Question: Hey Pastor, I have a family member whom I love dearly, but we could not be more far apart on our religious views.? She isn?t comfortable with ?organized religion? and feels that she can have a relationship with God without going to church.? What should I tell her?
Answer: Thank you for your question.? The line of thinking that your relative has is quite prevalent in our world today.? (I would imagine that you?ve heard that statement MANY times way before your relative voiced that thought to you, right?!?)
Like in all matters regarding the Lord, we go to His holy Word in the Scriptures to see what, if anything, He has to say about the idea of having a relationship with Himself without also being an active part of ?organized religion.?
First of all, in the Old Testament, God, Himself established an extremely ?organized religion.?? Consider the elaborate plans that God had for the tabernacle (read Exodus chapters 25-40) and the temple (read 1 Kings chapters 5-8) for their building, furnishing, and usage.? After reading these chapters, one MUST conclude that God established an extremely ?organized? plan for His people to worship Him and hear His revelation to them.
Secondly, some things established by God in the Old Testament were abrogated (done away with) in the New Testament such as animal and other sacrifices.? However, there is absolutely no place where God goes on record and says that we Christians now living in this New Testament era are free to jettison ?organized religion.?? In fact, St. Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes this:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.? 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.? 44All the believers were together and had everything in common.? 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.? 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.? They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.? And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)
In the above text I underlined the words that speak to the practice of the First Century Christians.? Undoubtedly they practiced worshipping together ? and not in some sort of ?each man for himself? manner.
If that isn?t enough, consider what the holy writer to the recipients of the Book of Hebrews has to say about organized religion and worshipping on one?s own:
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another?and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25, NIV)
Here God tells us quite clearly that He eagerly desires His people to worship together and to do so regularly.? There is no other interpretation for this.
A common military tactic to defeat one?s enemy is called ?divide and conquer.?? The idea is that if one?s enemy has his defenses spread thin, then it is easier to defeat them.? So it is with us Christians.? When Christians gather together, they can mutually support one another against the tactics of the devil who desires to steal their faith.? But if we are na?ve and believe that we can stand up to the devil?s attack by ourselves, then our faith (and thus our eternal destiny!) is in extreme peril, for the devil then has us in a weak and vulnerable position.
I firmly believe that the idea that we don?t need ?organized religion? comes straight from the devil.? We Christians DO need Christ?s Holy Christian Church on earth to help us on our way through this world.? Jesus established the Church for the very purpose of propagating and sustaining the Christian faith through the preaching of His Word and the administration of the Sacraments.? Thanks for your question!