Second-hand Spirituality

The vast majority of people on our churches have a second-hand spirituality; they live off the spirituality of others. Because people attend our weekend worship services, participate in our programs, give money and serve, we assume they are in a vital personal relationship of loving union with Jesus.  We assume wrong.  They are not.  Ask the people you serve about their time with Jesus each day: How often do you meet with Him around Scripture and prayer? What do you do, and for how long?  How might silence, solitude, Sabbath, spiritual companionship, and study fit into your life?’  Ask for specifics.  You are in for a shock.

Most people in our churches are living off other people’s spirituality. In fact, many are imitating a spirituality with Jesus for which they have little first-hand experience.  It is easy to live of the life of God in someone else than to have our own direct experience.  Anointed sermons and worship can keep people excited about Jesus and in the pews, but that may still be second-hand.  The question is: Are our people developing and growing in their own personal, immediate relationship with Jesus during the week?

Pete Scazzero


Serving as part of A Walk to Emmaus team like I did last weekend reminds me of the necessity for periodic experiences of spiritual renewal. Paul told the Ephesian Christians to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (5:18).  This verse is a plural command in the passive voice in the present tense.  It is a command – something that is required of us and not just recommended to us.  It is plural – it is not something addressed to you alone, but to everyone everywhere who knows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.   You are not in this all by yourself; you are part of a community.  It is passive – not something you do but something that is done for you – it’s a gift of grace and not an achievement of your efforts and work.  And it is in the present tense – which is to say that it is a continuing process – it is literally telling us to “keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.”  When the Evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837 – 1899) was asked if he believed that Christians could be filled with the Holy Spirit, he said “yes,” and then quickly added, “But I also believe that Christians leak.”


A Walk to Emmaus is like a stop at the gas station to fill the tank of your car. The minute you turn the key and drive off you are beginning to deplete the supply and you will have to replenish it again when it runs low if you want to keep going.  And this is the real value of an experience like a Walk to Emmaus.  It teaches us where and how to fill our tanks.  Spiritual vitality is not the result of our initiation into some mysterious, magical and mystical secrets of the Faith.  No, spiritual vitality is the result of our cooperation with the work of the Word and the Spirit through the ordinary means of grace – Prayer from our hearts, the regular “intake” Scripture into our heads (informationally) and our hearts (formationally), the Church’s life of regular worship and fellowship, especially around the Lord’s Table, and in routine acts of service and compassion following in the steps of Jesus Christ.

beardSeraphim of Sarov (1754 –1833 im Him), is one of the great Saints of Russian Christianity. He is sometimes called the Russian St. Francis of Assisi, and he said that if you will “acquire the Holy Spirit, a thousand souls will be saved.” What he meant by this was that just one Christian, spiritually alive and growing, is the instrument that God can use to renew His church and transform the world.  In other words, the mission of the church depends on Christians who are spiritually alive and growing.

In a couple of weeks it will be Pentecost (Sunday, May 15), our annual celebration of the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit which began the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in which the church continues to this very moment. The right question for Pentecost is not do you believe that it happened once long ago and far away, but rather, is it happening in you here and now?  Pentecost is our annual reminder that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is available to all who ask (Luke 11:13), but we’ve got to ask (James 4:2).  This is why 15 times of the Walk to Emmaus we pray this same prayer, a “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” –

fireCome, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you are dry, then join me in praying this prayer in the coming weeks as together we move towards Pentecost as a church. Seasons of renewal to refresh us spiritually are part of the package — but they don’t just happen, we’ve got to ask… DBS+


O God, you cause abundant showers to fall on your chosen people.
When they are tired, you sustain them, for you live among them.
You sustain the oppressed with your good blessings, O God.
Psalm 68:9-10


1 Comment

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One response to “Second-hand Spirituality

  1. From the days of Moses is this the case when the people despised to hear the voice of God for themselves because it was terrifying! It is easy for us to select ‘prophets’ (True prophets, or otherwise) to be spiriual on our behalf, when God is calling us!

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