I am reposting this 2011 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $1.99 for the month of October. The audiobook edition is $3.99 with the purchase of the kindle edition.
Takeaway: People are reflection of God. The ways God creates people to draw near to him are a gift to the church. God has created us all with a desire for him, but those methods of spiritual growth are not the same. Gary Thomas talks about 9 ways that we can draw near to God.
This is a book I have had on my shelf for a long time and just finally got around to reading it. I have read a couple of books that are similar, most recently Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster. Streams of Living Water is focused on the different Christian faith traditions and their strengths and contributions to Christianity as a whole. Sacred Pathways is focused on individual spiritual temperaments and how the way God has made each of us, affects the way that we are designed to love God.
Unfortunately, some people fall into the trap of believing that all spiritual growth should look the same (30 minute quiet time, daily prayer alone, Sunday School attendance, active service to the poor, etc.). Instead, if we read our bibles it is pretty easy to see that the characters of scripture had different temperaments, different ways of relating to God and different pathways to spiritual growth.
The focus of this book is to give a brief overview of 9 different methods for reaching out to God, along with a short questionnaire on each chapter and some pastoral advice about places that each temperament tends to be helpful and places each temperament tends to have issues. The final, fairly short chapter is very useful for helping people make a plan for spiritual growth based on their own temperament, while maintaining a good balance with areas that they may be less comfortable.
The 9 areas are:
- Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
- Sensates: Loving God With The Senses
- Traditionalists: Loving God Through Ritual And Symbol
- Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude And Simplicity
- Activist: Loving God Through Confrontation
- Caregivers: Loving God By Loving Others
- Enthusiasts: Loving God With Mystery And Celebration
- Contemplatives: Loving God Through Adoration
- Intellectuals: Loving God With The Mind
I do not believe these are exhaustive, but it is a very good list of ways that people draw near to God. Most people will have a primary and then two or three areas that they are comfortable as well as two or three areas that they are quite uncomfortable. While I found the book interesting in a theoretically way, I think most people will get bored with chapters that do not apply to them and skip to the chapters that interest them. That is not all bad. I think the best use of the book, would be in a small group or similar setting, allow the group to take each of the short tests to determine their primary areas, and then allow them to read one or two chapters that relate to their primary areas of approaching God.
There was one comment on a review of the book on Amazon that is exactly why books like this are needed. The person, defined the book (which they had not read) as ‘new Age-y’ and said that according to scripture there is only one way to approach God, and that is as a Contemplative, all other ways are false paths. This was an extreme case, but I think many people rank pathways and think that some are ‘better Christians’ or ‘more holy’ because of their temperament. Instead this invalidates God by saying he created people wrong. If God made people to love him differently and your local church body ignores or minimizes one or more of the methods, then your local church is losing out on the gifts that God has for them by not allowing people to lead and love as God created them.