The Contemplative Evangelical

During a recent job application process, I described myself as a contemplative evangelical. My use of the term was intentional, rather than spontaneous. I felt that it described where I am in my walk with Christ. Labels are always dangerous and can lead to misunderstanding, so naturally, I was invited to explain what I meant.

I got the job, but as I’ve continued to use the label, I’ve found that it attracts some interesting responses.

It seems that for a lot of people, the idea of being both an evangelical and at the same time contemplative is problematic. Some people regard the two labels are mutually exclusive. I’m convinced that they complement each other perfectly.

As an evangelical, I define myself as a Christian who is committed to following Jesus.  I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that Christ is the Son of God, His love is infinite and transformational, and that he is my personal saviour. Following is an active verb. Christ told us to ‘Go.. ‘ I believe that I should accept the responsibility to actively live out my faith in every area of my life. Evangelicals, in the contemporary sense, like to see themselves as active.  They like to see themselves as being out there, doing stuff for Jesus.

As a contemplative, I believe that following Jesus involves drawing closer to God. It involves experiencing His presence.  I believe that through exploring the contemplative path, I learn more about what it means to live in Christ, and what it means for Him to live in me. I believe that as a Christian I need to accept the challenge to experience Him in every area of my life.  It involves silence, meditation and contemplation. The contemplative state implies taking time to be inactive.

So, as a starter for ten, therein lies part of the problem for some people. The contrast between the ‘inactive’ stillness of the contemplative and the constantly ‘active’ mindset of the evangelical is too much for some.

There’s much more to this, but there’s genuinely a tension here. I am looking forward to exploring it more in the weeks to come.

Richard Jackson is the Executive Director of LifePicture UK and former Executive Director of Family Foundations Trust

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