The Five Benefits of Practical Christianity
Hi Friends -
Have you ever been asked “What is Unity?” And did you respond by listing out the “Five Unity Principles”? If so, I believe that was a mistake. And it is a mistake that nearly everyone in Unity is making today. The Five Unity Principles may be helpful for internal consumption—helping students organize their belief system. But they are not useful for bringing people into Unity from outside our movement. Here’s why.
The Five Principles are features of Unity, or more accurately, the features of our belief system. The person isn’t really asking about our belief system. He or she wants to know how our belief system is different from what they already know. And they want to know how those differences are relevant to them in the way they live. The differences they are asking about aren’t features, rather they are benefits.
Distinguishing features from benefits is a well-known concept in the marketing world. But it is also a classic literary form in religion, known as Apologetics, and defined as a “reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” Apologetic writings in early Christianity actually predate theological writings. When your people are being fed to the lions, you don’t respond with features, you respond with benefits, like love and community. In short, you go from theologian to sales person.
Practical Christianity—It Works! was written in 1975 by Catherine Ponder and published in the February issue of Unity magazine. It is a solid work of Unity apologetics. And if you are trying to answer the commonly asked question, “What is Unity?” or to explain how Unity is different from traditional Christianity, then this article is for you. This five-page essay lists five benefits of Practical Christianity and explains what they are. Here are her points:
- Practical Christianity “works” because it gives us an understanding of the true nature of God and man.
- Practical Christianity “works” because it stands for redemption of the whole man: spirit, soul, and body.
- Practical Christianity “works” because it stands for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven upon the earth—in our lives, right here and now.
- Practical Christianity “works” because it brings increased prosperity into our life.
- Practical Christianity “works” because it shows us how to pray in a simple way that brings results: through the use of affirmative words followed by a meditative silence.
If I were speaking in a Unity church this morning, these are the things I would be bringing out. Each one is an opening to delivering what we know today as an “elevator pitch”—an opportunity to define how what we offer is useful and how it compares with what the person has already got.
Catherine Ponder is a smart woman. We all should memorize these “Five Unity Benefits” and learn to elaborate on how they enrich our life.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
BY CATHERINE PONDER
A STOCKBROKER ONCE told me that he got interested in Unity when he heard of Unity Society of Practical Christianity. He had been a member of a traditional church in the Christian faith for years, so Christianity he knew about. But practical Christianity was something else, and he was fascinated with its possibilities.
As he investigated and began to use practical Christianity, it transformed his life. He prospered through several recessions that bankrupted other stockbrokers.
Because he proved what many of us have discovered: practical Christianity “works.”
1. Practical Christianity “works” because it gives us an understanding of the true nature of God and man.
Jesus Christ, a pioneer in practical Christianity, gave His followers an understanding of the true nature of God and man.
Of the true nature of God He said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Of the true nature of man He said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
He also quoted the Psalmist who had said, “You are gods, and sons of the Most High, all of you.”
There is still miracle-working-power available to us today when we gain an understanding of the true nature of God and man, and then think, speak, and act accordingly.
A housewife in California recently said: “My husband had just come out of the Navy after twenty years of service. He went to work on a job that gave him no pleasure and no chance for advancement. So he began to declare daily: ‘I am going out and get a job that will pay me what I’m worth, because I am a child of God!’ Within two weeks he had been employed at the nearby shipyards as a pipefitter, at several times his previous income.”
In my own life, things began to make sense to me for the first time on that day more than two decades ago when I took my mother’s copy of Lessons in Truth off her bookshelf and began reading it.
I thought excitedly: “Why didn’t someone tell me a long time ago what is in this book: That the true nature of God is unlimited good? That God is life, love, wisdom, power, and substance? That God does not have a split personality of good and evil? That God loves me? That the true nature of man is that of a spiritual being? That God is within me?”
Theology generally teaches that God is both immanent (within) and transcendent (universal). But Unity, which specializes in the teachings of Jesus, has long emphasized that God is immanent, within man. This one basic truth was the turning point in my life from frustration and failure to gradual growth into a wonderfully fulfilling life. As my understanding has expanded over the years of the true nature of God and man, so has my good!
I recently talked with a clinical psychologist whose job is counseling troubled college students. He told me that when confused students come to him for counseling, their confusion invariably stems from a lack of understanding of the true nature of God and man.
