Leaving Organized Religion (Part 2)
In my last post, I talked about how I feel God has shown me that I don’t need to go to church… it’s not a Biblical mandate. The Bible only says that we aren’t to neglect meeting together with other believers (Heb.10:25).
Well, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression… I might leave the church — meaning the Sunday morning services, or a specific congregation — but I won’t be leaving the faith. I am just tired of trying to live up to the man-made rules of religion.
Wayne Jacobsen (author of “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Any More“), in this article, puts it this way:
Many people giving up on local institutions are not doing so because they’ve rejected Jesus, but finding that the culture of Christianity is actually diminishing their faith not enhancing it.
I’ve always felt really guilty for not keeping up with the “spiritual disciplines”: prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, etc. I do read my Bible from time-to-time (though, not as consistently as I should), and my prayer life is fairly active… I pray off and on throughout every day, little prayers sent up about this or that. But I don’t sit down do have “quiet time” with God, normally, and that makes me feel like a “bad Christian”.
While I realize that the spiritual disciplines are important, I also now realize that I was trying to make them into a “law”, more than a loving, grace-based action. If it doesn’t flow naturally from my love for God, then it’s law, IMHO. We should be so in love with our Lord that we naturally want to spend time with Him, and learn from Him, and grow towards being more like Him. Or, at least, that’s how I see it.
For me, I feel pressured by other Christians to always be striving in my faith. But, faith isn’t supposed to be about striving. It’s supposed to be about relationship; about letting Christ live out His purposes through us. Unfortunately, I never feel “good enough” when I’m around other Christians. I always feel like they are looking down on me because I don’t make it to church every Sunday, or don’t participate in church events, or don’t serve in some way at the church. I don’t DO enough. But, again, it’s not supposed to be about trying to please others.
As I said above, if you’re in a relationship with God, and He’s given the freedom to live out His purposes through you, then you’re going to be serving, or acting out the other disciplines of the Christian faith… they’ll just flow naturally from that relationship. It won’t be forced.
In the same article mentioned above, Wayne Jacobsen says this:
We were promised a relationship with God but were handed a religion of doctrines we had to believe, rituals we had to observe, obligations we had to meet and a standard of morality to adopt. While most of those were true enough, many found that their attempts to follow them did not produce either the life of Jesus it promised, nor the reality of true, caring communities of faith.
And, again, this is where I relate. I don’t feel like I’m growing in my faith — only being stunted by the “rules of the game”, and by the condemnation received from those around me. To quote Rob Bell, in his “Sunday” NOOMA video, “God doesn’t want the meaningless rituals… God wants our hearts“.
“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen
those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” ~ 2 Chronicles 16:9a
So, I’m not going to let those things condemn me any more… I am going to live in the freedom Christ is showing me, knowing I don’t have to follow man-made traditions. I can continue to meet with other believers, both at Bible study, and in one-on-one visits with Christian friends. And, I can continue to pursue a loving relationship with my Lord… just apart from “organized religion”.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
~ Galatians 5:1, NIV
Note: This post was originally written in 2009.