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How you connect with God says a lot about you

How you connect with God says a lot about you

Caught in a Beautiful View

For me, there is nothing sweeter than watching a sunset on the ocean.

One of the most memorable was on my tenth wedding anniversary.  At the end of one of our days after having spent time with my wife in Napa Valley then walking through the Russian Redwoods, we decided to venture towards the coast for the evening to see if we could catch a sunset.  It wasn’t long until after being on the coastal highway that we found the perfect spot, Billy Goat’s Bluff. I know, great name.  It was the first time I had ever seen the Pacific Ocean and being from the East Coast the first time I had ever seen a sunset on the ocean.  I was simply blown away.  The beauty of this place was hard to describe with words.   That evening as Naomi and I watched the sunset, I realized that my most intimate times with God are always found in nature.


We’re All Wired Differently

Over the years I have realized that not all people enjoy nature as much as myself.  In fact, a good friend of mine after having just seen one of the most amazing views the east coast has to offer, looked at me and said, “Are we done yet?”  Shortly after getting back to the cabin I realized my friend was deeply absorbed and worshipping through the reading of a book.  We’re all wired differently!  The very experience that energizes one person may totally drain the next.  So how are you wired?

Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Pathways” suggests that there are nine distinct sacred pathways in which followers connect best to God.  It is essential for each of us in the development of our soul to determine how God has wired you to experience Him.  The following are the nine pathways, take time to read and ask yourself how you best connect with God.


The Nine Pathways

1. Naturalists – Loving God Out Doors

The naturalist would leave any building to go worship God outside.  Forget the books, the naturalist would rather go take a walk in the woods, sit under a tree, listen to the birds, or even watch a sunset.  They are simply filled deeply and see God’s presence most clearly through the beauty of creation.

2. Sensates – Loving God With The Senses

The sensate wants to be filled with sights, smells, and even sounds.  Architecture, liturgy, classical music, and even formal language all capture a sensate and help them experience God in a very deep and profound way.  If you are a sensate, one of the most worshipful experiences you may have is going to an art gallery for an afternoon.

3. Traditionalists – Loving God Through Ritual and Symbol

The traditionalist loves structure.  Their form of worship is often displayed through connecting to the historic dimensions of the faith.  Rituals, symbols, sacrifice and the sacraments are all essentials for the traditionalist to experience God fully.

4. Ascetics – Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity

The ascetic simply wants to be left alone.  Often these folks can be viewed as reclusive in their conduct.  They would     prefer no liturgy, no loud music, no crowds, just simply to be left alone.  In simplicity and solitude the ascetic sees God clearly.

5. Activists – Loving God Through Confrontation

The activists faith is described in terms of action.  For the activist, God is a God of justice.  Poverty, famine, genocide, unjust wars, oppression, sex trafficking and even slavery become areas of concern and points of action for the activist to be fully alive in their faith.  Shane Claiborne is a great example of one who worships God through an activist pathway.

6. Caregivers – Loving God by Loving Others

The caregiver is simply energized by caring for the needs of others.  These people often claim to see Christ in the poor and needy.  Often caregivers may view the life of the enthusiast and contemplative as selfish.

7. Enthusiasts – Loving God With Mystery and Celebration

The enthusiast wants to be inspired by joyful celebration.  Enthusiasts over the years have often been called the cheerleaders for God and the Christian life.  Shouting Amen, clapping and dancing unto the Lord are all key essentials to the enthusiast connecting to God.

8. Contemplatives – Loving God Through Adoration

The contemplative seeks to love God with the purest, deepest and most profound love imaginable.  Their focus is not necessarily on serving God or even doing great things in his name, but rather simply worshiping him through deep contemplation on his character.

9. Intellectuals – Loving God With the Mind

The intellectual will often be found reading, studying or even debating a key doctrine of the faith.  For the intellectual, their faith is often tied up in concept.  Thinking deeply, understanding new concepts and exploring new ideas bring the intellectual into the presence of God.

TopDifferent but the Same

In the end, each of the pathways is about the same thing… a meaningful experience/encounter with God who uniquely made you to worship Him. What that looks like for you may be very different than what it looks like for someone else, and when we’re not careful we can become guilty of pathway envy, pathway guilt, or pathway criticism.

Pathway Envy is when I look at someone else’s life and say, “I wish I could worship God like they do.” It breeds dissatisfaction with how God has chosen to wire us. Pathway Guilt is when I feel embarrassed by how I prefer to encounter God, as if it shouldn’t “really count” as spending time with Him. Really, taking a walk in nature can be as valid as raising my hands in a worship service? Pathway Criticism shows up when I criticize or demean a pathway that seems completely foreign to me. I might look down my nose at a contemplative because they only ever seem to waste time.

In our heart, we should hold our preferred pathways humbly, be open to learning from those who are different from us, and enjoy the freedom to experience God as He’s created us to.

Some Keys to Remember

  • Recognize that each of us like have a primary and a secondary pathway, but none of us have them all.
  • No one pathway is superior to another; they may feel “different” but as we train our short-term missions teams “different” isn’t “wrong/weird/stupid.”
  • Give yourself some time to personalize this before you try to incorporate it into any kind of ministry application.
  • If you’d like to try an informal survey to see what your pathway might be check out this free resource online:


Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.
  1. My Pathway01-29-13