Have you ever admired one of your friend’s outfits, but then tried on something similar only to find you felt ridiculously self-conscious in that style? Well the same thing can happen in our faith if we aren’t intentional about developing a personal relationship with Christ rather than just a religious practice.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning from others, but we must avoid trying to be some cookie-cutter version of them. There are some essentials needed in every person’s “faith wardrobe.” But within the basic categories, God provides a multitude of styles and options that will allow us to connect authentically and intimately with Christ. Why settle for a one-size-fits-all style when Jesus offers us a custom-made bond.
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I’ve made you a handy little checklist to help you assess your current faith “wardrobe” so be sure and get the freebie!
My Big Ah-ha Moment Resulted from a Big Flop!
I’ve written before about my early misconception about the need for a 5:00 am “quiet time.” When I flopped at that, I beat myself up as if I was a total failure as a Christian. Finally, I realized my Creator designed a variety of ways we can live out our faith and some work better for me than others. So, I let go of the compulsion to force myself into some one-size-fits-all style.
As a gal whose weight fluctuates all over but tends to hang out on the heavier side, I HATE labels that say “one-size-fits-all.” Guess what? They don’t usually fit me! So why in the world would we even consider a “one-size-fits-all” expression of faith?
The Faith Basics
We all need some basic pieces in our wardrobe. It would be pretty difficult to get dressed if all I had were pants in my closet. For our wardrobe to function, we need the right balance of tops, bottoms, accessories, and shoes. Well, the same goes for the means of nurturing our relationship with Jesus.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to break our faith essentials down into four categories:
In all of these, we will have some more formal versions and some more casual ones. And just as the color, patterns, fabrics, and shapes of our clothing will vary according to our individual likes and needs, the way we pray, worship, study, and serve will also vary from person to person. My way of nurturing closeness with God will be unique to how he made me. And so will yours, hopefully. But we all need a balance of these essentials.
So let’s look at each of these basics as well as some other important factors we should consider when assessing what needs to be in (or out) of our faith wardrobe. And don’t forget to grab that free checklist.
If you read the article, How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Christ, some of this process will be familiar. These two posts support and build on each other but cover the topic from different perspectives.
Our hearts must connect with God through prayer. But prayer styles vary as much as a starched white dress shirt differs from a soft brightly patterned Hawaiian shirt.
If you aren’t comfortable praying, or you want to explore different styles, I suggest you try some resources like Let’s Pray Today or the Abide prayer app. Another option is to attend a prayer group at your church. There, you’ll get to hear others pray in different ways. Try on different styles until you find what fits you.
Consistently trying to force yourself into a style that isn’t a good fit for you will have a negative impact on your ability to praise and glorify God.
I remember when contemporary worship was introduced to the church where I grew up. Back then, I hated it. The service was held in our multi-purpose facility rather than the sanctuary. I didn’t like the repetitive nature of the lyrics. They turned the lights down and there was no bulletin with the order of worship (which was a problem for this note-taker). And the kicker for me were the people raising their hands and being spontaneous as to when they would stand or sit. I was so uncomfortable and distracted by the worship style that I failed to give God my full focus and devotion. So, I returned to the sanctuary with its hymns and clearly established routine.
Funny thing, I now much prefer the contemporary service to the traditional. The very things that distracted me from God years ago focus my heart and mind on him today. The point is not to debate worship styles or music choices, but rather to be open to trying new things.
If something isn’t working for you, try something else. And recognize that what works in one season of life, might not be so great in another. But the reverse is also true.
And while I used to think of worship as something reserved for Sunday mornings at church, I now also enjoy private worship. I have a “Worship On the Go” playlist of my favorite songs which I use when I work out (not so regularly) and when I’m in my car (very regularly).
God provides us with much freedom to develop our relationship with him in ways uniquely suited to the manner in which he created us. With that freedom comes responsibility to use discernment to make sure we are in alignment with his Word. God has revealed his character and will through the Scriptures.
It is vital that we spend time in his Word so we can use it as the plumb line against which we evaluate everything else. A variety of methods and study styles exist to help us do this. You might find the article How to Enjoy Reading the Bible and Get More Out of Your Time In It helpful. Use the suggested process in that post to help you narrow your choices and then experiment to find what works best for your learning style and time constraints.
If our faith produces no fruit, it isn’t a true faith. (James 2:17, John 15) When we have genuinely encountered God’s truth and grace, we will naturally share that with others in practical ways. You can be sure there are needs in this world God has especially equipped you to meet.
We don’t earn God’s acceptance and approval through these works. Rather, we celebrate what he has done for us out of his grace and mercy in Christ, and we share that same grace and mercy with people God places in our life. (see Ephesians 2:10) How I serve and how you serve will look different. It is supposed to (see 1 Cor 12) so that all of the needs can be met. Typically, God calls us to serve in ways compatible with our gifts, talents, and experience.
This doesn’t mean we will always feel comfortable and confident in our ability to do what God calls us to do. You likely won’t. God frequently takes us out of our comfort zone when it pleases him to do so. But even in those times, it is evident that God specifically provides us with what is needed. He gets the glory and we get the amazing privilege to see him at work.
Personality and Style
God has wired each of us to think, feel, and act in different ways. Just as these impact how we relate with other people, they will also influence our relationship with Jesus. You’re relationship with Christ will be much stronger if you intentionally select your “Faith Basics” so they sync up with your unique personality traits. Personality tests (Meyers-Briggs or DiSC, for example), help us determine how we interact with the world and others. Most involve some spectrum of the following aspects of our personalities:
- Are you an introvert or and extrovert?
- Do you like “just the facts” or do you like to take the facts and deduce meaning and insights?
- Do you approach life through your intellect or your emotions?
- Are you a decisive person who comes to conclusions quickly or do you ponder the pros and cons for a while?
When choosing a Bible study, form of prayer, worship service, or means of serving, those same personality traits come into play.
Different Life and Faith Seasons
As in my example with worship styles above, what works for us in one season of life may not work in another. This is true with regard to both our natural life stages as well as our spiritual life stages.
We can be in one season of our natural life while at the same time being in a different season in our spiritual lives. But acknowledging the realities associated with these stages is important to striking the right balance of the faith basics.
In the spring of our natural lives (childhood through college), we are like sponges when it comes to being able to soak up stuff. We also have a lot going on in our lives and tend to expend a lot of physical energy.
In the spring of our spiritual lives when we are new believers, we likely will have an overflow of enthusiasm but a big need for spiritual development.
As we grow up and establish careers and families, our responsibilities increase. We may feel spread very thin during this stage.
Spiritually, as believers mature, new opportunities arise to serve. And new challenges are faced in terms of nurturing our continued growth.
As nests empty and careers become more established, more time and resources may become available.
Increasing spiritual maturity leads to even more new ways to serve and mentor others. Attention to our own spiritual growth remains essential.
New physical or economic realities may impact our choice of activities.
A vast amount of knowledge and experience equip mature believers to disciple others and provide wise leadership.
Free Checklist to Help You Assess Your “Faith Wardrobe”
From time to time, it is good to go through our closets and assess what works, what doesn’t, and where we have needs. The same is true of our faith. Download this checklist and assess your basics. Is what you are doing in terms of prayer, worship, study, and service a good fit for your current season and style? Do you have a good balance? Are you missing some essentials?
Click Here to Get Your FREE Checklist
How about you? How might ‘cleaning out your faith closet’ and updating your ‘wardrobe’ help you connect more authentically and closely with Christ? You can leave a comment by clicking here.