Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Widgets

A Lonely Defense of the Indefensible

I was recently engaged in a running conversation with a sincere and godly friend who'd expressed her frustration with "organized religion". I found myself in the odd place of defending the concept:
I am certainly conflicted about the topic of "organized religion". I feel like the term is almost indefensible ...
I say "indefensible" because, while many people are willing to defend their own church or denomination, seldom do we use the term "organized religion" in a sentence unless it's in the pejorative. Still ...

Almost as soon as Jesus rose from the grave, the apostles set about "organizing their religion". Norms took form, overseers were appointed, money was collected, etc. So it would seem there's something defensible in organizing--or perhaps the word is inevitable.
I noted that some of the offenses ascribed to "organized religion" are actually the sins of the congregants within the context of the organization, not the organization itself. As I told my friend:
Much of what you described sounds like Christians (real or nominal) behaving badly. Sadly, sinners are going to sin against one another. This is true inside and outside of the organized church, and among real and nominal Christians. Perhaps this is why Jesus had to command us to love one another. We're really just not that lovable.
Let me emphasize: I don't believe the visible church is above criticism. I think she deserves plenty. All I'm saying is that there is much good that occurs within her bosom:
I do know that there are wonderful people like Allen and Miriam ... who have given their lives in service to this dysfunctional family known as the "church". I remember a church-man named Dave who gently closed his wife's eyes after nursing her through terminal cancer. When asked how he did it, he said, "It was the promise I made when I married her." I recall how a dozen ladies from the church I'm in now lay on the floor of [fellow congregant] Maria's room on the night she lost her battle with cancer. I think of all of these things, and am unwilling to declare that "organized religion" is as worthless as some would proclaim.
As I've said before, I truly believe the church needs reform, sometimes radically and urgently. I'll also agree that much of the church's problems can be attributed to the tendency to organize the Holy Spirit out of our midst, so that we trust more in our processes than we do in God's power. And yet ...
For all her warts, she is the visible expression of the body of Christ in the world, and there are yet people saved, encouraged, comforted, strengthened, and honoring our Lord within her. May God have mercy on her and on us.
UPDATE: My friend writes in, and I thought her comment ought to be included here, so I have "promoted" it from below the fold, so to speak ...
Thanks for the sincere and godly compliment. To continue our discussion...

"that we trust more in our processes than we do in God's power"

I think you hit the nail on the head here. The main problem with what I view as "organized religion" is that people often hold on so tight to their rules and regulations, their favorite verses, and doctrinal theseses, that God becomes secondary. In many ways it reminds me of the Jews in Jesus's time who had become so wrapped up in God's laws that they forgot about God himself.

I am not against organized religion, I think it is necessary, and good when done correctly. Unfortunately I feel like we are living in a time where the religion in many cases has become more important than the faith.

You left out an important part of our conversation that I think your readers should hear. You said, "I tend to think that the phenomenon that gives our natural judgmentalism fuel is the fact that we live in the light of a once-ascendant Christianity. We find it easy to be fractious and judgmental because we are free to do so. For us, "persecution" is when we can't put a creche at town hall or when our office mates don't invite us to dinner parties. We have the blessing and the curse of our ease, and therefore the luxury of easy religion."

I think there is a lot to this argument. With no one to really argue with, we argue among ourselves instead. It is almost as though we NEED to be persecuted and the differences between doctrines becomes the catalyst. I guess my problem is that the very people persecuting me are people I feel are brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't have the desire for a fight so I simply take the quiet way out and leave.

I would love to hear what your other readers have to say in regard to this issue as it is one I continue to struggle with and ponder.

30 comments:

  1. Thanks for the sincere and godly compliment. To continue our discussion...

    "that we trust more in our processes than we do in God's power"

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. The main problem with what I view as "organized religion" is that people often hold on so tight to their rules and regulations, their favorite verses, and doctrinal theseses, that God becomes secondary. In many ways it reminds me of the Jews in Jesus's time who had become so wrapped up in God's laws that they forgot about God himself.

