Summary: Spirituality grows best in an authentic faith community - Church!

Title: SBNR – Really?

Text: I Samuel 1:4-20

Thesis: Spirituality grows best in an authentic religious community.


Some years ago, the toy manufacturer Mattel came up with an interesting scheme to promote the latest version of its world famous doll, Barbie. The new Barbie being brought out was both slimmer and had more movement than her predecessor. In order to attract interest, Mattel said that, for the first time, any girl wanting to purchase the new Barbie would receive a trade-in allowance for her old one. What Mattel did not say was that in trading in her old doll for an improved model, the little girl was learning something about the world in which she was going to grow up in––a world in which even things that you love become disposable. This is actually quite ironic, isn't it? A little girl pours out affection on Barbie for three years, and now even Barbie can be replaced with a better model.

Mattel did that 30 years ago. And since then, most of us have grown up in a culture that has moved increasingly in the direction of the disposable. If we do not like something we dispose of it. Relationships. Unwanted children. Jobs. College classes. Church.

One of the most common comments I hear from people who are not active in a church is this: “I am spiritual but not religious. SBNR!

I’ve read that the phrase, “spiritual but not religious” has its origin in Alcoholics Anonymous: Big Book and the nebulous concept of a higher power. Since it became popular in the late 80’s, 25% of the population has claimed “spiritual but not religious” as the best way to describe their faith.

This cynicism is actually pretty alarming… in 1960, 90-95% of people polled in a Pew Poll, were certain of God’s existence., Today that number is 72%, however when you look at the number in people under the age of 30, that number drops to 44%... in other words, 66% of those under that age of 30 do not believe in God and most of those have never set foot in a church building.

It is alarming enough to know that 66% of the people under that age of 30 are, if nothing else, practical atheists, 25% of Americans claim to be spiritual but not religious… and by not religious they mean uninvolved in a church.

U.S. News published an article citing, Orianna O’Neill, a student at Beloit College in Wisconsin, who comes from a non-religious background, but sometimes prays (spiritual but not religious), said she thinks anti-science, anti-gay rhetoric may be turning young people away from religion.” She went on to say, “…not believing in global warming is contributing to the notion that religious people are not very intelligent.” (Mary Wisneiwski, Young Americans are becoming less religious, Reuters, November 3, 2015)

When Christians are uninformed and unloving, we are neither credible, nor desirable ambassadors for Christ and his church.


It may feel like a bit of a leap but I believe our text today speaks to how one can be both spiritual and religious… in fact I personally believe that, if not synonymous, being spiritual and religious are not mutually exclusive. I believe spirituality and religion are most healthy when practiced together.

As we look at the text we find a man named Elkanah and his family practicing their Jewish religion and from their example we understand the concept that your church is a place to practice your religious faith.

I. Your church is a place to practice your religious faith.

Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. I Samuel 1:3

Elkanah and his family were religious people: When we think of being religious, most mean a faith that has to do with an institution or organization and that religion in primarily external. Religion is thought to be practiced in the public realm. It is often associated with higher levels of church attendance and a commitment to beliefs and practices.

The family in our text this morning were practicing their faith in the public arena of the Tabernacle. They were there to offer a sacrifice to God and share a sacrificial meal.

A spiritual but not religious person does not practice their faith in the public arena. When a person says they are spiritual they mean something experiential and internal. They may be moved by a sunset. A mountain vista. Listening to the Grateful Dead. Attending the theater. Spirituality is thought to be practiced in the private realm of thoughts and feelings. Spirituality is private and internalized and resistant to organized religion and may have negative feelings toward the clergy and churches.

An example of anti-religious feelings was captured in a cartoon from Charlie Hebdo (a Paris weekly satirical magazine) Saturday morning following the terrorist attacks in Paris. This was the caption:

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