This article will reveal 9 specific spiritual styles and will help you pinpoint which one is yours. You will discover ways your specific type gets closer to God and this will make it easier to go deeper in your relationship with God. Does this sound good? Then read on!
What are Spiritual Styles
The concept derives from a book by Gary Thomas called “ Sacred Pathways“. You can buy the book now if you click on the book title link.
The author has generously provided a free study guide on the book and a sample chapter on his website which you can link to here.
Looking at the natural world, we can see clearly how much our God loves diversity. It is no different from how He forms us as believers. We each have a preferred method of going deep to connect with our God. The innate way each of us connects is our spiritual style. The book Sacred Pathways describes 9 predominant styles.
Trying to flow against the grain of our specific spiritual style while connecting with God can make the experience much harder than it needs to be.
What are the 9 Styles and How do they Each Connect with God?
Type 1 The Naturalist
The naturalist connects with God best in the beautiful outdoors. They are most open to worshipping God and learning spiritual lessons in the outdoors. Here are some suggestions for going deeper with God if this is your type: do your worship time outside in nature prompted by the glory of the wondrous things you behold outdoors, do a slow meditative walk in nature and look for any spiritual lessons you see by observing wildlife or flora, take your bible study outdoors and after reading look around to see if anything you see brings you deeper. An example of a naturalist is St. Francis of Assisi (he was a monk who always was pictured holding animals).
Type 2 Sensates
The sensate connects with God with all their senses. They enjoy worship that activates all the senses (for example attending a worship music event complete with light shows, dancing, and incense; looking at beautiful art; enjoying intricate architecture). To get deep with God based on your style, consider attending special worship events that allow for these types of sensory experiences as you seek to go deeper with God. Consider taking up the trend of bible journalling. It allows you to put beautiful doodles and colours in your bible as you study. When you are in private devotion time, change your body position during worship (e.g. stand, sit, lie prostate) to engage your senses. Mozart is a great example of sensate.
Type 3 Traditionalists
They love God through rituals and symbols. Old church traditions and liturgical prayers are ways a traditionalist naturally connects with God. They like a lot of structure. They don’t mind sacrifice such as a time of fasting. Here are some suggestions for traditionalists to go deeper based on their natural style: set a regular time daily to meet with the Lord; attend churches with a traditional liturgical calendar and style, and try a specific time of fasting every week. Clement of Alexandria is an example of a traditionalist.
Type 4 Ascetics
Ascetics connect deeply with God in solitude and simplicity. They love to be alone in silence in prayer with God. Their natural style is almost monastic. If you are an ascetic and would like to flow deeper with God based on your style, here are some suggestions: have a silent prayer retreat at home; worship God in the quiet of the night or very early before anyone else is up in the house; attend a silent retreat; practice a minimalist lifestyle. John the Baptist was an ascetic.
Type 5 Activists
The activist feels deeply connected with God when confronting issues. They love striving for righteousness and justice and feel close to God doing this. They are more energized by interaction with others, even in conflict, than by being alone or in small groups. Here are some suggestions for activists to use their natural style to go deeper with God: get involved in causes for justice and to help the poor; get involved intercessory prayer events for underprivileged; get involved in marches and or prayer walks where God leads you. William Wilberforce is a great example of an activist.
Type 6 Caregivers
Caregivers love God best by loving and caring for others. These 3 words capture the essence of the caregiver: caring, mentoring, and hospitality. They claim to see Christ in the poor and needy and their faith is built up by interacting with others. If you are a caregiver seeking to go deeper with God, here are some suggestions: find someone who needs help and focus on caring for them; work in an inner-city mission; volunteer on a rescue squad; work in a soup kitchen. There is no better example of a caregiver than Mother Teresa.
Type 7 Enthusiasts
The enthusiast connects with God best through mystery and celebration. They are the cheerleaders for God and the Christian life. At church, you may spot them clapping and dancing during the worship time. They will also be the ones shouting “amen”. They also relish the supernatural forms of faith. If you are an enthusiast, here are some suggestions for you to naturally go deep in your relationship with God: spend time just listening to God and write down what He says; ask God to bring someone into your path to whom you can minister and wait on Him to do it; be part of worship events where you can express your enthusiasm safely. King David is a great example of an enthusiast.
Type 8 Contemplatives
Contemplatives love God through adoration. To get the picture, think of Mary at the foot of Jesus gazing lovingly at Him while enjoying His presence while her sister Martha toiled in the kitchen.
If you are a contemplative and want to deepen your experience with God, try some of these: practice the presence of God with breath prayers (repeating a short prayer like “God you are with me” as you go about your day); try meditative prayer (prayerful reflection on a Bible text or theme); do something kind that God prompts you to do for someone else and keep it a secret just between you and God; try centering prayer where you just focus on basking in God’s presence and worshipping Him with all you are. St. Teresa of Avila and Augustine were both contemplatives.
Type 9 Intellectuals
The intellectuals love God with their mind. They feel very close to God when they understand something new about God or His ways with His children. They bask in topical Bible studies, apologetics discussions, scriptural writing and bible teaching.
Great scientists who are intellectuals find learning the details of how God created everything in the universe brings them closer to God.
Here are some suggestions for intellectuals to go deeper with God: invest time and buy tools to go deep in your Bible study; read books on theology; do a year-long in-depth study of one topic in the Bible; consider taking some courses at the local seminary; study the seven basic topics in systematic theology (God, humankind, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Church; eschatology, and revelation). Eugene Peterson is an example of an intellectual.
A Note of Caution
For every style, it is possible to get out of balance (e.g. types who naturally want to be alone with God may neglect Christian community or types who prefer to be with people may never carve out time alone with God). So while we all have our natural tendency for how we feel most connected with God, we need to keep a balance.
Each believer has an inherent style for most easily connecting with God. This article describes draws from the concepts in the book Sacred Search by Gary Thomas. It describes 9 different styles for connecting with God that believers can have. It further expands by giving some practical tips on how to go deep with God based on your specific style.
Let Me Know
So, what was your style? Did you know it is common to have one predominant style and a secondary minor one? My predominant style is naturalist (90%) and my secondary one is contemplative (10%). Please let me know in the comments what your style was. If you have any suggestions for how best to go deep with God based on your style, please leave a comment as well.
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