This is true, not just with college students but with people everywhere. In the Unity Movement, we have so often seen a person’s problems resolved when he began to understand, as Jesus pointed out, that God is Spirit; that man has that Spirit within him.
When we think of man as a spiritual being, as he is described in the book of Genesis, we wonder how theologians could have lost sight of man’s spiritual nature for so many centuries. How could they have dwelt instead upon the sinful, limited, human side of man?
Phineas Quimby, who has been called “the founder of metaphysics” in America, lived one hundred years ago. He experienced a spiritual healing and became the first metaphysician in America. One of the ways Quimby healed so many people was by telling them that they were spiritual beings, not miserable sinners. He told them that they could revolutionize their lives for good by thinking of themselves as spiritual beings, rather than sinful beings. It is just as true today.
The Apostle Paul was a great metaphysician; he said, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Of others, he declared, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
As spiritual beings, we should get busy claiming our heritage of health, wealth, and happiness.
2. Practical Christianity “works” because it stands for redemption of the whole man: spirit, soul, and body.
For centuries, “soul saving” has been an ecclesiastical business, but that only gets a third of the job done. Jesus came to lift up the whole man and to make him complete in spirit, soul, and body.
That redemption comes when we realize the literal truth of the words of Paul: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? ... So glorify God in your body.”
The Unity Movement began more than eighty years ago when an ailing wife and mother, Myrtle Fillmore, decided to prove that her body was the temple of the living God, and that she could glorify God in her body.
Even though she had an “incurable” diagnosis hanging over her, as she began to dwell upon the life of God in her body, that life responded. Of course she did not die but got well and lived another forty years, to become the “mother” of Unity. She proved that practical Christianity works when we dwell upon God as life in the body.
A woman in Dallas told me that after realizing that God was within her as the life of her body, she no longer wanted to smoke. The desire left her because, she said, she could not imagine God smoking a cigarette.
The realization that God was within her took away the desire to smoke. People have testified in the same vein about other habits, such as drinking.
Unity tells people to follow their own inner guidance about smoking, drinking, and other habits. As spiritual beings we have the power of choice to do whatever we feel guided to do. We are free, according to our soul growth, in these matters.
3. Practical Christianity “works” because it stands for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven upon the earth—in our lives, right here and now.
Students of practical Christianity know that they do not have to wait until some future life to enjoy the blessings of health, wealth, and happiness. As spiritual beings, these are ours by divine right now, if we dare to claim them.
Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Most of us do not feel we are living in heaven here and now, but we are working on it! Heaven is a state of mind. As we dwell upon divine ideas we develop a more heavenly state of mind. This practice brings the kingdom of heaven into our daily experiences more and more.
Even though we may not feel we are living completely in the kingdom of heaven right now, if we look back on our life to that period when we did not yet know this Truth, then by comparison, it would seem that we are living in heaven now. For most of us, things have gotten far more heavenly since we took up the study of practical Christianity.
In every Unity center in which I have served as a minister, I have seen tremendous things happen to people who accepted this idea—good things that seemed impossible by human standards.
One couple had tried repeatedly to adopt children and had been turned down by every adoption agency in their area. They did not know why.
Within a short time after they began to think of the kingdom of heaven as being at hand in their own lives, the tide turned. Through an out-of-town agency, they adopted not just one but several children.
An accountant had tried for ten years to pass the CPA test required for licensing in his state. After he became a Unity student and began to declare that as a spiritual being, it was his divine right to have his license—that it was at hand—he passed the first time he took the test again.
Healings, happy marriages, promotions in pay, improvements along all lines occur to those who have learned that their good is at hand. I have seen people develop peace of mind, poise, self-confidence when they held to this idea.
Opening your mind to this truth can bring vast improvement along all lines. Recently a woman in Baltimore said: “After taking up the study of Unity, I began to hold to the thought, ‘Life is to enjoy.’ This led to my first trip to Europe—a two-week tour of the Mediterranean covering six countries, and it included an audience with the Pope. I am still pinching myself. Increased prosperity, wonderful, new congenial friends, and freedom from suicidal tendencies are other blessings I am now enjoying since I learned that my good is at hand and that I can have it now.”