    I am not against organized religion, I think it is necessary, and good when done correctly. Unfortunately I feel like we are living in a time where the religion in many cases has become more important than the faith.

    You left out an important part of our conversation that I think your readers should hear. You said, "I tend to think that the phenomenon that gives our natural judgmentalism fuel is the fact that we live in the light of a once-ascendant Christianity. We find it easy to be fractious and judgmental because we are free to do so. For us, "persecution" is when we can't put a creche at town hall or when our office mates don't invite us to dinner parties. We have the blessing and the curse of our ease, and therefore the luxury of easy religion."

    I think there is a lot to this argument. With no one to really argue with, we argue among ourselves instead. It is almost as though we NEED to be persecuted and the differences between doctrines becomes the catalyst. I guess my problem is that the very people persecuting me are people I feel are brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't have the desire for a fight so I simply take the quiet way out and leave.

    I would love to hear what your other readers have to say in regard to this issue as it is one I continue to struggle with and ponder.

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  2. Organized Church?

    I go back to the model in Scripture to understand the organizing of the Church. 4 stages.

    (Stage 1) People were evangelized & converted to Christ.

    Acts 2:41 "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls."


    (Stage 2) Those same converted individuals gathered together as disciples.

    Acts 6:7 "The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith."
    Acts 9:19 "and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,
    Acts 9:26 "When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple."
    Acts 11:26 'and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."

    (Stage 3) Those same disciples grew into becoming an "organized" Church with appointed leadership as well as developed doctrine.

    Acts 13:1 ' Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
    Acts 14:23 "When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
    Acts 15:4 "When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them."

    So the birthing and maturing of a Church is one way I see and understand the book of Acts - the practice of starting & maturing a church not the theory or theology of it.


    (Stage 4) Then the church splits into 1000s of denominations. (ref Church History)
    3 John 1:10 "For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

    As to organizing a church there is a great book I recommend "The Church in the New Testament " by Kevin J. Connor. He does a fine job of showing the good and the bad and the Biblical of "organized Church"

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  3. Our interpretation of concepts and ideas makes a difference. Our experiences shape our views and interpretations. Therefore, it is crucial to heed the words in James, Chapter 1 ... we all should be "quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger" (interpretation and judgment).

    The organized church is not the root of the problem. Sinful man and fleshly Christians are. Organization brings order and effective effort. It prevents chaos and confusion. Our Father is not a god of confusion. He is orderly and we're made in His image.

    When one uses organized religion for personal gain or self-aggrandizement, they no longer bear the image of Christ. They are more concerned about their image and their gain. This leads to disheartened disappointment among believers and distain from a watching world.

    To the degree we, as followers of Christ, love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength; to that same degree we showcase all that's good and right in God. To the degree we LOVE OTHERS as we love ourselves, God's nature and ways are visible to a hurting world.

    Organization is good when directed by those who follow hard after Christ. An organized church which is obedient to the will and way of the Father (and under His authority) advances His Kingdom on earth.

    Blessings to you all ... m

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  4. I am going to go with Stacey on the big picture of organization. There has to be something that can be replicated.

    I see the problem of organized religion from 2 perspectives.

    1) would be the gross failure of the church as seen in the media. IE: Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal, Ted Haggerty, the PTL Club and the like. None of that is making organized religion palatable for the average sinner. And according to George Barnah and PEW, it is not palatable to 50% of this who have come to church in the past. The problem is really the lack of intimate personal friendships, and accountability.

    2) The structure of the church is more like a business with mangers, underlings and worker bees. I am not so sure that is how the body was intended to be run. In most churches the pulpit has become the icon of religion, leaving little room for apostles, prophets, evangelists and good teachers. The senior pastor/CEO model-- well it is not working 50% of the time (according to PEW Research). Remember the shepherd is supposed to leave the 99 and go after the 1. (The biblical symbol sheep refers to the saved.) When people stop coming to church, at an average rate of about 50% these days, we need to see the fruit of our organization as suspect. I have written a lot about Ephesian 4:11, and if you'd like to read more-- a lot more, check out my blog fireandgrace.com. But the problem is mostly that we are running on 1 cylinder for the most part, when we need 5.

