Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

the god in a box syndrome


On occasion we hear some one note and bemoan, often a preacher during a Sunday sermon, that too many want to compartmentalize their spiritual lives, denying or avoiding it on any day except Sunday. The gist of these messages is that we should address our spiritual well being continuously, day by day. These lessons suggest that many church members try to shortchange God by giving him time and attention only sparingly and not in a real committed way. I doubt that many in the church have not heard similar calls to a more real God relationship.

Ironically, when I hear these admonitions to embrace a 24/7 spirituality, I can't help but note the way the church, itself, promotes the separation of our lives into distinct religious and secular components. It is the church which teaches the idea that Sunday is a special day dedicated to God's worship. It is the church which designates a special place/building where this worship occurs on the special worship day. It is the church which attempts to confine God to the content of a sacred book, which, in turn, must be properly interpreted and taught by its ministers.

Logically, therefore, the church is the ultimate compartment for God. When in the church, one meets God there, gains His favor, and grows in His understanding. By implication, when not at church, God is more remote, less real, and less significant in our lives. It is not psychologically possible, in my opinion, to emphasize the church in this way as a holy space in which God operates in special ways through special agents (the book and its expositors) without subjugating the rest of human experience, i.e. Monday through Saturday life.

So, much of what defines spiritual life within the church involves building a box around God. God supposedly demands that we approach Him in a prescribed way in a designated place at the appropriate time. That concept marginalizes the idea that anyone can meet God and relate to Him at other times. Why have a special time and place if what we need is a continuously active God relationship. If God, His nature, and His purpose can only be adequately conveyed by the church's interpretation of the sacred text, then God is, by extension, confined to that book. More significantly He is bound by the ability of human language and human reasoning to fathom the divine.

If the church ever decides to let God out of its prescribed boxes and thereby allow room for actual personal spiritual evolution outside its control, then its members could actually be encouraged to explore their God relationship throughout the week. In order to have a spirituality which is relevant in all aspects of life, anyone must feel empowered to seek God openly and personally. They cannot be constrained by church doctrine and dictates on Sunday and yet feel free to explore and experience their spirituality at other times.

Such a new spiritual paradigm would open the door to the kind of world transformation which the "god in a box" syndrome never has or will.