This coming Sunday we continue our teaching series: LIVING THE DASH. Scott Williams and I will be co-teaching on: A Lifestyle of Worship. As we approach this vital topic, I wanted to recommend a most helpful book to you – Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas (Zondervan, 1996). I actually did a teaching series based upon this book in 2007.


In this book a pathway describes the way we connect with God, how we draw near to him.

  • Gary identifies 9 different ways that Christians draw near to God – how they express their love for him and how they get to know him better.
  • A pathway is not how you become a Christian; it is your path once you have chosen to be a follower of Christ.
  • Check out a very brief summary of the 9 pathways:



NATURALISTS – Draw near to God through nature

  • They love to be outside; they are fascinated by trees, flowers, insects, the stars and the sky – the world of nature turns their hearts and thoughts toward God.
  • The beauty and wonder of God’s creation speaks to them.



SENSATES – Draw near to God through the senses

  • Their five senses are God’s most effective means of speaking to them.
  • They get lost in the awe and splendor of God.
  • Sensates typically have their worship greatly enhanced by incense, beautiful architecture and décor (think Holy Name Cathedral), classical music (think Handel’s Messiah), classic artwork and formal language – they will enjoy a liturgical service.



TRADITIONALISTS – Draw near to God through ritual and symbol

  • They love their faith within a historical context – rituals, symbols (think the Communion and baptism) and the ancient creeds (Nicene and the Apostle’s).
  • Traditionalists usually have need for structure and ritual – usually drawn to a more formal and liturgical type of worship service.
  • They tend to have a very disciplined life of faith; marked by very regular church attendance, tithing, and keeping of the Sabbath.



ASCETICS – Draw near to God through simplicity and solitude

  • They love to be left alone; to pray and meditate in silence.
  • Ascetics tend to be introverts and pretty introspective.
  • They believe God speaks in a still; small voice and you need silence in order to hear him. They value alone time – they don’t have to be constantly surrounded by noise and people.



ACTIVISTS – Draw near to God through bringing about social change

  • Activists always have a cause they are fighting for; they believe truth equals confrontation.
  • Involvement to bring about social change is what energizes them – pro-life, health care, feeding the poor, saving the environment, battling racism – their faith makes them a soldier advancing God’s truth and justice.
  • Often they are not afraid of conflict!



CAREGIVERS – Draw near to God through caring for others

  • They serve and love God by serving and loving others – the first ones to make a hospital visit, providing a meal or help fix a car; they love doing for others – it brings life to their spirit.
  • They also tend to overextend themselves and have a hard time saying no!



ENTHUSIASTS – Draw near to God through mystery and celebration

  • Enthusiasts are the church cheerleaders – they like to shout, whistle, dance, sing real loud and do it with a large group of people. They love Christian concerts – they like to rock the house!
  • If their hearts weren’t moved – then church was no good. They love to sing and worship in a group (they could do without the sermon!).
  • They have the joy of the Lord – sometimes obnoxiously so (like an overly cheerful person first thing in the morning!)




CONTEMPLATIVES – Draw near to God through adoration

  • They are very thoughtful – they desire to sit just at the feet of Jesus – remember Mary doing this?
  • They have deep within their heart a love for God – just spending time with him – they lose track of time praying and reading his word.




INTELLECTUALS – Draw near to God through their minds

  • They live in the world of ideas – they enjoy studying and debating theology. Learning a new truth about God or his Word thrills them; they are energized when they can study and learn; they might do their daily devotions straight out of the Greek New testament…
  • Proper doctrine and theology are a central concern.



So, now I am curious…what do you think is your primary spiritual pathway? Please leave a comment and let me know. (In a few days I’ll share what is my pathway.) Thanks!







  1. Mark Jackson

    Hi Dave, I believe I belong in the ENTHUSIASTS pathway. Although, I love your sermons!

    1. dave Post author

      Mark – I fully agree, you are an enthusiast all the way! (And I’m glad you like my sermons!)

  2. Allison

    I think intellectual is my primary spiritual pathway, although I do not read from the Greek New Testament! It’s interesting to consider which pathways we exhibit tendencies towards and which ones we are not. For example, I see naturalist and ascetic tendencies in myself (although I have an extroverted personality).

    1. dave Post author

      I don’t think I have a shred of the intellectual pathway in me! I probably shouldn’t admit that publicly.

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