The New Language of Spirituality

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Robert Webber makes this statement concerning the idea of spirituality in his book The Divine Embrace: “because of the divorce between theology and spirituality, mysticism shifted from the ancient understanding of spirituality to a new approach.  Spirituality, which was once a contemplation of God’s saving acts, now contemplates the self and the interior life.”[1] 

This statement provides a profound summation of the issue at hand.  We are dealing with the nature of God’s embrace of the world, and how our “spiritual” life is enacted, formed, and consummated.

Unfortunately, Webber is not the only one who has noted the shift away from a correct view regarding these matters. Philip Sheldrake also says this about self-centered spirituality: “What was once a journey into God became a journey into self.  This new inward focus of a journey into self resulted in a new language of spirituality.”[2]

This is what worship leaders are now faced with—a new language of spirituality.  The concept of worship is deeply connected to the idea of spirituality, and many so-called worship leaders—most regretfully and admittedly, myself—have succumbed at some point or another to the inward aspirations of selfish spirituality.

Many view the services in their churches as being profoundly forming to them, and, sadly, many services pride themselves on self-affirmed monikers such as being “seeker sensitive” without really defining what this means.[3]  Many worship environments throw out catch phrases like “seek and soak” and “encounter” portraying a “come and get it” mentality.  People are encouraged, then, to buy into a brand of spirituality, a spirituality solely based on their needs, formed to their tastes, and progressing toward their aims. 

All the while, have we considered Jesus—a man whom I would consider “spiritual?”  Being fully man and fully divine, he almost appears seemingly unconcerned and even thankful when everyone does not resonate or receive everything he says.[4] He was a man profoundly self-forgetful [5] and welcome to forgo his own defense [6] for the good of the entire world.  This seems to be a different form of spirituality altogether.

Jesus’ formation, as he grew in stature and wisdom, seemed to be based in his ability to deny himself every temptation [7] and not indulge every whim, fancy, and preference.  All earthly prideful pursuits were alien to him as he sloughed them off in search of greater joys. He was one truly pure of heart.

Soren Kierkegaard says this about the matter in his work entitled Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.  This says it all. The thing forming Jesus was not a focus upon his own needs, but it was found in him emptying himself in love unto the glory of His Father.[8]  This was his one thing.

This is the same mind we should have.  Our spirituality is not formed in an obsession and concentration upon self; it is formed in an infatuation with the work, spirituality, good news, and perfections of God’s supreme treasure and character.

This is what drives Webber to speak of what true Spirituality is (paraphrased below).[9]  Spirituality is:

Trinitarian: proclaiming the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Creational: God created the world and humanity to be caregivers of the world.

Anthropological: a redeemed humanity, restored to live in the purposes of God.

Christological: surrendering our human will to the divine will, as Jesus did.

Cruciform: Christ entered our suffering to make us right with God.

Resurrection: through Christ’s resurrection we are a new creation.

Pentecost: the life-giving Spirit was active in creation, in Jesus’ birth, baptism, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and in the life of the church.

Baptism: we are united to Christ in faith and called to live a pattern of death and resurrection in baptism.

Communal: we dwell in community and are to live our lives in the body of Christ’s fellowship.

Liturgical: in worship we reenact God’s saving deeds for the world.

Eucharistic: the spiritual and material in view before our very eyes.

Prayer: utter dependence upon God to live out our life.

Social: ministering to the needs of the poor, the needy, and the weak.

Ethical: displayed in Jesus, the true life of morality and justice.

Vocational: because all our work is under God and his purposes for history.

Revelational: because the Alpha and Omega is reconciling all things to himself.


[1] Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2006), 51.

[2] Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality and History, rev. ed. (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998), 46.

[3] Mt. 6:33

[4] Mt. 11:25

[5] Jn. 5:19; Jn. 13:1-13

[6] 1 Pt. 2:21-25

[7] Lk. 4

[8] Ph. 2

[9] Webber, 44-45

Author: Dave Yauk

Dave Yauk is first a foremost a follower of Jesus. He is Husband to Katie, and Father to 4 wonderful children (Naomi, Jesse, Levi, and Analise). Dave's primary passion is to seek after Gods Glory in all things, and in his contribution you'll find he holds a passion for Theology and all things Beautiful as seen in the Creator, Creativity, Character and Culture. Dave has been privileged to do ministry in over 17 countries. This has been his primary means of education and learning as a follower of Jesus. However, Dave has also had the honor of getting a B.A. from Colorado Christian University in Organizational Management and Christian Leadership, a Master's in Divinity from Liberty University, and a Doctorate in Worship Studies from I.W.S. Dave owns the Garden City Project (an online collaborative marketplace for Christian artists and innovators), Finale School of Music, and teaches online guitar for Jamplay.com. He is also a Professor of Theology, Worship and Missiology at Visible Music College and Grand Canyon University.

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