What characterizes all seekers is their quest and their determination to maintain a personal integrity about what they believe. Because of the personal nature of the quest, each seeker is for all intents and purposes unique. Nonetheless, seekers tend to cluster around certain common elements.
a) Some seekers have experienced a ‘great awakening.’ They are asking the ‘big’ questions. Often, though not always, this follows a major, unexpected, event in their lives – a death, a divorce, a loss of job, an illness, a catastrophe. They find that old answers don’t work any more. Such people are seeking a resonance with the greater whole. They are engaged in a search to fill deeper human needs. Often they are searching for a direct experience of the Divine: they wish to experience God rather than talk about God. Typically, they read more in the field of religion, theology and spirituality than before and are determined to figure it out for themselves. Most typically, these seekers are engaged in spiritual practices (meditation, prayer, fasting, etc.) designed to better dispose them to “hear” the Divine in their lives.
b) Other seekers are engaged in a critique of modern life. They have a sense that modernism, science, materialism and consumerism have failed them. They have picked up a certain complicity between organized religion – especially mainstream denominations – and the “Powers that Be,” and are no longer comfortable supporting, passively or actively, a world-view that embraces radical individualism, globalism at all costs, transnational hegemonies which disregard national boundaries and laws in the name of profit and return on investment. Many sense that this was clearly not what Jesus was calling them to be like.
c) Some are dissatisfied with a “head” Christianity and are looking for something that engages all of them. They are tired of worship that engages them only from the neck up. They are longing for a worship service that speaks to them and where they can take an active part with all their being – head and heart. Many have a sense that being a Christian is not so much about what you believe and more about how you live your life.
d) Others are tired of a religion where you have to park your brain at the door, and accept what you are told from the pulpit without questioning. You can’t accept your sacred texts as dictated by God; you can’t accept some doctrines that simply don’t make sense to you; you can’t sit through rituals that no longer carry meaning for you.
e) Still others find themselves wrestling with scientific ideas about evolution and the cosmos and trying to decide between a meaningless and hostile universe and a benevolent one. They have had the experience of the immensity and complexity of the cosmos and wondered about humanity’s role in it. And traditional Christian teaching does not seem to have provided acceptable answers. They often find God more easily in nature than in the pews. They have typically rejected the images that portray God as “a” Being “out there” and are trying to find images for a God who permeates the universe. They also find the traditional Christian stories too narrow, too confining, too anthropomorphic.
f) Many seekers begin as a member of a congregation and end up feeling like a “fish out of water” because others seem to continue to believe what they are now questioning. They find themselves reassessing the pieces of their faith and trying to sift through what they can keep and what they must reject. Most seekers sense, at one point or another, that they are betraying their faith tradition but they feel nonetheless that they must pursue this path to remain true to themselves.
g) Still others would define themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” indicating that somehow, they take their spiritual life seriously, but are creating their own path outside any organized religion. They tend to experiment with practices offered by a wide range of traditions, they explore what has come to be known as “new age” theories, or esoteric practices from Eastern traditions. They rely primarily on their responding to their own needs for spiritual growth and comfort, and are not terribly interested in engaging in any critical exercise with the major faith traditions.
If any of these brief descriptions resonate with you, then you’re in good company. There are plenty more like you – even within your own congregations! Read on!