This week I was asked a question I haven’t been asked in quite a while. I wonder when you have last been asked something similar. It was a simple question, but it was meant seriously.
It went something like this (and I can’t remember the precise words),
‘Patrick, how are you doing spiritually? How would you describe where you are in your relationship with God?’
The question in other words was asking something well beyond mere recounting of all the Christian activities that go with evangelical activism – busyness of active church life on top of a ‘Christian job’ in a Bible College.
It’s a question that refuses to take things at face value and accept that activism = spiritual health. What a crazy assumption that is but we make it all the time. So and so is coming regularly to church, doing this and doing that = all is OK etc
It is a question of the heart. And I suspect it is a question that is asked more rarely than in the past, but I have no way of proving that hunch. And perhaps this is because it is a question that takes courage to ask.
I use the word ‘courage’ because the asking is itself a counter-cultural act. In an intensely privatised world, where everyone’s business is their own, such a question is seriously out-of-step. The question assumes that I, the individual, have a responsibility and an accountability to others within the body of Christ for the state of my own heart – my ‘inner life’ of both my mind and my subsequent actions beyond the public sphere.
That’s a radical notion. And it’s all over the New Testament.
But there was something else behind this question that I’ve been trying to put a finger on ever since it was asked. It was something deeply good. It was a loving question asked by someone who really cared about the answer. It was asking about how I really am – not just about what I am ‘producing’ or ‘doing’ or ‘achieving’.
I struggled to answer that question because it is a searching one. But that’s OK. Most of all I felt thankful and (for me 😉 ) rather surprisingly emotional that it had been asked. It also challenged me to ask how much have I had the courage and love to ask others the same question.
So, if you are a Christian, is there someone to whom you are spiritually accountable? Is this organised or ad hoc or not happening at all? Have you only been asked such questions if things are going wrong? Would you like / accept such accountability? If not, why not? And do you think that within evangelicalism, activism is taken as a sign of spiritual health with few other questions being asked? If you are in Christian ministry, are there support structures in place that care for you as a person or are no questions asked as long as you are ‘producing the goods’?
Comments, as ever, welcome.