The Alban Institute puts out helpful essays about church life and this week I came across an archived article titled, “Spiritual Identity and Worship Planning.” The author draws from the work of Urban T. Holmes who wrote a book called Discover Your Spiritual Type which names four types of spiritual identity: mystic, feeling, thinking, and visionary. These could also be named contemplative, charismatic, intellectual, and crusader (that is a lousy word with its association with violent wars, but it essentially means mission-oriented, visionary). The basic argument is that people are drawn into the Divine in different ways and that each person has one or two primary ways through which they do this.
This of course relates to worship services. Contemplatives value practices such as silence and meditation. Charismatics openly express emotion and value impassioned singing and speaking. Intellectuals want to be challenged to think in new ways. Visionaries look to be propelled into acts of service and justice-making. It strikes me that the high church and low church traditions also present at least two other spirituality types, respectively. Sacramental spirituality values ritual, liturgy, and sacraments as a path to God. Communitarian spirituality values relational connectedness and human diversity as a manifestation of the Kin-dom of God.
There are no doubt more ‘spirituality types,’ but we get the idea. These kinds of differences are the reason one person can walk away from a worship service and consider it deeply reverent and renewing, while another person would consider it boring and hollow. Or someone may find worship mentally stimulating and thought-provoking while another experiences it as stuffy and heady. One person is motivated and charged while another is annoyed at feeling emotionally manipulated.
I have mixed feelings about these kinds of typologies. It’s useful to see things broken down in this way and to claim certain types/gifts for oneself. It’s certainly helpful to know the ways one is most naturally drawn into awareness of God’s presence. I’m also wary of drawing too sharp of lines – and I’m personally not content with choosing one type at the expense of others.
My hunch is that, of the four types named in the article, CMC is most comfortable in the visionary and intellectual spheres. We put a strong emphasis on the outward expression of faith (visionary) and people appreciate thinking new thoughts. But I also note, for example, that there were a number of charismatic outbursts during Mark’s licensing service and that people commented afterward how energizing and freeing this was. We also try to leave spaces for silence and acknowledge that God is just as much in the space between the words as in the words themselves, although pure contemplatives would not be fulfilled with this. We’re certainly a communitarian bunch, no doubt about that.
Along with our collective spirituality, it’s worthwhile considering what type/s you might be, and how this relates not only to your worship experience, but also to how you nurture your faith throughout the week. Perhaps small groups emphasize and practice a certain spirituality type that helps further develop that area for its members. People are indeed different, and we need the full orb awareness and practice of the spiritual life in order to be the Body of Christ.