    Thanks, Raymond, for bringing up the most important issue facing the church in so many parts of the world.

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  5. Thanks for asking this question! (Kind of long..)

    Stacey and David: Thank you for yielding to the Holy Spirit in your response - there is a recognizable grace and maturity in your responses, and I am BLESSED to be amongst a sanctified group with the Heart of God and Mind of the Spirit in their representation and reflection.

    Stacey and David have laid both the foundational answer to this gargantuan question and topic, so I only wish to add to their comments by saying - "If organized religion could solve the world's problems, they would have already been solved! We must all be careful that we don't open the door to "debate" and an argumentative disposition, by defending our philosophy or theological opinions about such topics. We are all called to simply "preach Christ", and not attempt to get unity or agreement around a particular doctrinal issue with believers or unbelievers. When we are "in Christ" and Christ is "in us", we tend NOT to strive about such subjects, even though the philosophical value or theological merit they hold may entice lively discussions - they often have no eternal value or transformational impact on the sin-sick hearts seeking to be justified by their own intellect, physical strength, militaristic methods, or political posturing. All of these things have gradually crept into the universal church during this age of the proliferation of information and sensual wisdom (earthly and demonic); because our messages are no longer Christo-centric; and the "finished work of Christ" is an after thought - often following the articulate ego-centric sermonic presentations meant to allure and entice a fanbase, instead of to penetrate and to transform by God's Holy Word alone!

    The "talking heads" in our political and media-crazed culture have influenced the church to the point, we are misrepresenting Christ and His Kingdom (organized religion) - while beginning to exemplify the same "image-conscious" personna that magnifies appearance and deifies popularity, but scoffs at godly character and the meekness of wisdom seen in true servants of Christ!

    Someone's disdain with "organized religion" is probably merited and for all the reasons everyone has given in this blog...But, we must properly discern "where the person is that's asking the question", and whether in our response, we're trying to flaunt our intelligence or knowledge of the word -instead of reaching the soul God has given us the opportunity to influence and impact for eternity!

    Finally - we must also be honest with ourselves about such BIG QUESTIONS, and face up to what God may be calling or requiring of us! Everybody has their view on what's wrong; on what should change; and on how to fix it - but ONLY ONE PERSON can and has already changed the eternal future of all mankind and that's Jesus!

    How can we "be" the true extension of Christ's life in the earth - appropriating the finished work, and not become as critical and judgmental as the "organized religions" that we're totally disgusted with? There is only one ACCUSER of the brethren, and that's satan! Our need to LOVE our brothers and sisters, who may be steeped and entrenched in "organized religion", is our end-time calling as His mature bride - since God has given us eyes to see and ears to hear! We must all walk by faith in total dependence upon His grace alone, to be the radical followers and world changers He desires us to be - by "being" and "doing" what sincere followers of Christ do without formulas and preferences that creates the same cycles of dysfunction we've all encountered growing up in the church! We are to simply promote RELATIONSHIP with Christ, and "organized religion" will lose its death-grip on the hearts of ALL those searching for truth and fulfillment!

    I'm sorry this became so long, but I am absolutely passionate about this...

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  6. Sadly, I agree that organized religion has become in itself a "god". Many churches and denominations give more glory and regard to their buildings, programs and perceived success than Christ. Even Jesus came against the organized facets of religion in His day. They even sought to destroy Him. Christ went to the temples to teach, but his real ministry was on the hillsides, in the boats, in the homes and along the roadsides. For this purpose many churches are leaving the traditional church building and going back to the homes, coffees shops and parks. There will come a day in this country where church and religion will be state manipulated, much like the orthodox churches of Eastern Europe and Asia. The true church, or Body of Christ, will dwell in a dynamic underground network of homes, hillsides, boats and roadways.

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  7. I guess my issue with the term "organized religion" is in my opinion religion is a manmade construct, where a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most fundamental truth of our existence and reflects knowing God personally.

    I don't believe that knowing the Truth, knowing Jesus Christ, can even be called a religion.

    I hope this makes sense.

    God bless.

