Gary Thomas has written more than 20 books including the bestselling “Sacred Marriage.” A revised version of his bestseller, “Sacred Pathways,” is set to release this fall. Thomas is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston. He has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 35 years.
What’s the idea behind ‘Sacred Pathways?’
“Sacred Pathways” shares nine distinct spiritual temperaments to help Christians improve their spiritual life and deepen their personal walk with God. Thomas wants to free Christians from feeling like they have to connect with God one way.
“I went to college in the ’80s, and the campus ministries then were zealous about quiet time, but it was a one-size-fits-all approach,” Thomas said. “God doesn’t use cookie cutters when He makes us. There’s such a vast diversity of how He wires us and the ways we connect with Him.”
What would you say to those who are in a spiritual rut?
For those who are trudging along in their walk with God, Thomas said finding the best pathway can help us enjoy that precious time with God.
“It might be that they haven’t yet found their best pathway and are giving in to a false understanding of how they should relate to God, and it just doesn’t work for them. It might be that they’ve gotten into a rut because they found something that works, but they didn’t understand variety. You might like Mexican food, but if you eat it every night, you might not like it anymore,” Thomas said.
Thomas said many Christians don’t look forward to spending time with God.
“Often church would be about creating this mountaintop experience, but I think with the pathways—instead of people dating God—I’m trying to help people be married to God,” Thomas added. “In marriage, it’s built up day-by-day, you have high points, you have frustrating points. The problem really isn’t the who. The problem is the how. It doesn’t mean you’re cold toward God if you’re not excited toward God. It might be that you’re cold toward the path that you’ve chosen, and there might be another that warms your heart.”
What’s the difference between discipline and desire?
Thomas said desire is something he looks forward to, but discipline is something he should do and makes himself do.
“I tend to do what I like to do. I can discipline myself to do certain things, but if I like it, I’m going to do it more consistently and enthusiastically,” Thomas said. “Exercise is a great example. We need to get our heart rate up and build strength. I’ve loved running my entire life. I’ve done 14 marathons and people say, ‘You must be disciplined.’ No, it’s how I process stress. I’m not so much disciplined as I’m following desire. I also know I should be lifting weights, but I’ll quit after two weeks because I don’t like it. I’d say the same thing for personal worship. If you find something you enjoy doing, you’re more likely to spend time with God.”
Thomas points to four areas for Christian growth:
1. Heart: A time of adoration, like a worship service or walking in nature.
2. Soul: Communication with God, whether by prayer alone or in a group.
3. Mind: Reading the Bible, listening to sermons, joining a Bible study group and reading concordances or commentaries.
4. Strength: Serving God through teaching, giving or spending time with someone.
Thomas said it’s important to understand the different ways people connect with God.
“The first thing I hear is freedom. ‘OK. I can love God the way He made me. Now I can use desire instead of discipline.’ Secondly, especially with small groups that have gone through it, I hear, ‘That’s why she’s always saying, “Why don’t we do two hours of worship and no time of teaching,”’” Thomas added. “It helps people understand each other, and we realize the richness of the church and why we need each other. None of us on our own captures what it really means to adore God.”
The Nine Personality Types
1. Naturalists: love God best outdoors. These people worship in God’s creation.
2. Sensates: love God through their senses. These people worship through experiences like sights (art), sounds (music) and smells (food).
3. Traditionalists: love God through religious ritual and symbols. These people worship through traditions. They believe structure and repetition lead to a deeper understanding of God.
4. Ascetics: love God in solitude and simplicity. These people worship through prayer and quiet time with the absence of all outside noise and distraction.
5. Activists: love God through confrontation, fighting for Godly principles and values. They worship through their dedication to and participation in social justice.
6. Caregivers: love God by serving others and giving of themselves. They may nurse the sick, meet with a prisoner or donate time at a homeless shelter.
7. Enthusiasts: love God through mystery and celebration. These people worship with outward displays of passion.
8. Contemplatives: love God through adoration. These people worship by their attentiveness, deep love and intimacy. They have an active prayer life.
9. Intellectuals: love God with their mind. Their hearts are opened to a new attentiveness when they understand something new about God. These people worship through intense study, apologetics and intellectual pursuit.