Sally Coleman, a friend involved in reaching New Agers, recently did an interview with Premiere Radio. In her blog she outlines some of her responses to the key points raised – it’s valuable stuff.
Part of my comment revolves around the way we reinterpret alternative, eastern and new age practices as ways of engaging with people and so sharing the gospel. If you’ll excuse the indulgence, I’ll repeat it here, slightly modified.
I agree with the comments of others responding to Sally’s post regarding the offer of one-to-one talking time to people who are already prepared to pay to visit a therapist. It’s what many people are crying out for and actually the church has a (mostly) excellent track record and understanding of helping people through various talk therapies – if only we’d make it available to those beyond the church. In the field of youth work, many Christian schools workers now include some kind of pastoral support for students as part of their work.
I’m intrigued by the possibilities of reinterpreting some practices from alternative spiritualities and worldviews (Reiki, Tai Chi, Tarot…) as a way of sharing Christ with people. One consideration to bear in mind is the way people interpret these practices for themselves and the way this then influences their experience of Christian practitioners. I’m currently reading ‘Understanding Generation Y’ which explores the idea that young people derive spirituality from contemporary media. Contrary to what the researchers were expecting, it appeared that such spirituality is hardly recognised by the young people because their framework of interpretation remains that of their peer experience of the cultural form. It is we who ‘read’ movies, songs and art in Christian ways. They ‘read’ through the lenses of their own cultural engagement. I suspect this may also be true for Gen X-ers as well.
I wonder whether there is a danger that using practices from alternative spiritualities and worldviews could too easily be interpreted by seekers as an endorsement of a syncretistic approach to the Christian faith that misses the uniqueness of Christ and his call to dicipleship.
Just in case you get the impression I’m a bit of a naysayer, as someone who, in 2002, helped to establish the ‘Journey into Wholeness’ Christian stall at the Colchester Mind, Body Soul exhibition I’m all for casting off a knee jerk reaction to these things and testing them again for their evangelistic potential. Just as long as people see Jesus through the practice.
But giving people time to talk, to reflect and be prayed for… that has to be a no-brainer move for the church.