4. Practical Christianity “works” because it brings increased prosperity into our life.
When we study the first chapter of Genesis, we find that a loving Father created a lavish universe, then placed spiritual man in that opulent universe and gave him dominion over it.
This means that abundance is our spiritual heritage. As a practical matter, we should be prosperous. Until we are prosperous, we have neither the time nor the money to grow spiritually, or to help -others in their spiritual unfoldment. Prosperity is a first requirement for spiritual growth, as well as for economic well-being.
Jesus proved that a practical Christianity is a prosperous Christianity, and He encouraged His followers to do so too.
Charles Fillmore was one of the outstanding spiritual leaders of the past century because he taught a prosperous Christianity. In his book Prosperity he has pointed out an age-old truth: the practice of tithing leads us down the road to permanent prosperity.
A woman reported to me: “Recently I decided for the first time to tithe. That week I found in my wallet $20 that I didn’t know I had. My washer broke down; when buying a new one, I was given a $20 discount. I bought lots of books and magazines at discount prices. It seemed my purse was never empty. When I needed to make a purchase, the money was there. I became active in our church and met many wonderful people. This has led to a whole new life socially. I had been very depressed about a broken engagement. Now my life has taken on a new glow. I used to be so nervous. Now my hands are beautiful and at peace. I recently took a trip abroad. I am so grateful to know at last about this ancient prosperity law 1 which still works wonders in our lives when we use it. I only wish I had begun to put God first financially years ago. How I cheated myself!—but never again.”
A friend in Oregon said: “Since tithing to the Unity Movement, I have received the following financial blessings: $200 income from babysitting in the last two or three months. My husband has received a 10% raise in pay. I inherited $4,448.16. I have found pennies, dimes, loose change in our backyard, on the street, and in parking lots. I have tithed from all of these blessings, and it makes me feel rich to be giving so much.”
5. Practical Christianity “works” because it shows us how to pray in a simple way that brings results: through the use of affirmative words followed by a meditative silence.
A businessman said that the first time he ever attended a Unity church service and heard people saying their prayer statements out loud together, he was so startled that he almost left the service. But then he thought: “I know that the Unity philosophy has helped many, many people. So perhaps I should go all the way with it. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ ”
He began to join in saying the affirmative statements aloud with everyone else and then observing a meditative silence. Almost immediately desires of longstanding were fulfilled! As he continued to declare affirmative prayer statements aloud daily, vast improvement came quickly in his life.
Because the word affirm means “to make firm.” When you speak forth good words in faith, you are making firm your good and you are opening the way for it to manifest in your life. Silent Unity has helped thousands solve their problems effectively through the use of affirmative prayers. The Unity publications have related those results monthly for more than eighty years.
“Vast improvement comes quickly in every phase of my life now. Every day in every way, things are getting better and better for me now”
is an affirmative prayer statement that has helped many, many people.
It has been estimated that the spoken word describing one’s good can speed up results in one’s life as much as eighty percent. A businessman in Palm Springs, California, recently related to me how the spoken word of prosperity manifested a thriving business for him.
This man learned of the power of affirmative words at a time when he was suffering from a bitter divorce. As he began to declare words of forgiveness daily, the bitterness dissolved. Later he was even able to counsel with his former wife and help her change her attitudes for the better, too.
He and his business partner went into a new venture in the Los Angeles area, but it failed. Undaunted, he began to declare daily,
“I love the highest and best in all people, and I now draw the highest, best, most prosperous-minded people to me (to this business).”
After using these words, he felt guided to go to Palm Springs for a weekend of relaxation. There he met a man who insisted that if he would open a business in a beautiful new shopping center in Palm Springs, he was bound to prosper.
The Los Angeles businessman soon realized that his new-found friend (a millionaire who seemed to know what he was talking about) had appeared as a result of his affirmative words asking for the “highest, best, most prosperous-minded people.” He followed the man’s advice, and his new business boomed from the start. He has now opened a second shop in the desert and is doing well.
The foregoing suggestions are just a few of the countless ways that practical Christianity can “work” for you. As you continue to study the subject, you will find its inner revelations and its outer benefits unlimited.
I invite you to join me in availing yourself of the vast benefits of practical Christianity. You can begin by declaring daily, “Practical Christianity—it works!”