds most like you?

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37).

Image: F1online | Thinkstock


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  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by Cici on July 30, 2012 at 21:10

    I am most definitely an ENTHUSIAST! When I sing at church I feel so close to God, I break down crying!

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by SSnow98 on February 15, 2012 at 17:07

    intellectual,Naturalist, Traditionalist

  3. PachiwKABOOM

    Posted by PachiwKABOOM on February 11, 2012 at 14:08

    At first i couldn’t decide whether i’m a contemplative, intellectual or an ascetic. But now I’m pretty sure i’m ascetic. Just being alone with God in solitude, the idea of it sounds beautiful to me. I even want to experience being like a monk in the medieval ages.

    There are some times that i could fit in the others.

  4. Blacky99

    Posted by Blacky99 on February 9, 2012 at 19:28

    I think i’m more of a naturalist, because I love nature, but I’m not sure. One time I was running for Cross Country and I didn’t have much longer to run but I didn’t think I could make it but then I looked up at the sky and sun and I could just feel God with me, giving me the strength to finish, and I did!

    • Posted by JennArman on February 10, 2012 at 17:17

      Some people fit several of the descriptions and some only fit one or two, don’t limit yourselves though. If you think you know what you are that’s awesome, but try to develop in the other areas as well because that is what will strengthen your walk with God!

      I’m naturalist, intellectual, contemplative, and a little enthusiast 😉

      • Blacky99

        Posted by Blacky99 on April 15, 2012 at 12:37

        Ok, thanks!! I thought about it a little more and I think I’m Naturalist, Sensates, and a Traditionalist.

  5. Project Inspired

    Posted by TeaforGod on February 9, 2012 at 09:21

    I’m actually a ascetic…and maybe a contemplative…I love to talk to God when it’s peaceful and since we live in the outskirts of the town we definitely have silence…and I do write down about what happened and what I believe in to God…I really love to do that…

  6. Project Inspired

    Posted by Brianna27 on February 8, 2012 at 18:59

    Naturalists,solitude and simplicity but I do go to church but I feel much more connect with these two

  7. Project Inspired

    Posted by Firecat328 on February 8, 2012 at 16:39

    I’m most like an intellecual and an activist.

  8. Project Inspired

    Posted by kelaiboo on February 8, 2012 at 01:18

    Where can I find this book? Do they have it at logos?

    • Posted by JennArman on February 10, 2012 at 17:14

      I believe that I ordered it from Christianbook.com, I checked but couldn’t find it on Logos. You can also find it on Amazon of course :). Another awesome book is called Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels.

  9. Paris

    Posted by Paris on February 7, 2012 at 20:46

    I fit with: Naturalists,Sensates,Traditionalists,Caregivers,Intellectuals

  10. Project Inspired

    Posted by PeacefulDove73 on February 7, 2012 at 20:41

    Yea! I love these ideas! I’m more of a Naturalist. I love nature and everything having to do with science. For me, science and nature is a way to see that God really does exist. And when I see beautiful flowers or trees, or when i simply look up at the sky and see the sun’s rays seeping into and through the clouds, I just think “WOW! GOD IS SO AMAZING!” and amazing doesn’t even come close to describing how amazing He is to me!

  11. Stephanie

    Posted by Stephanie on February 7, 2012 at 19:36

    Honestly, I think I’m more of a naturalist. Whenever I take walks by the lake near my house or when I’m going for a walk, it’s not uncommon for me to randomly start talking to God. I remember the first time I saw the ocean while at the beach, I said “God, this is so beautiful”. Today I literally told my mom that if she decorates my room, I’d really like earthy colors and designs. My mom is certainly a contemplative/caregiver and my stepdad is an intellectual. My abuela (grandmother) is an enthusiast/traditionalist. That book sounds really interesting, great article! I’m really wanting to grow in the Lord this year (:

  12. Melissa218

    Posted by Melissa218 on February 7, 2012 at 15:30

    I think I’m mostly a naturalists becuase I abosolutely love spending time with God while enjoying his beautiful creation.