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  8. I agree with Matt - and preffer relation to religion.

    I believe their are certainly potentials of group benefits or harm to organized religion that are on a scale not seen in the grass roots or non-denominational churches.

    Having been born into a house with a Catholic father and a Lutheran mother I saw cruel judgments and divisions as my family tried to worship in both places... a division created BY "organizations" who had issues with each other. Having worshipped in the sanctuary of almost all major denominations in the years since, I'm still painfully aware how often men can sometime see their own rules and regulations, and new programs quite clearly - but see The Lord as through clouded glass...

    I've known the presence of the Holy Spirit presiding mightily, and I've seen stuffy Ichabod churches full of dried bones and whitewashed tombs but have never seen a direct correlation to either of these events as to whether or not the church was organized or grass roots.

    Organization does allow (in theory) "like minded" people to enjoy a more harmonious fellowship based on mutually agreed preferences, certainly the synergies of a larger congregation can create opportunity… however there is often times it seems that Satan focuses much attention on destroying and polarizing the denominations and creating clicks from both within and without ...he well knows that a house divided will not stand.

    So whether organization is good or bad? Really, it all comes down to the spiritual headship of the church, if they indeed worship in spirit and in truth, the organization is often blessed by orders of magnitude... as one can put a thousand to flight, two can put ten thousand to flight, etc...
    ...or if they have forsaken the full gospel message for expediency in competitive numbers and run faith like a business or trying to stay quiet to aviod lawsuits - justified or not, then that "organization" has already failed it's true calling on a tragic scale.

    In my journey I've found myself most at home in a Pentecostal AOG Church for the last 12 years and the foreseeable future (I serve in the worship team, and host home bible study). However, if someone asks me "my denomination" I still call myself simply a "Bible Believing Christian" and strive to be a man of faith with no reputation beyond Jesus Christ...

    The reasons (for me) to be “within” (and tithe) but not “of” organizations are simple:

    1) How can I call myself AOG, and put on that label limitation on myself when the teachings of Christ given through a Southern Baptist preacher drops me to my knees, or a faithful Lutheren pastor can still draw me close to God by his simple actions of kindness? God's Glory in His church is flowing, and the Oil is in the lamps of MANY minister's tents, and houses of worship PRAISE GOD!
    2) We are instructed by the Word not to take oaths
    3) The spiritual authority and relation of authority comes by the spirit and submission to the priest/pastor God has put into your life, not from finding the local chapter and signing your name at the "X"
    4) This world is not my home.

    I know some would think I am making a mistake by not signing on the line, but that is my conviction – and I’d have to echo Martin Luther “unless someone can convince me with scripture….”

    The organization I’d LOVE to see "this side of heaven" however is this:

    What a day it would be to be truly able to walk into ANY Christian church as a bible following, repentant Christian and have any religious differences covered by love, and be sincerely welcomed as a brother or sister in the Lord!

    All just my own opinion, God bless you - good topic Ray!

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  9. We have to be very aware of our own worship. "Stop" and take a good look at our hearts objectively -from time to time. Ask ourselves "who or what am I worshipping: the Creator or the created (our business, golf, fishing, our house, keeping up with the Jones, our denomination, our church, our Pastor, our job, our spouse, our children, family, money etc). As individuals each of us can only answer that question truthfully. Let's take a good, hard look at our lives: are we worshipping anything but God?
    Lorna Effler

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  10. i'm glad you're lonely in defending organized religion. how'd we ever wind up with one man, one position, dominating everything? those who do the organizing only care about two things: how many showed up and how much money did they leave behind. that's all that gets measured. leadership doesn't even pretend to build community. do they look at those little cards you fill out and recommend you attend a community of believers closer to where you live? Nope! What about lessening division? You'd think guys and gals who spent so many hours studying, learning original languages and everything would be able to discover common and binding threads but they seem to discover new ways of splitting up. we don't need organization or leadership! we have the bible and we have God. that's enough! if we followed the bible and listened to the Spirit of God we'd get a long. just like the jews we find that too difficult so we elect kings over us. of course we then rebel whenever we can. our kings put up false altars in every valley and on every hilltop to keep us enslaved. no wonder God is coming back for us before he judges the world. he's got to clear the decks of useless folks before he steps in and takes care of things. Lot went to Sodom and was so taken in by the city life he couldn't even convince his family to follow God. how like so many pastors i know. they can't even get their own children to grow up righteous and as believers. let's not even talk about the city dwellers. i'm glad organized religion is dying.

