My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Friday, 28 June 2013

Spiritual but not religious? The great unchurched!

I found a fascinating article recently from Outreach Magazine on 15 things you need to know about unchurched people today. 
Here are some valuable insights into how Christians can make a church that unchurched people would like to attend. It is written by Carey Nieuwhof. “Ever since I started ministry 18 years ago,” she writes, “there’s been a big shift in how unchurched people think.” She is writing about Canada, “”a bit of a hybrid”, she continues, “between the U.S. and Europe. Canadians are less ‘religious’ than Americans, but less secular than Europeans.”
But read on. Many of these points which she has learnt from her own experience can be translated to the American and European church experience.
Most of these unchurched are spiritual rather than atheist, she points out. And this is why I have been thinking much more over the last few years as to how the church could change to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the vast “spiritual but not religious” population.

As one of our priests pointed out in a sermon a few weeks ago, the world has moved on its spiritual axis, and religions also need to recognize this. 

The main role of the religions is the care of our spiritual lives. We sometimes rather quaintly call this the 'cure' of souls. We are spiritual beings. So alongside the drift away from religion and the general decline in congregations in both Europe and America over the last few decades we have also seen an increasing interest in spirituality, in its broadest sense. Because without religion people soon find that there is something missing in their lives, some hard- to- describe quality that may be called Spirit, the Other, Presence, even sometimes god with a small G. And this is where I think the initially hugely successful atheist Sunday Assembly, an unashamedly "Godless congregation" may eventually stumble.

Many, myself included, are calling for the need to enhance and nurture spiritual literacy if we are to build a better world for all.

There is a danger in many New-Age spiritualities that seem to exist mainly to feed the self-centered Me-Millennium attitude, to make us feel better inside purely for our own satisfaction, rather than being world focused.
That may be why so many are coming back to worship in our great cathedrals again. These buildings with their beautiful liturgies, music and pageantry are offering something in the awe and majesty and spirituality of the services that satisfies a hole in our unchurched souls.

Why does this interest me? Because I'm a Christian, but also because I am convinced that religion, and this includes the finer aspects of organized religion, has a vital role to play in shaping the world towards a better future for us all; religions cannot be ignored, should not be abused; but yes, they also need to change. How do they do this?

In the UK the Church of England launched a new initiative called “Fresh Expressions” about five years ago, which seems to be making exciting inroads into the increasingly unchurched population. A comprehensive article by Graham Cray on their website tells us much more about this initiative, also taken up by the Methodists. In a very comprehensive introduction Graham writes: “Some fresh expressions are very different from church as we are used to it in the UK – there is a surfer church on Polzeath beach, a Eucharist for Goths in central Cambridge, a youth congregation based in a skate park, and cell church among the Merseyside Police (yes I did say cell church!). Others are more familiar but in unfamiliar settings – church in a café, church in the function room of a pub, church in a school, church in a gym or a sports club. They can be found in rural areas as well as in towns and cities, and have been planted to reach all age groups, pensioners as well as those focused on children or young families…” 
The website is absolutely full of resources and here is an exciting project, full of hope and promise for the future of the Christian church and for the world.


  1. Interesting post. World religions and the Christian Church certainly are changing and interpenetrating each other. It will be interesting to see how it all comes out. Increased religious tolerance, I hope. A more universal understanding of the spiritual dimension of human experience, perhaps.
    Keep up the good work (and writing)!

  2. thanks Joanne for your comment and encouragement! Sorry I've only just picked it up due to annual holiday.

    1. Eleanor, I see (from Facebook) that you've been traveling around Europe, including Italy.Sounds like a great time. Do you visit cathedrals on your trips? I always did when I was in Europe. I've been traveling myself, and have been incommunicado much of the time, in a wilderness area in northern Michigan. I'm now back in Charleston and am trying to catch up. Haven't blogged myself for two months.