Support and Resources For Pastors and
Christian Ministry Professionals
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
| MH Website Overview | Ministry Resources
| MH Archives | MH Dissertations
Our Changing Spirituality
In A Post-Industrial Age
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
- Perhaps one of the reasons for changed spirituality heightened is the increased pace of
change. Since World War II, western industrial society has gone through so much change of
technology and culture that it has triggered a epochal change in spirituality as well.
- Illness And Spiritual Transformation
- No longer are the generations primarily concerned with having children die at an early
age of appendicitis, pneumonia, typhoid, and other largely eradicated diseases. No longer
are heart attacks necessarily immediately fatal. No longer is cancer the unbeatable
harbinger of death it once was. More and more options are developed almost daily giving
people second, third and fourth chances to deal with various formerly terminal medical
difficulties. Sometimes such treatments result in total remission or healing.
- The results? People dont have to look death straight into the eye as they used to.
Now they feel they can delay death
and prepare for it. And, when it comes, it can be
escaped virtually painlessly if they so choose. Indeed, the spiritual shift may be
characterized by an insidious denial of death accompanied by, what Scott Peck termed in
his book of the same title, "Denial of the Soul."
- No longer is it commonplace to have large families in which at least one sibling died
before maturity. No longer is it rare to have the elderly enjoy longevity which creates
what sociologists call "The Third Generation", i.e. a whole new generation of
elderly who lived well beyond their 50s and early 60s so typical just a few decades
- War And Spiritual Transformation
- Another factor in this spiritual transformation is the transformation of war. With the
advent of modern "surgical strike" warfare, ordinary civilians and their
families are much less affected by the horrors of war directly or indirectly.
- Indeed, western society is on the brink of nearly forgetting the horrors of war. As
veterans of these major, global conflict die, the memory of the great honor and sacrifice
of these war heroes of times past unfortunately also fades. And so does their witness of
faith, their meditative recounting of horror, grief and tribulation, and their unshakable
trust in a God whose power and love is so great as to wrest the world from the hands of
tyrannical dictators and untold horrors.
- It took a special kind of faith to patiently endure the pains of war. It took a faith
which meditated, reflected and sought a quiet refuge for the soul in the presence of God.
- The Resulting Spiritual Transformation
- All these blessings of God have produced a remarkable transition in spirituality
unprecedented in recent decades
or longer. The change has gone from a corporate faith
centered in a unified meditation on Gods goodness and Gods direction in times
of suffering, uncertainty and deathso desperately needed in the previous erato
a spirituality which emphasizes a personal spirituality to touch the lonely, disconnected
"soul" plagued by divorce, rejection, family dysfunction, corporate isolation
and a generally urban-based society.
- "Burned" by a world which offers nothing but disconnected-ness and rejection,
individuals have turned within themselves to find the right "chicken soup" to
satisfy the existential barrenness of the human experience.
- Addressing The New Spirituality
- How do people address this vast T.S. Eliot-ian "wasteland" within their souls?
- Not by using an industrial or pre-industrial spirituality. Instead, they seek
individualnot corporateencounters with God. Instead of asking God to come to
them in a more passive manner, our more modern post-industrial spirituality aggressively
looks for spiritual truth, aggressively runs toward God and releases itself in spontaneous
bursts of joy and praise to a God who so real, so present, so imminent, that they can
almost touch Him.
- Such spontaneous praise may or may not be in the context of a church. In fact, in more
than some cases, churches hinder, restrict or prohibit such expressions. Indeed, its
often a cause of conflict for many, many reasons including the fact that spontaneous
praise, by its nature, defies corporate, pre-planned, and programmed paradigms of worship
created by an insensitive, out of touch religious bureaucracy.
- A Spirituality Without Spiritual Symbols
- Another spiritual transformation is a change from the emphasis on the permanent practice
of Gods presence in ones life to a more "When I need it Ill look
for it" mentality. One of the most telling aspects of this is the marked lacking of
religious Christian symbolism in the post-industrial age Christian home.
- Crosses, pictures of Jesus and saints, church calendars, family altars, devotional
booklets, Bibles, etc. are generally less likely to be found in Christian homes. Formerly
considered by many to be essential reminders and visual "coping mechanisms" to
maintain a lifestyle of meditation with God, such symbolic underpinnings of the a passing
spirituality are, unfortunately, less prevalent.
- Spiritual Shifts In The Churches
- Some modern churches, following the tastes of their members, have also incorporated this
spiritual transformation away from the meditative aspects of Christianity toward a more
contemporary manifestation. Instead of stained glass, churches have clear glass. Instead
of high ceilings, they have been made lower. After all, its more
"practical." Long, narrow church naves emphasizing the transcendent power and
the magisterial distance of God now put God in the center of an auditorium for all to see,
touch, praise, feel and experience.
- Spiritual Shift In Ecclesiastical And Pastoral Authority
- The pastoral office has also not been without its related spiritual transformations as
well. Leaders, once respected and obediently followed in the pre-industrial and early
industrial age, could command obedience of workers on assembly lines, in fields, in
sweatshops, and other hostile occupational environments for hours far beyond the
contemporary forty hour work week. After all, they had authority. No one could stop them.
After all, who had the right to?