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  11. I belonged to a church that split up many years ago. I, along with my husband and daughter were very active in the church and were crushed when this happened. I wanted nothing to do with what you've called organized religion, simply because I did not want to go through that pain again. During this last year's election, I became convicted by the Holy Spirit. I knew there was danger ahead for our country, I worked harder than I had ever worked in my life for Sarah Palin. I was miserable in my job, the manager cheated the people who worked there and customers, drugs were freely used and "the what happened after hours at the Holiday Inn, stayed at the Holiday Inn" mentality was rampant, my husband was mad because I was stressed out at work and then spent all my spare time campaigning. I could go on, but I think you get my point. Then election day came. I was a poll observer. To say there was voter fraud and it was a bad day is putting it mildly. There was one lady there and every time I looked up she would be smiling very sweetly in my direction. It was the only thing that keep me from breaking down in tears (I had to have election board members come there as well as a lawyer on call numerous times). One day, I was on lunch break and I was thinking about that lady, I didn't even know her name and I thought that I would love to see her and tell her thank you. I turned into Wendy's and she was standing in the parking lot. I was able to have that conversation with her. I went back to work and later in the week a co-worker came up to me and said that I looked like I needed someone to pray with me. We went to a private area and she prayed that God would help me with what was troubling my heart, I lost my job that day, what a glorious blessing! Several people had invited me to go to visit their church, but my aunt insisted that we had to start with her church since we were family. I went with the intention of visiting once and have never left. We rededicated our love of Christ on Valentine's Day and joined that church. The pastor there loves the Lord. We go to a contemporary service on Saturday evening. There is a gospel group that plays a type of bluegrass gospel and their voices are beautiful enough to have you in tears. When our pastor Jeff speaks, you hear the voice and love of Christ. I'm so thankful to have that feeling back in my life.

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  12. How much of an improper picture of the organized church might result from poor outreach? As Stacey said, my picture of the church in Scripture is one of Christians converting the lost who are then quickly prepared to share the good news. Their converts then are discipled, etc.

    The average American church doesn't effectively reach into its community and bring the lost to Christ. Might this be where "edge" is lost?

    I was listening to a pastor from India last night describe rapid church growth there in small group churches. It sounds very much Stacey's description when sounds very much like the Biblical picture.

    A healthy church should grow because it's reaching the lost and a church growing successfully and training new converts is alive.

    Haven't we lost the "preaching the Gospel" part of the equation?

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  13. No, you're not alone. Count me in.

    "Organized Religion" is a pejorative because (I believe--haven't tracked down the term's origin) it was invented by the Adversary as a useful tool against the Church.

    Two alternatives to oragnized religion: disorganized religion or no religion. Scripture makes it clear that the God of the Bible, so despised by so many, prefers to organize those who serve Him.

    We worship a God or order. He organized the family from the very beginning, gave Moses detailed instructions on how to organize the embryonic nation coming out of the Egyptian womb, and extreme detail on mode and form of worship, down to the tassels on the priests' garments.

    David organized plans for the Temple, organized worship services, and Solomon followed through with David's plans.

    Even before the Church was born, Jesus began the organization process: the inner circle of 3, then 12, the 120; on Pentecost there were the 3000....

    Organized Religion is God's idea. That's why it is so despised.

    Organization is God's way. That's why, as a nation, as we move further from the God who created us, we move further into chaos.

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  14. Jim states it very well, the scripture is full of passages that shows us God desires order. And the the bible is where we always want to lead others for guidance . It also demonstrates that we need each other to help encourage one another,grow and yes to be held accountable. This is not a bad thing but just the opposite it's a very good thing. God has always used his people to grow the church and accomplish his will. I would encourage you to continue to pray for your friend and lead him to God's word as we know by the guidance of the Holy Spirit things are made clear to us.

