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).