Living in a World with God: An Interpretative Phenomenological Exploration of the Religious Experiences of Five Baptists in Britain


  • James Murphy
  • Fergal W. Jones
  • Dennis Nigbur
  • Kate Gee


Religious and spiritual experiences often form significant elements of people’s narratives about their faith and lives, but the impact of these experiences is often neglected in academic studies. This study investigated the connections between perceived experiences of God and beliefs in the lives of five members of a Baptist church in Britain, using data from semi-structured interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to explore the data and develop 11 recurrent sub-themes, organized into two super-ordinate themes: “Knowing God” and “Living in the World.” There were idiosyncratic differences between the experiences of the participants, but they all perceived God communicating with them and attributed certain events to God’s influence. These experiences developed real and meaningful relationships with God, and the participants’ faith affected every aspect of their lives, shaping their actions, beliefs and daily lived experiences. The participants’ diverse experiences and beliefs created mutually supporting meaning systems (or worldviews) that were much stronger than the individual elements that contributed to them. God was an intrinsic part of the participants’ social reality, and their lived experiences cannot be adequately understood without appreciating the influence of this central aspect of their lives. These findings show the importance of taking a holistic and idiographic perspective when studying religiosity and spirituality. The study also demonstrates IPA is a useful and effective tool for studying lived experiences of religiosity and spirituality and supports its broader use to investigate such phenomena.