The disciplines of “contemplation, silence and solitude” certainly describe a good deal of what passes for spirituality among evangelicals today. The authors call this the exact opposite of biblical spirituality. It is not about contemplation, it is about reading and meditating on the word of God. It is not about detached silence; it is about passionate petition. It is not about solitude; it is about participation in community. It is centered on the gospel and rooted in the context of the Christian community.
Spirituality and the gospel word
In the mystical and contemplative traditions the goal of spirituality is union with Christ. Union with Christ is attained through a pattern of spiritual disciplines or a series of spiritual stages. Gospel spirituality is the exact opposite. Union with Christ is not the goal of spirituality; it is the foundation of spirituality. It is not attained through disciplines or stages; it is given through childlike faith. (138)
The previous understanding represents a spirituality of achievement.
In response to the spiritual elite in Colossians, Paul emphasizes the supremacy of Christ, the fullness of revelation in Christ and the sufficiency of Christ for Christian living. In other words, in the gospel of Christ we are richly supplied with all we need to keep going as Christians and to grow as Christians. We do not need anything else (140).
Spirituality and the gospel mission
In biblical terms to be spiritual is to walk in step with the Spirit in all of life. The world God made – spiritual and material – was very good. And the future God intends is both spiritual and material (141).
Biblical spirituality does not take place in silence; it takes place bearing a cross. It is not a spirituality of withdrawal, but a spirituality of engagement. You do not practice it on retreat in a secluded house; you practice it on the streets in the midst of broken lives (142).
Biblical spirituality is not a spirituality of silence; it is a spirituality of passionate petition. If we are engaged with the world around us, then we will care about that world. We will be passionate about people’s needs, our holiness and God’s glory. We will not be still in prayer. We will cry out for mercy with a holy violence. To ask God for things is a profound act of faith.
Spirituality and the gospel community
Here is a spirituality in which we grasp the amazing dimensions of Christ’s love ‘together with all the saints’ (Eph. 3.18). We model and embody God’s love for one another. I have a relationship with God because we have a relationship with God. There are persons of God because there is a people of God.
What does this mean in practice? Three suggestions:
First, we should prioritize prayer with others over prayer alone.
Second, we must not separate our relationship with God from our relationship with others. The barrier in our prayer life is not often sin against God, but sin against other people.
Third, we need to exhort and encourage one another daily (Heb. 3.12-13).
The avoidance of apostasy demands not simply individual vigilance but the constant care of each member of the community for one another (William Lane).
This community spirituality clearly requires a certain level of relationship. We need to be sharing our lives. We need to be with other Christians ‘daily’ (145-6).