DID YOU GET RYANAIR’S OFFER THIS WEEK TO CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN IN SPAIN WITH “FIENDISH GHOULS, CHAINSAW WIELDING MONSTERS AND POSSESSED SOULS WHO WILL TERRIFY YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE”?
“Located near Salou on the Costa Dorada, the PortAventura theme park becomes a haven for all things freaky between 1st October and 13th November, with scary shows, ghost walks and monster parades. Fly to Reus from London Stansted, London Luton, Liverpool, Dublin or Frankfurt Hahn and come and be spooked at PortAventura!”
Or… you could plan to be in Basel for the Evangelism in a New Age consultation, starting on Halloween to make a point. October 31 happens also to be the day Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses on the Wittenberg door, catalysing the Reformation in 1517. The last day in October is thus celebrated as Reformation Day in Europe’s protestant countries.
But increasingly Europe is being confronted with choosing between biblical and non-biblical spiritualities, Of course, Ryanair’s offer was hardly motivated by spiritual motives, but it does hint at the popularity of alternative spirituality, which is growing in inverse proportion to the decline in church attendance. What was once fringe spirituality is becoming mainstream. Hence October 31 is a date to reflect on the choice of spiritualities facing Europeans today.
Here we go again, you may be thinking, Jeff’s really on this ‘spirituality’ trip! Haven’t there always been new age-types going to mind, body, spirit fairs, fortune-tellers and psychic demonstrations? True, but as I have been saying over the past couple of weeks, growing numbers of people living in our communities, working in the same offices, travelling on the same trains are trying out new spiritual approaches to cope with life’s challenges. We must take such people seriously and begin to find out how to respond to their growing spiritual interest.
That includes wholeness and healing, or as it is often called these days, wellness. Many people don’t think of church as a place of healing or personal spirituality, but rather as a place of religion and rules. Yet health has become a major concern for more and more people. Physical appearance, sexual attractiveness and self-improvement have become highly valued, making fitness centres, tanning salons and health clubs essential stops in our weekly schedules. Many such centres offer meditation classes, yoga exercises and spiritual therapies. Some believe healing is a power latent in all humans, while others believe in some ‘energy’ that can be tapped into which called even be called ‘the Divine’.
This poses both wonderful new opportunities as well as new challenges in evangelism. The challenge lies in ensuring that the healing power at work is really the God of the Bible and not some counterfeit. Just because it works does not mean that the healing source is the One and Only Divine.
The opportunity is that healing has always been part of the gospel since Jesus began his ministry. Among seekers today, there is great openness to offers of healing, even if it includes openness to dubious sources. Daniel Hari, a Salvation Army evangelist from near Lucerne in Switzerland, will be speaking at the Basel consultation about his ministry of healing primarily among spiritual seekers. He holds seminars on healing at new spirituality festivals, and has written a book called, Healing Jesus Style/ Heilen wie Jesus – Einf√ºhrung ins Christozentrische Heilen, published and sold through New Age outlets.
The workbook I have mentioned in earlier ww’s, Equipping your church in a spiritual age, presents numerous possibilities for churches and believers to offer healing and spiritual health to seekers. One ministry in Bristol, for example, runs fitness classes with professional instructors, promoting spiritual health as part of fitness. “Sessions end with a meditation which is sensitive to the spirituality of those who attend and designed to enable an encounter with Jesus.”
Community health projects offer openings for Christian to work alongside practitioners of alternative medicine, counselling and other health care forms. ‘Street pastors’ who patrol the streets making themselves available for spiritual advice and help. Stress, which the workbook cites as costing British society ¬£4 billion per year, has become a major problem causing many to be on anti-depressants. Christians trained as counsellors, spiritual directors, life coaches and mentors find that discussion about spiritual well-being comes naturally. Developing other skills such as relaxation exercises, meditation, massage and counselling can complement such wholeness and healing ministries. The appeal of quiet retreats, meditations aided by Powerpoint pictures and music, and restful havens away from the noisy city bustle, can encourage first steps in a journey towards Jesus.
One group calling themselves the Dawn Patrol set up healing points in streets and shopping malls and discovered people ready to line up for prayer with the laying on of hands! YWAMers have used a similar approach setting up prayer posts for public prayer. In Birmingham a Centre for Health and Healing was opened to offer professional help for those with emotional and physical needs, to the homeless, and to those in circumstances of brokenness. One woman in Bristol runs spiritual health weekends at a luxury hotel, attracting hundreds of non-church women who engage in the health care, massage, teaching and worship.
Life-coaching is being pioneered by some who recognise the demand for help to bring balance into people’s lives, or to help develop people’s potential. Life-coaching is a ‘solution-focussed, client-based, fixed-term relationship intended to help the clients get from where they are to where they want to be’. One question to be pursued is: ‘What is there outside of me for which I can live my life?’
All these are the kind of possibilities we want to explore at the consultation in Basel at the end of this month, as we look at the changing spiritual landscape of Europe and ask how we can respond to growing spiritual hunger which all too often seeks for reality outside of the church. The consultation, at the St. Chrischona Conference Centre, is initiated by the HOPE FOR EUROPE Evangelism Network, with the support of organisations including Agape, OM, YWAM, Greater Europe Mission, Janz Team International, Proclaim International and others.
For further information and registration, go to: www.hfe.org/newsandevents/events.php. Note the discount deadline is extended to October 15!
Till next week,