Western civilization has been largely influenced by organized religion posing as Christianity. Biblical illiteracy runs rampant. Unhealthy and often violent problems plague our culture, including: widespread corruption, dishonesty, drug and alcohol abuse, sex abuse, bankruptcy and welfare dependency, and the ethical/moral/family decline.
Jesus told the religious establishment, “You travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matt 23:15)
Is it any wonder that missionaries who arrogantly try to impose western traditions on foreign cultures make little progress; or that anti-Christian influences find it increasingly easy to incite hostile attitudes towards anything associated with Christianity?
Historically, the most ambitious religious establishment usually ends up working with the most ambitious political establishment to keep each other in power. If Jesus was interested in running a world empire, He would have accepted Satan’s offer in Matthew chapter four, verses eight and nine.
Instead, Jesus started a spiritual revolution to set people free from the manipulations of men (read the Sermon on the Mount [Mat 5-7] from a Pharisee’s perspective). The nice religious folks didn’t appreciate Jesus upsetting their program, so they got Him crucified. The revolution raged on, but within a few centuries Christianity had been hijacked by power-hungry hypocrites, just as had happened to Judaism before it.
Make The Paradigm Shift
Like any business, organized religion operates primarily for the benefit of those who run it. The clergy, generically speaking, solicit the laity, their customers, to patronize regularly. It is not in the best interest of a business to teach its customers how to function without them. They teach their customers to always depend on them, which is why we see so much perpetual spiritual immaturity.
God didn’t design His church to be a top-down, earth-bound organization that operates the way modern corporations and denominations do. Jesus said, “Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matt 18:20) Don’t submit to those who strive to control people with their manmade traditions. Take responsibility for your own spiritual growth!
From a spiritual warfare perspective (and every other perspective), God is a genius! Infiltrating and corrupting small groups that are scattered throughout communities all over the world is incomparably more difficult for the enemy to accomplish than doing the same thing to large organizations run by a few at the top.
The headquarters of the church is in heaven, and the completed word of God contains all of the information that anyone needs to know to be saved and to save others. Let’s enlighten, empower, equip, and liberate people from organized religion!
If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got!
Neither popular contemporary traditions nor older religious inventions of men are producing the type of self-sacrificing saints that took the gospel all over the first century world. Religious bureaucracy unnecessarily complicates the mission and only benefits the religious establishment.
We have now compared every issue on the following list. We have not advocated keeping some perfect pattern as a way to earn our way to heaven. We have discussed dropping extra-Biblical baggage in order to be more effective and enjoy God’s best.
As stated in the introduction, many traditions aren’t necessarily absolutely wrong, but it shouldn’t surprise you that in every case, simply following the Biblical pattern has more advantages without all of the unintended negative consequences.
Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians about becoming all things to all men and doing all things for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor 9:19-23) is more flexible, economical, and far simpler than trying to duplicate manmade systems.
Interestingly, many of the problems in the church at Corinth (worldly wisdom, fleshly immaturity, arrogance, immorality, idolatry, cowardice, disobedience to the word of God, false teachers, etc.) parallel many of the problems we’ve discussed. Try reading 1 Corinthians from this perspective.
Many congregations tinker with various issues, trying to make improvements. But it seems there are two mindsets which have the effect of a gravitational pull: church buildings and clergy/laity. These seem to keep people locked into the organized religion paradigm and prevent tinkering from having any long-term success.
I believe that a full scale spiritual revolution is needed to break the gravitational pull and be set free from the competition and guilt that drives organized religion. Though not very glamorous in the eyes of men, and often more dangerous and demanding, New Testament Christianity is the way.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:6)
Today, billions of souls around the world need to hear the gospel and once again a remnant of faithful believers are rising to the occasion. Let’s zealously imitate the first century church and pray that God will raise up laborers to send into a harvest that is potentially greater than ever before!