The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word spiritual as “relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit”. It defines the word religious as “relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity”. A secondary definition is “relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances”.
In this era, the average person, as related to these definitions, sees being spiritual as the religion of his/her choice, and being religious as part of a system of belief. In a real sense, calling oneself ‘spiritual’ reveals a dissatisfaction with organized religion, while giving oneself a level of mystical depth real or imagined. As a Christian, I understand that I am spiritual yet my formation remains incomplete without grounding among other Christians. This would be considered being ‘religious’ for many.
The real issue is a level of dissatisfaction and disconnection from religious institutions. Bad experiences in one’s church, and the influence of polished presentations from powerful media created worship assist in aiding the separation of spirituality from religion when viewing it in this way. Many people use their disconnect to claim a spiritual life that exists merely in theory and absent of application.
Am I spiritual? Or am I religious? I choose to look at this issue another way. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” I believe that the Christian church is in the life transformation business, because the Christian is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. The labels ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ therefore don’t apply. If the church, then, is a change agent, the pregnant question to be asked is, ‘is the church successful in doing its job’?