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  15. Most of us are also skewed by our experience in American churches. Christianity is relatively easy here (for example, Hindu women who accept Christ are often beaten by their husband). Paul Washer describes people who in Africa who accept Christ and are immediately in danger of losing their life.

    We have it so easy that we've become fat, lazy, presumptuous Christians.

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  16. Thank you for these points. I appreciate a defense of the truth.

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  17. I would disagree that organized religion "is God's way". Jesus said "where 2 or more are gathered together". That means 2 people and it can also mean 1500 people in an organized setting. I would hesitate to tell a little gathering meeting in an apartment I spent time with in Bangladesh that they really weren't doing it God's way. God uses many ways of fulfilling His plan and I think all can be fitting in their context. There are problems that arise within organized religion because it remains full of fallen people who may be saved but still have a fallen nature influencing what they are doing. I support organized churches when they are sound bible teaching churches. I attend one myself. However, I also support the small house churches and groups of individuals who meet together in their homes and effectively reach others with the Gospel outside of organized church. Over the past 2000 years God has used all types of settings to fulfill His mission and one is not more appropriate than another as long as all are effectively spreading His gospel.

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  18. We don't disagree, Sheldon:

    "I would hesitate to tell a little gathering meeting in an apartment I spent time with in Bangladesh that they really weren't doing it God's way. "

    And I wouldn't think of implying such a thing.
    "However, I also support the small house churches and groups of individuals who meet together in their homes and effectively reach others with the Gospel outside of organized church."

    Agreed.

    Over the past 2000 years God has used all types of settings to fulfill His mission and one is not more appropriate than another as long as all are effectively spreading His gospel.

    Agreed. Whether you've got two or three in an apartment in Bangladesh (or Galilee, as did Jesus) or 50,000 in Houston, that's OK by me.

    Number isn't the issue, nor is structure. Whether a handful gathered around the kitchen table or 12 million Baptists working a plan to evangelize, Where God is involved, there is order, not chaos. The false pejorative "organized religion is a smoke screen used by The Adversary to draw attention away from the real issue: a fallen world needs Jesus.

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  19. The words used don't always communicate the right idea. I get in discussions with people all the time in witnessing. When people say "organized religion", generally what they really mean is "institutionalized religion". There is a big difference in these two terms.

    Yes. God is a God of order, and I don't think many will have much of a "beef" there. Generally what people don't like is when the "Church" or churches miss their purpose, and create their own little list of "do's & don'ts", imposing on their flock, picking what sins they want to address or condemn in the lives of others, while overlooking or minimizing other sins in their own life. I'm sure you all know what I am talking about... hypocrisy - the act of being less critical of oneself than of others.

    Jesus reserved his strongest words for the leaders of the various religious "institutions" (i.e. scribes & pharisees) during His earthly ministry. Instead of quickly "writing off" critical comments directed toward "organized religion" by calling it a "smoke screen" or "diversionary tactic" , it might be wise to first probe a bit deeper to understand exactly what is meant by what is said. Of course, by doing this, we may discover we have inadvertently allowed a "beam" to impair our own vision making it difficult for us to help others in seeing God's purposes for them more clearly.

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  20. Good post ... God is re-organsing His church today, He too sees with sadness 'its going ons' ..He is bringing new wineskins ..this is a long discussion I won't finish now, esp given the volume already written (and my lack of completely digesting it)... the new wineskins are being filled ... it started I believe with Azusa st ..

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  21. Anybody here know how the phrase "Organized Religion" got started? I don't, but I have a guess.

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  22. Please guess Jim - I do know though that 'order' is not pejorative ... 1 Cor 14:40. maybe a wit started 'organised religion' in the same vein that another wit began 'army intelligence' ...

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  23. My job in the Army was S2 .......... ;-)

    I'm going to track down the answer to my question. My guess is -- and it's a general "type of person" rather than a name -- is that the term originated with some atheist college professor or self-proclaimed scientist or philosopher, hostile to Christianity, who thought up a catchy term that seemed to diminish the stature of the Church. Or the stature of the church. And it was very effective, putting even the believers on the offensive.