- The influence of the labor movements, especially that of unionsand the more recent
evolution of work-teamsauthoritarian hierarchies have remarkably transformed an
historically authoritarian, autocratic corporate world into a leaner, less bureaucratic
- Management and hourly workers are not so strictly defined and valued by obedience so
much as by their valued participation on management teams on which all are, in theory at
least, are to be viewed not as members of a hierarchical pecking order, but as equals.
Especially in an environment where workers may have as muchor moreeducation as
their superiors, it is no wonder that authority has taken a beating.
- Spiritual Entitlement
- Government regulations also have given workers special rights including the right to
redress grievances with supervision. In a litigious environment, corporate executives and
leaders of all societal organizations and entities now have to live with the reality that
the organization they lead today could be drawn into the uncertainty of bankruptcy by one
capricious law suit. Any body at any time for any reason can threaten authority at any
- What's the net result?
- Authority no longer rules unconditionally and autocratically as is once did. Does this
affect spirituality? Does it affect societys view of God and His authority? No doubt
- It is a different, spiritual world. It really is!
- Transformation And The "Third Generation"
- When individual spirituality, corporate spirituality and spiritual authority are
transformed, the result is sure to be dramatic change
and conflict. Of the above
factors that make this transformation so conflict-engendering, perhaps the greatest is the
"Third Generation" dynamic described above.
- Hardly a generation ago, there was no major block of senior "Third Generation"
church membersor societal groups large enough to effect power, exert
influence, or block and oppose changes proposed by younger generations.
- In a society dominated by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), countless
political lobbyists championing their cause, and giving preferential treatment to senior
citizens in the form of senior citizen discounts, et al., this relatively new power block
will also wield influence in the church as they do in society.
- Their power, coupled with higher expectations of societies response to their needs,
preferences, and demands, give presence to a conflict dynamic never experienced in an
bygone age which knew ofand largely ignored the voice ofthe "Third
- In what ways may this change of spirituality affect congregational ministry and pastoral
- The church is at a cultural cross-roads. Decisions as to whetheror howto
change or not to change dominate the agenda of churches.
- Decisions, especially in churches with a large representation of "Third
Generation" will likely experience greater overt or covert conflict relative to all
church-related issues in organizational structure, educational content, worship style,
doctrinal substance, and pastoral authority to name a few. In many cases, those from a
pre-industrial/industrial era will wrestle uncomfortably with the changes in the church.
- Pastoral authority will likely continue to follow the path of authority in society.
Increasingly the ministry will be one of influence not mandate, team-directed not
self-directed, democratic not autocratic.
- The change in spirituality is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.
"Normal" cultural dynamics will not and appear not to be poised to change or
stifle the current individual searching sort of spirituality so prevalent. "Chicken
Soup"--not Scripture--may become the major source of food for the soul.
- The spiritual transformation, already well on its way, has already affected the nature
and focus of pastoral ministry in a post-industrial age. Whereas pastors in past times
could minister to others on the basis of a commonly shared corporate representations and
symbols of Christianity, post-industrial spirituality is virtually all but devoid of such
meaningful incorporation of these symbols.
To minister to such people may require either a) a re-orientation of the moorings of their
spirituality by the pastor and congregation through various means of education and
communication and/or b) the individuals Spirit-induced spiritual transformation
which may help them see their post-industrial spirituality may lack the substance and
meditative depth of prior generations.
- Hymnals and other traditional spiritual resources, though evidently beginning to show
signs of becoming obsolete and becoming less used in a growing number of churches, may
need to undergo a shift in is use by Christians. Its present major role as primarily
a book for use in worship for singing and congregational participation may take a back
seat to a possible elevation of its formerly secondary function as a prayer book and
spiritual resource for individual reflection and meditation.
- Pastors, for the foreseeable future, will need to be prepared to a bi-polar
spirituality. Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each, perhaps it is even more
critical for pastors to be in touch with the personal dynamics of spiritual in each
individuals faith journey.
No longer is the pilgrimage of faith a cut-and-dry "directed tour" with obedient
tourists submissively following the clerical tour guide in a virtually unquestioning way.
Instead, now more than ever, its a personal journey in which the pastor is expected
to be more of a mentor or consultant as each individual goes their own way, in their own
time, to follow their own unique spiritual road map.
- Inevitable conflicts will continue to arise in the church relating to the differences in
core values, spiritual foci and spiritual needs the two spiritual approaches represent.
The challenge for pastors and congregations will be to avoid legalism while avoid
to avoid pious pronouncements while adhering to Scriptural principles.
- The Challenge
- Making the spiritual transition and ministering to it is, to say the least, a challenge.
It will not be easy. Failures will certainly be encountered. But as pastors deal with the
strengths and weaknesses of each type of spiritualityand teach their congregations
of these strengths and weaknesses of each form of spiritualitythey will have great
opportunities to make spiritual inroads and soul-identifications with their members in
some new and faith-enlivening ways.
- The changing spirituality. How will you minister to it?
- Thomas F. Fischer
- Editor's Note: The spiritual transformation described above
appears not to have occurred non-industrialized third and fourth world countries. This is
likely due to the fact that many of the people in these countries continue to experience
those things characterized by the pre-industrial spirituality (e.g. higher mortality rates,
lower life expectancies, etc.).
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
Copyright © 1997-2004 Ministry
Health, LLC All Rights Reserved.
FrontPage and Microsoft Internet Explorer are registered trademarks of
Adobe Acrobat and PDF are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems
Hosted and Developed by SAMSA
was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:30 PM