Eleven different ways of experiencing Christianity—Part 5
There are many ways of seeing yourself as a Christian. You can add another as your faith grows; you can have more than one at a time and move through them over time.
I am going to look at this through Advent this year. None of them is wrong when taken in context with the others; all of them are wrong on their own. The list is not exhaustive.
As an experience
Have you ever felt something that happened to you and changed you? Do you sometimes feel something that inspires you and helps you to experience God? To some, particularly within Pentecostalism and churches or affected by the Charismatic Renewal, this personal experience of God based on feelings is what their faith is about. I was a 20-year-old student when I came in and I was involved in Charismatic renewal, moving on from being in a worship band to leading musical worship at renewal meetings.
I have a fondness for worship that focuses on feeling God’s presence, but experience, speaking to other people, prayer and study have taught me this: It is OK to attend a worship service and feel absolutely nothing. It is not down to you whether the Holy Spirit reveals herself to you, nor is it down to the worship leader, although a good worship leader is capable of creating an atmosphere where you are receptive. Whether the Holy Spirit is felt is down to the Holy Spirit alone.
16 years of being disabled following a near-fatal accident, People whose main experience of Christianity can be abusive. “If you feel far from God, guess who’s moved?” was something I heard more than once. I was not feeling far from God, I was hanging on to God and I was depressed. Assumptions were made. One is that if a person is not motivated they must be feeling far from God and the other is that if you are feeling far from God you must have moved. Some may have moved, but it would be risking harming those who have not moved. A lot of faith is about what you do when you do not feel God with you. It teaches trust.
On its own, faith based on experience says nothing of the corporate side of faith, that we believe together. It does not cover any of the moral implications of believing in God, that we should love others as we love ourselves, nor is it grounded in the Bible—what God has said about himself—or the history of a lived faith.
It’s all about Jesus
Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, that’s where the name comes from. Charismatic Christianity is not something I have grown out of, it is still part of my spiritual makeup, on its own an experience of the divine must be backed up by something real. There are lots of ways of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus referred to the disciples as his friends, servants or slaves, and as brothers. The Song of Songs talks about the relationship with God as a relationship between lovers and starts, “Your lovemaking is better than fine wine.”
The experience of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is part of my faith, but it is grounded in belonging to a church, even though that church is far from perfect, and in the teachings of the Bible and the acting out of those beliefs.