The usual obstacle to prayer, for example, is failing to see a need to pray. Why study Scripture if reading the newspaper answers all relevant questions? Why engage in mission if working 12 hours a day seems sufficiently rewarding?
Financial crisis, on the other hand, has a way of unmasking phony assurances and stirring fresh yearnings for God. So do war and health crises. When our own resources run dry, our fundamental need of God has room to blossom.
This present moment, therefore, is an ideal time to teach spiritual disciplines like prayer, mission, giving, and study. By helping people to gain richer glimpses of God and to move beyond shallow cultural assumptions, you can deepen their faith. That deeper faith, in turn, will help them not only ride out the current storm, but have richer lives for years to come.
Take worship, for example, one of the eight classical spiritual disciplines that we recommend be taught in the Church Wellness Project. People expect more of worship when their lives are falling apart. They are willing to engage more deeply in it. They sing with greater fervor, come to the sacraments with special neediness, and don’t fuss so readily about small nuances of liturgical protocol.
This financial crisis is an excellent opportunity for fresh teaching about the meaning and joy of worship. A simple thing like telling the story of favorite hymns such as “It Is Well with My Soul” and their genesis in personal tragedy can open new vistas for people experiencing their own tragedies.
The point of that teaching, of course, shouldn’t be reinforcing denomination or doctrine. The point should be helping a troubled people to join hands and to seek God in fresh ways. People need to see each other more clearly and to draw sustenance from the sharing of faith-life and singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”
For further insights on teaching Spiritual Disciplines, visit www.churchwellness.com.
Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus,” and the founder of the Church Wellness Project.