Trying to bridge the gap between people of different faiths can be a daunting task. Even if you can identify some shared core values, the way you express those values may appear to be in opposition with another's expression. For example, despite the tendency of popular culture to lump all who believe in Jesus into one category, being a Christian means different things to different people. Richard J. Foster outlined at least six ways that congregations can approach the practice of their belief in Christ.
The focus of the charismatic tradition is on God's spirit. Charismatic Christians believe that all faith, work and good in the world stems from the power of the Holy Spirit. While denominations and individual congregations vary in terms of the spiritual signs and wonders they expect to see, most believe that an outward, miraculous manifestation of joy, praise, healing or guidance is possible. Believers in this tradition follow three basic principles:
- Identifying their own spiritual gifts
- Accepting the limits of what they can accomplish on their own
- Working in community with those with other gifts to ensure the full expression of God's spirit
The contemplative tradition focuses on getting to know God through a practice of prayer and solitude. Many faith traditions practice a form of intense contemplation to remove distractions and focus on a higher power. Meditation is often a key feature of this spiritual stream, as it teaches people to remain in the present and focus on what God has to say to them. Through contemplation, believers are meant to be transformed from agents of division and strife to examples of peace and collaboration.
Evangelicalism is often associated with door-to-door proselytes and street preachers handing out religious tracts. While this is certainly a reality in some circles, these acts don't encompass the whole movement. Essentially, the evangelical tradition is centered on the salvation through the grace of God that is outlined in the Bible. Practicing faith thus becomes an acceptance of this grace and the exhortation to share the good news of how simply accepting this grace allows people access to knowing God.
Proponents of this traditions focus on living a Christ-like life. They tend to center their practices on learning compassion and justice. Establishing these traits through practices such as study, confession, prayer, tithing and worship equips them to act according to their values, meeting the needs that they find in their communities and extending hospitality to others.
Incarnational Christians center their spiritual practice on the sacraments. In fact, for these believers, everyday life is a sacrament itself, full of the divine presence. They seek God not only in the rituals of the church but in ordinary practices and places. For example, daily housework is not just a chore but rather an opportunity to learn how to express God's love for others through making a space ready to receive them. Embodiment of the spirit of God in everything they do is the overall aim of this tradition.
The key component of the social justice tradition is God's compassion for the world. This manifests in a couple of ways. First, believers must recognize injustice stemming from abuses of power that leave people disadvantaged, marginalized and oppressed. Second, they believe they have a responsibility to dismantle systems that perpetuate these imbalances to ensure fair treatment for all. Freedom for all people is a fundamental motivation for this tradition.
While there may be some fundamental beliefs that all Christians share, the way they put them into practice varies greatly. The practice of faith can take on many forms. By increasing understanding and respect for differing practices, believers of all faiths are likely to find some common ground.