No Offense Intended.
Because of my frankness regarding my expressed view of “religion” some people have taking offense by insinuating that I am referring to their religion of choice and have even taken offense as if it was directed to them on a personal level. Therefore, there arises the need for an explanation as to what I mean by “religion” and the system on which it is founded and what I mean when I refer to the “Church” that Jesus established and is building.
I do appreciate and understand why people may take the view that I am unconventional in the way I relate to what has been accepted as the norm when it comes to church. I understand the philosophy of such thinking because of growing up in the culture that has been accepted as the norm for Christianity.
If you are happy with the status-quo of organized religion today, you may not like my response. My purpose is not to convince you to see the Church of Jesus Christ the same way I do. If you only believe because I convince you, somebody else may convince you otherwise and you will end up adding confusion to your confusion. Even if we agree to disagree, hopefully you will understand where I am coming from and that there is no need to be estranged from each other as members of Christ's body because we do not see eye-to-eye regarding religiosity. My desire is that nobody take personally what I say about the religious system nor conclude that I am referring to their particular denomination or the people within.
First let me state clearly what I mean when I refer to religion. When I refer to religion I and referring to any reliance on institutions, systems and rule and regulation keeping as a way to God and a the way to maintain spirituality. Religion prescribes that rules and regulations, ethics and performance is the way to achieve what the grace of God has already provided as a gift. It is an organized system, an institution of belief based upon the traditions of men instead of the pursuit of a relational friendship with God. This often leads to performance church by exchanging the truths of God’s grace for external performance, substituting spiritual realities with carnal rituals. Because of this many people miss living the life of God in their daily living and fail to satisfy their spiritual hunger.
Some people have questioned as to why I do not attend “church” as I formally did and have assumed and even articulated incorrect reasons as to why I don’t. I do not regularly attend church by the cultural understanding of what it means to go to church because I believe that the culturally accepted view is based on the false-premise...that ‘Church” is something you can go to as a specific event, a specific location where you go to be a part of an organized group. Following the life of Jesus in the gospels I fail to see that premise as the normality of His living life as His being Head of the “Church.” I am of the opinion that Jesus looks at the Church quite differently than what is culturally accepted. He didn't talk about it as a place to go to, but a way of living in relationship with Him and with other followers of His and to the people that crossed His path daily.
'Church' is not identified by a location or by buildings with steeples and identification tags over the door. It describes a people and how they relate to each other, not on a Sunday with people who are a part of a common religious group but, seven days a week in living life among the people of the community. If we lose sight of that, our understanding of the “Church” will be distorted and we'll miss out on much of the fellowship and the meaning of being the Church.When we only ascribe the term 'church' to weekend gatherings, event-driven conferences or religious institutions that have organized themselves as churches, we miss out on what it means to live as Christ's body. It gives a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once or twice a week we are participating in “CHURCH”, of whom Jesus is the Head.
Conversely I hear people within denominations say that “so-and-so” has left the Church because they stop attending a specific congregation. But if the Church is something we are, “the body of Christ”, and not relegated to some building we go to, how can we leave it unless we abandon Christ himself? And if I think only of a specific congregation as my part of the Church, haven't I separated myself from a host of other brothers and sisters that do not attend the same religious building I do?
The idea that those who gather in a building on Sunday mornings to watch a praise concert and listen to a professional preacher bring out their particular point of view based on their religious persuasion, are part of the church and those who do not, are not, would be foreign to Jesus. The issue is not about where we are at a given time during the weekend, nor a 3 or 4 day event-driven-conference but, how we are living in Him and our relation with people all week long irrespective of who they may be affiliated with.
Now does that mean that you suspend all meetings in buildings where a part of the body of Christ, the “Church,” meets at a given time in a specific place? No, but, I do not consider it the “Church” that Jesus said He would build, just one of the many places that part of His body meets, hopefully to build “each other” up spiritually.
Please know when I refer to religion I am talking about a system and not individuals who are a part of that system, so I ask that you don't take what I say about religion personally.