Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why I'm into Organized Religion

When I was in the U.S. during August I was perusing the shelves of the local Bible book store. Ignoring the promotional display for the #1 book by Jon & Kate Gosselin on marriage and family (are you kidding me?) I grabbed a little book whose title caught my eye, Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I grabbed it!

I for one am a little tired of the church becoming the whipping boy for every perceived injustice, real or imagined, since Cain slew Abel. I'll be honest, when someone says to me, "I'm spiritual, but I'm not into organized religion" I quench the need to throw up right there and then with a straight face usually respond, "That funny because I'm not really into spirituality, but I LOVE organized religion." (Yes, I do have fun at other people's expense but they make it SO easy and the Lord is dealing with me on it :)

Another group of people that need a re-boot are the "I love Jesus, but have serious problems with the church." crowd. If someone came up to me and said, "You know Steve, we really like you, but Tammy, wow, she can be a real jerk" how positively inclined toward that person am I really going to be. You can't love me and hate my wife.

Now thats not to say that if someone was hurt by Tammy that they can't come to me and discuss the situation. Honest critique done in love is God born but...

...don't you get the feeling that many who bash the church (and some even make a living doing it) really enjoy doing it! I mean they make it sound like they are doing the world a favor by exposing and critiquing certain issues but you don't get the feeling they are doing so to see the Bride of Christ cleaned and ready for the Bridegroom...

...rather it feels more like the smile an assassin gives when he plunges a knife into his victim's back and turns.

While some see the church only as a hotbed of boredom, hypocrisy, and scandal I instead see the people who tirelessly give of themselves day after day around the world, often in harsh conditions, to feed the poor, heal the sick, defend the downtrodden, and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The book of James says this in Chapter 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

And so that, my friend, is why I'm into organized religion...


Andrew said...

I agree and disagree with you on this one. On the one hand, I think there is something to be said about a community that comes together to perform certain rituals for spiritual development and as a place of connection for strengthening the community.

On the other hand, I am glad that people are feeling empowered to not feel tied down to certain models, as if our models are what Paul was talking about when he referred to the Church.

I think one could also get into blaming the victim here. Just because after 10-20 years of meeting on Sunday to sing a few songs and hear a darn familiar message, a person wants to find something, anything, else... I don't think we have to make it sound like there is something wrong with that.

And I think the wife analogy works on a certain level, but I also think there are other points of view. Just because person A does not feel like having a relationship with person B, that does not mean that A has a problem. But that is the way that it is often assessed... if you don't like church (little c) there must be something wrong with you. There is nothing that is more meaningless to me than sitting down and watching sports. However, I realize that others find great entertainment, bonding, and fulfillment from it. I recognize the difference, yet we do not seem to acknowledge that, for some, meeting together and singing and listening to a preacher on Sunday can be just as mind numbing.

Steve H. said...


I think we are talking about 2 different groups of people. The person you mention

" after 10-20 years of meeting on Sunday to sing a few songs and hear a darn familiar message, a person wants to find something, anything, else."

is not what this is about. That person may be bored, but they're not hateful. Heck, I am sometimes part of that crowd.

Also you seem to infer that church is just something you do if thats "your thing" so to speak. I'm not so sure thats the way to approach it. The New Testament leaves a lot of room for flexibility on how our corporateness is acheived, but it is an important part of discipleship and not to be taken lightly.

I have to ask you: on one hand you say sitting in a meetings singing a few songs and listening to a preacher is mind numbing yet you moved to Utah to be part of that very situation...couldn't have been that mind numbing?

Andrew said...

I think it is important to distinguish between big C and little c church. Too often we are making them the same thing.

For example, I have never cared for church choruses, particularly the ones that make it sound that next I will be batting my eyes at Jesus. However, people have questioned me on more than one occasion, "How can you not enjoy worship?" In their mind, they can not distinguish a difference between a style of worship and the act of worship.

I think we in our various church supcultures often misunderstand people when they "reject" our style of church that they are rejecting Christ. I just want to acknowledge that we in the West have developed a rather monolithic way of doing church, and though there is nothing wrong with our typical way, there is also nothing wrong with someone choosing another path.

Steve H. said...


Again this is not a critique of the person who finds singing a few choruses to be not his or her favorite expression of worship.

I also make less and less of a distinction between big C and little C. America is made up of Americans just as the Church is made up of many local expressions of Church. Its the sum of the parts.

In regards to choosing another path...well again, I guess it depends on the path

Andrew said...

Just to clarify, my point in the worship analogy is not to refer to a person who avoids his local church due to choruses. My point is those who connect worship with the singing of choruses, and then views someone who does not do those choruses as never partaking in worship (when if fact, that person may spend more and/or better time in worship than the singer). In the same way, I think sometimes we interpret that someone who does not do a Sunday morning routine as not partaking in fellowship, discipleship, and instruction.

We end up making worship singing, and our Sunday morning pattern church... and anyone not doing it that way is not partaking.

Bob said...

Don't want to get between the brothers here but . . .

There are a number of books now about not going to church or how somebody felt rejected by the church and decided to do his/her own thing. I just read one called Divine Nobodies.

For a long time I think I expected too much. I finally realized church leadership is compiled of imperfect people, just like any organization. The fact is, I need the connection and I need the discipline. It's not perfect but Christ must have established it for a reason.

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