    John Dewey maybe? Madalyn Murray OHare?

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  24. PS Geoff --

    I agree completely, "order" and its siamese twin "organized" are not pejoratives. But they have been used that way regarding religion.

    Like "Wealthy" (as in "tax breaks for the Wealthy") and "Big Business" have become the enemy of the People in today's lexicon.

    My Book says God delights in the prosperity of His Saints. The Left Playbook says if you are prosperous you must've mugged a widow or cheated a Union member.

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  25. Jim,

    does prosperity equal finances? does it equal a nice new home? Your book might read that way but my bible does not. was your book authored by joel osteen?

    i'm not suprised you think the way you do. organized religion has taught you well. what do you expect from institutions that are organized to keep and spend 98% of their budgets on themselves and 2% on others.

    that's the problem with the folks in "organized" religion. everything - effort, morals, theology - has a monetary equivalent! if you serve God you get lots and lots and lots of money. of course you get to tear down your old barn and build a new one - i mean you get to trade your old house for an even better one. wow! what a deal. sometimes those nice new houses even come with a lexus or bmw in the driveway ;<) but only if you love God AND your neighbor.

    actually, if you read most of the bible you'll find out righteousness often means you're rewarded in non-financial ways AND that the reward is deferred to a later date. in fact God pointedly states you cannot serve him AND money! it seems there are a ton of verses about money - most of them quite negative. lots of times following God results in poverty, lonliness, hunger, sadness, torture, and death. but, not in your book right? bill gates, bill clinton, elton john, micheal jackson - they're all rich! must be God fearing, hard working christians!

    indeed, the bible teaches we're to take all of our resources, not just our money, and serve God and our fellow humans. we are to impoverish ourselves for the gospel. read Luke 21 and Acts 20. it will probably be difficult and somewhat shocking. you can follow that up with heb 11 and 12, Isa 55 and 58, Matt 6 and 7, Phil 1 and pretty much the whole rest of the word of God instead of whatever book you've been reading.

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  26. Jim ..may I humbly ask please how wealth/prosperity arrived into this discussion or hace I actually missed something? or Has Mark developed an interesting point you actually weren't trying to make?

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  27. Here's some thoughts for you on this subject. I too have a problem with "organized religion" but my problem at the core is a problem with the clergy-laity system and it's un-Biblical roots which is what makes our Christianity an organized religion. It is man-made and extra-Biblical, deriving in fact it's origins from the church shake-up due to Constantine. This is a structural, hierarchial, process-oriented problem imposed on us as religion or Christianity. It in fact came from paganism and has roots in areas we don't want to go into because it is not of God. As a Minister of a small congregation, the struggle against the world and Satan's influence pushes us into the organized religion mode and we must as Christians take off those shackles because for the evil one it is a win-win. Some already do more than others, but that is our battle, to look more like the Biblical model of the ekklessia and not our modern day church. We need to be truly willing to meet together on Sunday for the same reasons the first church met together or else we are missing the point.

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  28. organized religion beats "dis organized" every day and every way - go Jailer

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  29. Jesus came for Israel - he was their promised Messiah. He said (and Paul agreed) he'd back soon to take them to be with Him and he did that 40 years later as promised. He took the (mostly) Jewish church home to Heaven. At that point the Law ceased and so did the Bible - that's why nothing more was written after they all went Home. The Bible had been for Jews. I personally believe it's the best book in the world, that it was inspired and I have studied it for 40 years since I became a Christian. But its audience is no longer with us. They reign in the New Heaven. Jesus came for the last generation of Israel to take them all home. All the regulations in the New Testament were just to get that generation home to heaven. And home they went.

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  30. I think organize religion is nothing but an institution used to oppose the will, move and soverignty of Jehovah God. It has been used by many to propagate heresies and unkingdom like principles. The Pharasis and the religious leaders used it to oppose the work and preachings of Jesus Christ and I pray that God will deliver us from humanly organized religion.

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