As we walk through Holy Week 2020, we’re taking time to consider what it will mean to celebrate Easter while we’re unable to gather with others. To read Monday’s post, which kicked off this theme, click here.
Settling into patterns of worshipping God can be powerful. When you get comfortable in your patterns it becomes easier to move into and out of intentional worship in a way that feels natural. You feel comfortable connecting with others when you worship together and you find solace in the comfort of your preferred style.
And the great thing about being a part of a church body is that you rarely have to decide for yourself how to worship God. You can rely on the gathered church to set your patterns and “just show up” to be obedient in a time of organized connection with God.
So what happens when the church can’t gather in one place together? What happens when “virtual worship” doesn’t feel like the worship you’re used to and you’re left trying to figure out how to connect with God in different ways, potentially even on your own?
In our Welcome Home Supper Series class we talk about 6 different ways that people connect with God. I (Jacob) first heard of these “spiritual instincts” form Dr. Ron Walborn, and later discovered that he may have learned them from author Gordon MacDonald. The basic idea is that we each connect with God differently. It’s important that we are each aware of how we connect with God best. Both so we can quickly move into what’s easy, and so we can avoid discouragement when we realize that we are trying to connect with God in ways that are less natural for us.
We can use these six spiritual instincts as a lens for brainstorming how to worship God in this season of social distancing, when our typical patterns have been disrupted.
Instinct: Aesthetic // Agenda: Majesty
Folks who tend toward the aesthetic instinct prefer to worship in beauty and order. They love tradition, art, and architecture (both created and naturally occurring in nature). They are moved by sites, sounds, smells, and ambience. They value the history and immensity of God and his Church.
If this is you, perhaps you turn to an old hymnal or structured set of prayer this week. You could even set up a small altar in your home with candles or incense. Or plan time outside to take in the fullness of God in nature.
Instinct: Experiential // Agenda: Joy
Folks who tend toward the experiential instinct prefer to “feel” God’s presence. They view God as our “contemporary” in the here and now. They are always ready to be expressive in their worship. They value “intimacy with God” and are moved by personal experiences.
If this is you, perhaps you spend time this week cranking up the worship tunes around your house. Find your biggest bluetooth speaker and pull up a favorite worship playlist on your phone. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might experiment with forms of worship other than singing — paint a picture, write a poem, or do a dance as the music plays.
Instinct: Activist // Agenda: Achievement
Folks who tend toward the activist instinct connect with God when they feel they are serving God. They gravitate toward evangelism, social justice, and change. They are moved by stories of service and sacrifice and they love to build or join activist organizations.
If you connect with God through the activist instinct, you’ll be looking for opportunities to serve. At first this may seem difficult while maintaining social distance, but there are several ways to serve in this season. You could call someone up who you know is lonely to offer some encouragement and social connection. You could drive around early Easter morning to deliver Easter baskets or use sidewalk chalk to draw Easter greetings on people’s driveways.
Instinct: Contemplative // Agenda: Listening
Folks who tend toward the contemplative instinct focus on the “interior”. For contemplatives, prayer is more about listening than about talking. They find God in the quiet places, including in nature. In particular these people may feel out of step with the “evangelicalism” that has marked the American church in the last several decades.
If you think of yourself as a “contemplative” Christian, you may be excited for an Easter celebration safely tucked away in your own home. For you it will be important this week to “shut off the noise” by creating quiet moments. Perhaps pray through some psalms or slowly read the Easter accounts in the Gospels. Journal the ways that you’re grateful for resurrection in your own life and meditate on how God is meeting you where you are.
Instinct: Student // Agenda: Truth
For folks who tend toward the student instinct; knowing God is about studying God, especially in Scripture. Maintaining sound doctrine is a high priority for them. They appreciate books, discussion, and exposing false teaching. They like to build out an understanding of God that fits together systematically.
If you connect with God through study, you could spend time this week working through an Easter devotion or using an online video study of the themes from Holy Week. You could read a book about Easter to learn something new about the season. Use a different-shaped Easter to gain knowledge about God and the story of Jesus’s resurrection.
Instinct: Relational // Agenda: Love
Folks who tend toward the relational instinct experience God when they are together with others. They prefer to join groups for sharing and prayer, and they see God in the way He weaves relationships together. They are high touch (the “huggers”). They prefer not to be alone — for them solitude feels more like solitary confinement.
If you connect with God through a relational instinct, this pandemic has perhaps affected you negatively as much as anybody. Take some time this week to be intentional about connecting with others over video calls or by sending emails. Connect with people virtually just to hang out. Share funny stories from being “trapped” inside or play a game of Pictionary over your computers.
The potential win of this whole wild season is that we’ll all learn new ways to connect with God. As we are forced out of our habitual behaviors we have need to think more intentionally about how we connect with God to celebrate his resurrection story. If you’re willing to do the uncomfortable work of trying something new, you may discover a wholly new spiritual discipline that can fuel your God-connection in any season of life.