Friday, April 27, 2012

Organized Religion: Is it an Oxymoron?

A short time ago, I wrote an article about church health. Since then, I've read a few more things and had several conversations with various people about churches, church organizations and about people that have been hurt by them. As a result, I've been thinking about the things that differentiate Christian denominations and about the things that bind us together. All-in-all, it's not a pretty picture. 

How can it be that the people that claim to follow the same God have so many different ways of following Him?  How can the readers of the same Bible be so different in their beliefs?
How is it that Christianity has fractured into so many different denominations that even non-denominational churches are like a denomination of their own?

One body of believers? I don't think so.

Different Christian denominations have some very different teachings and practices. I'm not talking about what kind of music they have or what day of the week they meet. I'm talking about everything from who is going to heaven (and how they get there) to the social practices and taboos of the organizations.

While all "Christian" denominations claim to be followers of Jesus, it would appear that He is leading us down different paths. There are some that believe that eternal life in heaven is attained through a personal commitment to trust Jesus as Savior and to follow His teachings. Others believe that you must have made the same commitment and be baptized. Some denominations emphasize works as a means of salvation. Some claim that works are evidence of salvation and some apparently think that good works are completely unnecessary and live lives that are void of any evidence of a change of heart.

Some denominations believe that the Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of all believers. Some believe in a second baptism of the Spirit. Some believe in the gift of tongues. Some explain it away as a misinterpretation of the Bible.

Some denominations have no problems with drinking alcohol and some even use it as a part of their worship. Others openly condemn the use of alcohol and harshly judge anybody that may have an occasional drink. 

Even though there are denominational leaders on both sides of the political spectrum and godly men and women that range from liberal to moderate to conservative (I know that some will say that's not possible), some church leaders and people still choose to judge a person's commitment to Jesus on the basis of how they vote or which political party they support. 

I wonder if "organized" religions will ever recognize how unorganized we appear to be.

Over the years, several ministers have expressed their frustrations by stating how they would just like to walk away from it all. 
...And some of them have done just that.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a part of a completely authentic community of believers.
No denominational ties.
No organizational rules.
No ties to a building. 
No bondage to debt.
Just genuine followers of Jesus with only the Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide us.

I wonder...

John <><


John said...

We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and are to find unity in Jesus.

Aaron shared this quote the last time I was at their church in Chicago:

The church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in the light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says—and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1954), 21; cf. 23.

We still need some work on that love one another for Jesus’ sake.

Patrick Hill said...

Our pastor preached a sermon a couple of weeks ago about the stresses and ailements of fulltime ministry; the divorce rates, substance abuse, depression, attrition, etc.

I wonder what the church you describe would look like. I wonder what Christianity would look like if we didn't focus on programs, or what ministry is more important, or what program should get resources. I wonder what Christianity would look like if we gathered to worship and talked about Christ and Christ crucified. I wonder what the church would look like if we lived outside the church walls the way we profess to live inside the church walls.