Active & Passive Spirituality
By John Mark Comer
Note: You will need a journal and pen (or device to write in) for this week’s exercise.
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the Teaching in triads (15–20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
1. Was the idea of active and passive spirituality confusing? Or did it click for you?
2. What’s a problem in your life with no good “solution”? An area where you need to practice acceptance or “detachment”?
3. As you were listening to the teaching, or even right now, do you have any immediate ideas come to mind as to what Jesus’ invitations are to you in this stage and season?
Transition back to one large group (5 minutes)
Ask a few questions about the last week’s Practice:
1. Any stories from the last week’s Practice that you would like to encourage the whole group with?
2. Any “aha” moments of illumination, healing, or breakthrough?
3. What’s one takeaway from your life as pertains to the Spiritual Life Inventory? Or perhaps, one clear insight or encouragement or next step you feel safe to share?
Read this overview
While a new concept to many of us in the late modern, Western church, the paradigm of active and passive spirituality has a long tradition in church history. By “active spirituality,” we mean aspects of our spirituality that feel more like we’re doing something: spiritual disciplines, church activity, even the work therapy or spiritual formation. By “passive spirituality,” we mean aspects of our life with Jesus that feel more like God is the one doing something in us, and our role is simply to welcome his work, rather than fight it. As Jean Pierre de Caussade put it, to “suffer lovingly.” Some call this “radical acceptance.” To cease striving to fix all the problems of your life, and recognize that, at some level, many of of them just can’t be fixed. They can only be embraced, grieved, forgiven, and turned into love and compassion.
In Practice for tonight, we have a short journaling exercise to help you name Jesus’ invitations to you in both the active and passive aspects of your apprenticeship.
Do this practice right now (15–30 minutes)
1. Come to quiet
- Take a few deep breaths. Release any anxiety or anger, and receive the Spirit’s peace.
- Invite the Spirit to illuminate your mind with his voice.
2. Take 5–10 minutes and respond to this question in your journal: What does active spirituality look like in my life right now?
- Here are a few clarifying questions:
- What sins and struggles am I currently facing in my apprenticeship to Jesus?
- Where am I really getting traction in my freedom from sin and spiritual journey to love? (e.g. fasting, therapy, the Enneagram, a close friendship, addiction recovery, reading, a podcast, etc.)
- What practices/spiritual disciplines form the core of my life with Jesus? The “trellis to my vine” of abiding?
- Do I have a rule of life? (i.e. a set of habits, practices, and principles to which I commit my life as a way of becoming more like Jesus) If so, what is it? Do I have it in writing?
- Is there a next step Jesus is calling me to take? An “action” he’s calling me to do in this stage of my apprenticeship and season of life?
3. Now take 5–10 minutes and journal your response to this question: What does passive spirituality look like in my life right now?
- Here are a few clarifying questions:
- Where is the pain point in my life currently? The ache?
- Is there a problem in my life I’m trying to fix that isn’t really fixable? Where perhaps I need to practice acceptance?
- Are there any areas where I’m trying to manipulate the circumstances of my life in order to be happy, rather than partnering with Jesus to become a more loving, joyful, peaceful person?
- Are there any people I’ve hurt in my attempt to manipulate the externals of my life to meet my “ideal”? What would repentance and reconciliation look like with them?
- What are Jesus’ invitations to me in this stage and season?
If you’d like, you may want to refer back to the annual apprenticeship plan we did at the beginning of the year:
Work through these discussion questions before you call it a night (10–15 minutes)
1. Did anything new come to mind for you during this exercise?
2. Where is the “pain point” for you?
3. Is there a next step you’d like to share with the Community?
Close in prayer over the pain points in each of your lives (10 minutes)
Feel free take break into triads again, in order to have time to pray over each person.