You ever wonder how people come to the conclusions they do, and be so far off from what the reality is? I bet I've done it many times, and I know others have as well.
Well, recently one of the imagine gang told me a person they knew from another church wanted to know why he and his family were going to a "new agey" church? Apparently, in their minds we were not a true Christian church, but some sort of counterfeit spiritual group. Or at least, we did not match what the person understood to be the hallmarks of a true Christian church. The person asking the question had never been to imagine from what I understand.
So, I got to thinking about what the term actually described when I was first exposed to it in the 60's, in contrast to what we actually believe at imagine/Northampton (BTW: our core beliefs are all on our website: www.imaginenorthampton.org; click on the "imagine doc" link in the column to the right of the page. I also have written about them throughout my blog.).
So what are the tenets of New Age spirituality? According to Wikipedia:
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology, consciousness research and quantum physics". The term New Age refers to the coming astrological Age of Aquarius.
The New Age aims to create "a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas" that is inclusive and pluralistic. It holds to "a holistic worldview", emphasizing that the Mind, Body and Spirit are interrelated and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe. It attempts to create "a worldview that includes both science and spirituality" and embraces a number of forms of mainstream science as well as other forms of science that are considered fringe.
The New Age movement includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions ranging from Monotheism through Pantheism, Pandeism, Panentheism, and Polytheism combined with Science and Gaia philosophy; particularly Archaeoastronomy, Astronomy, Ecology, Environmentalism, the Gaia hypothesis, UFO religions, Psychology, and Physics.
New Age practices and philosophies sometimes draw inspiration from major world religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Sufism, Judaism (especially Kabbalah), Sikhism; with strong influences from East Asian religions, Esotericism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Idealism, Neopaganism, New Thought, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Universalism, and Wisdom tradition.
Nothing we practice or believe draws on "both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions," nor do we work to "create a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas that is inclusive and pluralistic."
In short, if you were to hang around us for a while you would hear us talk much about Jesus as Savior, Lord and Friend. There ar no other gods above him.You'd come to know we have a high view of the Christian Scriptures, the astounding miracle of the Cross and Resurrection, substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace through faith, not works; forgiveness and healing, freedom in Christ , the missional Kingdom of God with its call to a sacrificial life of love and service toward everyone in the name of Christ, including those who don't know him or are viewed as outcasts; the vivifying presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the disciple; spiritual intimacy with Christ, the spiritual gifts, the spiritual disciplines of prayer (listening, talking to God, interceding), worship as a way of life, biblical and theological study, and faith- borne acts of kindness, compassion, and care.
Of course, you'd see how much we value creativity, the arts, and human expression which tells the truth about the human condition. We see creativity and art as a profound gift of God. So we have the imagineGALLERY. It's a way we connect with Northampton, breaking down barriers and working to build relationships with folks who are wary of Christians. We also encourage creative expression in our worship to open hearts and minds to the breathtaking wonder of the Gospel and Creation. Some of the greatest works of art ever created over the centuries were acts of devotion by followers of Christ. We want to ignite that.
Our Sunday morning gatherings for worship are relaxed and welcoming on purpose. We pray and testify to God's goodness. We sing together, and listen to songs which reflect reality. We give people time to talk publicly about the goodness of God to build our faith and acknowledge his beauty, faithfulness and love. We hear teaching that is Scripturally sound, and aimed toward helping people drop their guard, know God, spiritually mature, and follow him well in the life he has called them to live. Our teaching is full of grace and truth. We want people to move away from what limits their wholeheartedness toward Christ, but opens them to the courageous freedom of living a life full of love, service and grace. We share communion, pray and hang out with each other in and out of the church.
While our liturgy may look bit different, it is centered in the reality of the Gospel and Christ's call to worship with the whole of the person;s time, talents and resources through the week.
Therefore, to be honest, I'm not sure what the person is talking about when thinking we are "new agey." I suspect he or she has jumped to conclusions with no first-hand experience or evidence beyond hearsay. We all do it. But in this case, I bet this person might be quite embarrassed ti know how wrong he or she is when it comes to imagine/Northampton.