Some people I'm around have been talking in terms of people's spiritual needs. I have been uncomfortable about these words - for some reasons that I have been able to touch into and some that I haven't. The ones I have been able to touch into have mostly been personality driven but I knew that there was more to it than that. So I've sat with it.
Today, while thinking about a tweet that I read the other day which I was also uncomfortable with about "God help us for the fact that people go to different churches or ministries according to what they need", some of my thoughts clarified.
I am very comfortable with people being involved in the process of giving and receiving in various contexts - I don't think the Bible in any way indicates something about "you must be part of one spiritual community". I do think that it's important that we live in true spiritual community - but that can be in many contexts. We are as likely to not be living in ways that allow others in as part of one community as we are living in relationships of authenticity, honesty, openness and growth in whatever contexts we find ourselves - Christian and otherwise. It's much more about our attitude than it is about whether we have "a" spiritual community. We are not an island, others do have a right and responsibility in the context of relationship to speak into our lives and we have a responsibility to hear and evaluate their words and their wisdom before God with openness, humility and critique and make changes based on those evaluations. We need to live with others in such relationships as to make that possible (now there's the challenge!).
So, given that, how do we choose what contexts we are in? This is where I agree with the tweet - I don't think it's based on our "needs", if our "needs" is simply "wants going to give me the connection with God I need" or something like that. That's what I am uncomfortable with in the wording in the first situation I outlined. Firstly, I think the question is "what context/s is God inviting me to be in - right now, today, for this season?" Sometimes we have a clear sense of that - and in our own discernment aided by those around us, we need to go with it even if it doesn't make "sense". Sometimes, to help us answer that question we need to ask some other questions. I think the real questions are not what are my "needs" but rather something along the lines of "what context/s would it be helpful for me to be in to empower my being in the world in ways where I 'live freely animated and motivated by God's spirit'?" Here the focus is not on me and my needs (which I think is dangerous in a consumer culture) but rather on God and God's world and our place in it.
To be honest, I think some of the issues that I'm uncomfortable with are somewhat ones of semantics in this case (ie. I think the people using the words would be on somewhat of the same page as me). However, they are semantics which matter to me. In a culture which all the time teaches me to consume, I don't want to be reinforced in this consumer mentality which puts me at the centre in my engagement with spirituality. I want the way I think about all the contexts in my life - spiritual community and otherwise - to keep reinforcing a perspective which places God and God's agenda and ways at the centre and it being from that place that I make decisions about the contexts in which I engage in. I want to form others in ways that reinforce those things.
I guess the words matter to me because they form me and others deeply.