Traditional church

Religious? Or Spiritual?

I’ve come to believe that very few who call themselves a “Christian” actually know what the Bible teaches, let alone read it for themselves. There are a few no-brainers people tend to fall back on:

  • “The Ten Commandments”
  • “You know God says we’re supposed to honor our father and mother”
  • “God hates divorce”
  • “John 3:16 is one everybody knows”
  • “We have to forgive others or God won’t forgive us”

That seems to be about the extent of a majority of men and women I meet with through our daily ministry.

Certainly not something new

For thousands of years, humanity has passionately pursued the Truth with a capital T—the ultimate answers to life and the universe. This perennial knowledge constitutes the answers to what are often called the soul questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want?
  • What is my purpose?
  • What is the meaning of life?

Historically, from the perspective of the soul, there have been two foundational routes to discover these truths: religion and spirituality. Although they have many similarities and there is a relationship between the two, there are differences between religion and spirituality.

Are you Religous? or Spiritual?

Jesus had a difficult time with the religious leaders of the first century. They seemed to major or having head knowledge — memorizing the law and disciplining themselves to abide by it to the letter. Jesus made it apparent that He wasn’t impressed with their man-made piety:

“I tell you that this man (the tax collector who admitted he had nothing good to offer), rather than the other (the Pharisee who boasted of his outward righteousness), went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:14 niv

Religion is often an objective experience. In other words, there is usually a greater focus on the externals, such as: going to “church,” studying books of scripture, adhering to eternal rituals, observance of “religious” holy days.

Spirituality, however, leans more toward the internalization of your awareness of your soul. Spirituality is an inward journey that involves a shift in awareness rather than some form of external activity. As such, spirituality is much more about inner understanding than outer worship. This is not to say that worship is not a part of spirituality; it’s a matter of where the devotion and worship are directed:

Religion versus spirituality

As I consider this parable, there are at least four key characteristics that I believe led Jesus to favor the broken tax collector over the religious Pharisee.

Objective versus subjective experience

Organized versus formless

Traditional versus transformational

Exclusive versus inclusive

Belief versus spiritual experience

Fear versus love

Doing versus being

External versus internal

Knowing about God versus knowing God


Contact us to schedule an appointment or to learn more about Christian Counseling at Life Training.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *