Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Problem with Organized Religion

I spent time with my brother this week. He really has trouble with church. It's not church so much. It's the people. He thinks there is a lot of phoniness associated with the church - a lot of people who talk about God and Jesus who never let it truly affect their lives. He's one of those people that doesn't like organized religion.

The funny thing is, neither do I! That may seem odd (being a pastor), but I know exactly what he's talking about. Organized religion can do strange things to people! I visited a church recently. It was fine. The music was good. The message was good. The people were nice. But there was phoniness. There was baggage - things in place that weren't necessary ...expectations, assumptions..."If you become a Christian you need to be like us." I know that from their perspective they were just seeking to develop community. They didn't see the baggage. But I did. And it was disappointing because I sat there thinking, "If my brother was here, he'd be so aware of the baggage he wouldn't be able to hear the truth of your words." There are millions of people like my brother who would love to be in church but they feel like attending would actually compromise their values. They want to know God better but they don't want to take on all the "extras" that church seems to require of them. So they keep their distance.

The sad thing is, I'm sure that Cedarbrook has it's own baggage. I just don't see it. But I pray for eyes to see the baggage so we can get rid of it. Our only purpose should be to help people connect with God and then let God connect us with each other. Community and commitment can't be forced by intimidation or obligation. They develop naturally as we find ourselves following Jesus together. Is that too much to expect?

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