A few days ago, map in hand, I was walking along the Pilgrim Way. The path was muddy. The sun was shining. The wind was cold. I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the footsteps of Christians who through the centuries have made a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral across the beautiful North Downs of England.
A few months ago I was appointed as the first Spiritual Life Development Secretary for the United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland Territory. No map was available. As first in post I was trail blazing: finding my way as I moved forward. The fact that I did not have a map was no excuse for a lack of purpose and direction. I made the intentional decision to devote the early months to research. I tend to be logical and organised in my approach to challenges. That does not mean that my approach is the only approach. My wife Kath is more intuitive and creative. Her approach to a challenge is often very different to mine. The different approaches we adopt reflect our different personalities but both approaches are equally valid. The ‘research-centred’ part of my journey is now coming to an end. The coming year is packed with speaking engagements. The next phase of the journey will be ‘communication-centred’ as I attempt to generate creative and robust discussion about Spiritual Life Development within the Territory.
I share three key points regarding Spiritual Life Development. There is nothing deeply profound or theologically complex in what I share. I am not going to surprise you with some new spiritual insight. My key points are not meant for experts or academics but rather they are basic stepping stones that ordinary Christians need to be aware of if they are to make progress on the Pilgrim Way. The stepping stones provide a way across the flowing waters, the barriers that can hold Christians back from achieving their God given potential. The simplicity of these stones should not blind us to their importance. It is easy to overlook or even dismiss the obvious.
Stone 1: Intentional
Deliberate, planned, purposeful, intended: pilgrims do not just amble about, wandering around in circles in the vague hope that they might get somewhere. They are people with a sense of purpose, intentionally moving forward.
My research has shown that many Salvationist do not have a strong sense of responsibility for their spiritual development. An officer who has helped many Christians said: a light came on when they realised that they needed to be intentional about their own development. Pilgrims will not get far until they realise the need to be intentional and take responsibility for their own pilgrimage.
Stone 2: Personal
Developing our spiritual life is about developing our relationship with God. No two relationships are the same. We are all individuals with our own personal features, characteristics, idiosyncrasies. God relates to us as individuals not as one-size-fits-all-standard-Christians. Pilgrims should respect and learn from those that they journey with but they should also have the courage to be themselves.
Stone 3: Journey
Uphill, downhill, muddy tracks, dry tracks, sunshine, rain, hemmed in by trees, in the open viewing the distant horizon: a pilgrimage is a long-term journey not a five minute stroll. We might not all have to endure a ‘dark night of the soul’ but all pilgrims need to recognise that the journey will have many different phases, some better than others. The long term commitment to the journey is one of the reasons why it is so character building, why God uses it to develop our spiritual life.
Walk worthy of your (extra-ordinary) calling
Major Mel Jones
Secretary for Spiritual Life Development
United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland Territory