Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Spiritual Inventory

The Men's Ministry team asked Duane to speak at a breakfast on Saturday morning, and they gave him a topic: Spiritual Inventory.   He told me this at breakfast on Wednesday morning, and so we started brainstorming together as we waited for our eggs.

Most of the time, when we hear the phrase "spiritual inventory," we think of a check-off list.  How many times did you do your devotions last week?  How much time do you spend in prayer? Did you go to a Life Group this last week?  Did you attend church?  How many chapters of the Bible did you read?  Have you shared your faith this week?  

I Googled spiritual inventory and found a couple of tests you can take online.  Of course there would be check-off lists of online tests that you can take to assess your spiritual health. asks, "Have you memorized scripture verses by heart (at least 30)?" "Can you list the Ten Commandments by heart in order?"  "Do you know all the books of the Bible in order?"  "Can you defend creation and your faith before an atheist or agnostic?"

Hmmm.  I know a lot of people who can name all the books of the Bible in order, but don't have a meaningful relationship with Jesus.  And so on.  

Navigators had a test too, and it's a little more holistic, but all in all, it's still about counting.  These are multiple choice questions, and I am biased against those.  "Mostly true" or "completely true" mean different things to different people.

That's why I prefer short answer questions.  And I prefer qualitative rather than quantitative questions.  In other words, I think counting the number of chapters I read or how many times I invite people to church is pretty meaningless.  As someone who has read many chapters, memorized numerous Scriptures, and probably missed fewer than ten weekend church services in more than fifty years, I can honestly say that numbers and counting do not provide a realistic assessment of spiritual health.  

Both Duane and I come from church backgrounds.  We know how to game the system.  We've logged more hours in ministry than most people I know, and we're about as dedicated to church stuff as you can get.  Dedicated to church stuff also does not provide a realistic assessment of spiritual health. 

With these things in mind, Duane and I started brainstorming.  

Right now I'm reading I Am a Follower by Leonard Sweet, a book on what it means to follow Christ.  He suggests that following Christ doesn't mean that we're just supposed to imitate Jesus.  Instead, we are supposed to "live life with the Spirit of Christ in us, with all the magic and miracle made possible by Jesus' own crucifixion and resurrection" (182).  

In other words, Christ lives in us.  Our lives are not our own.  And any spiritual inventory must evaluate how well we are the "living, breathing, walking-around presence of Jesus in the world today" (182).  This includes "humility, a willingness to learn and be taught by others" with a "sense of our need for others through an attitude of mutuality and reciprocity" (182).  

He offers three questions to wrestle with when we consider our incarnation--and thus our spiritual health:
  1. Who am I?
  2. Where am I?
  3. Where am I going?
Okay, these aren't really short-answer questions, but they do require some serious thought.  And the answers to these questions do tell us a lot about our spiritual health.

I would offer a fourth question:  Who is God?  They way we view God also tells us a lot about our spiritual life.  

Hopefully, I'll begin exploring some of these questions over the next few days.  Hopefully.  I have about 50 student essays to read plus my taxes and a FAFSA form to complete this week.  My life is fun.  

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