Bibliolatry Placing the Bible in God's Place

In certain circles the word bibliolatry gets thrown around a lot.  I think it will be good for us to look at what it means, why it is important, and how we can respond.

What Is Biblolatry

Lots of people define it in lots of different ways.  Here’s a sampling:

Excessive reverence for the Bible as literally interpreted. ~Dictionary.com

Having excessive reverence for the letter of the Bible. ~Tim Challies

Worship of the Bible. It is often used as an accusation that those who take the Bible literally are placing the Bible in the position of God, worshiping the Bible rather than the God of the Bible. ~CompellingTruth.org

I think that I am more inclined toward the last definition.  Why?  Because I have known many hardcore fundamentalist Christians who attempt to interpret the Bible “literally” and who have extreme “reverence for the letter of the Bible” but who did not “worship” the Bible in any real sense.  To put it differently, they never placed the Bible in the place of God.

So, here’s my definition of biblolatry: Worshiping the Bible instead of the God of the Bible.

I want to unpack that a bit, because the phrase “worshiping the Bible” can be easily misunderstood.

According to the Bible itself, there is only one object of worship which is worthy of worship: God alone.  We see this most plainly in the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5.7).  Only God deserves that loftiest position.

And yet, from time to time and in a variety of ways, we may place the Bible in that position.  How might we do this?

All the things I’m about to list are things that I’ve been guilty of from time to time in my own life.  But they are all things that I now try to avoid:

  1. Treating a copy of the Bible we own with an unusual and superstitious amount of respect.  I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m talking about — not letting the Bible touch the floor, obsessing over the condition of each page of the Bible, never placing another book on top of the Bible, etc.  This is just silly.  The copy of the Bible in question is simply a collection of paper, ink, and (p)leather.  It is not God.
  2. Viewing the Bible as some sort of magical device to help us feel better.  I’ve done what I’m about to describe more often than I’d like to admit.  I’m having a bad day, so I flip his Bible open to a random page and scour that page for something to help mefeel better.  This is just silly.  Treating the Bible this way equates it with other silly things that people make into idols: like horoscopes and the like.
  3. Thinking that the words of the Bible are more important than the God who inspired them.  This one is harder to nail down into a concrete example.  But I fear that sometimes we all get so wrapped up in the words of the Bible itself that we become blinded to the God who stands behind them.  Again, this is just silly.  God is to be worshiped, not the Bible!  So perhaps from time to time we all need to lift our noses out of our Bibles and remember to direct the vast majority of spiritual attention toward God himself.  Even our study of the Bible should direct us toward God.  Instead of reading it for its own sake, maybe we should look for how our reading of the Bible points us to God, and dwell there instead of on the words themselves.
  4. Thinking that there exists within the Bible itself some secret code that will unlock the mysteries of the universe, the end times, etc., etc.  This isn’t one that I’ve gotten into much, though I dabbled in it a bit as a late teen thanks to my obsession then with eschatology.  This mentality has been most clearly seen in the all the Bible Code books (I’ll let you find them on your own if you want to).  This is just silly too.  The words of the Bible aren’t magic and they aren’t hiding anything.  Instead, they’re intended to turn us toward God, not Christian conspiracy theories!

Why Does Bibliolatry Matter?

You might be thinking something like this: Who cares Matt!  As long as someone is reading the Bible, that’s a good thing, right?  And you aren’t completely wrong.  It is better that someone worship the Bible than something else, I guess.

But in the end, bibliolatry is just as wrong as any other form of idolatry.  Why?  Because it violates the first commandment, plain and simple.

So then, if bibliolatry is wrong, which it is, and is to be avoided, which it should, then what is the correct way to view the Bible?  I’m so glad you asked!

Jesus talks about this very topic in John 5.  I’ve written some about this chapter of John before (here and here), but I’ll set the scene again.  Jesus healed a man who had been suffering for many, many years (John 5.1-9a).  This healing happened on the Sabbath, which made some Jewish leaders angry because they believed that what transpired was considered work and Jews weren’t to work on the Sabbath (John 5.9b-16a).  So these leaders confronted Jesus (John 5.16b) and Jesus came back at them with a long diatribe in which he expertly defended himself (John 5.17-47).

And during part of Jesus’ long speech he said this:

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5.39-40)

Ouch!  Jesus really hits them where it hurts.  These Jewish leaders were likely Pharisees, who were considered to be experts in the law and taught it to the people with regularity.  And here Jesus tells them that their life’s work, studying the Scriptures diligently. was ultimately misguided.  This must have really struck at their core identity, which is never fun.

To put all of this in different words: Jesus told these Jewish leaders that they were guilty of bibliolatry.  They were worshiping the Bible and not the God of the Bible.  Specifically, they thought that they could be receive eternal life through their study of the Scriptures, when their only way of accessing eternal life, Jesus himself, was standing right in front of them!

So, to bring things back to today, bibliolatry matters because when we worship the Bible instead of Jesus, we run the risk of placing our faith and the hope of our salvation in the wrong place!

How Can We Respond to Bibliolatry?

Here are a few ideas about how to respond to the threat of bibliolatry:

  • Focus on Jesus. What makes the Bible special is that it is inspired by God and through it Jesus is best revealed to the world.  Thus, as we read the Bible, we should focus more on Jesus and less on the words themselves.  I know this is a fine distinction.  But we can easily be bogged down and miss Jesus who is revealed all throughout the Bible!
  • Allow the Bible to do its job.  In 2 Timothy 3.16-17 the job of the Bible is described this way: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  So as we read and study the Bible, are we allowing it to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness?  And is their proof in our lives that our Bible reading and study is working?  What might that proof be?  Well the passage from 2 Timothy plainly tells us that if we let the Bible do its job in our lives, then we will be better equipped to do every good work.  Mindblown.  The true test of whether or not we are using the Bible properly just might be whether or not we are doing the good works that God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2.10)!
  • Read the Bible with others.  Like many other things in life, community can help!  If we only read the Bible alone, then we very well may become worshipers of it instead of Jesus.  Conversely, if we read and study the Bible with others, especially if that group of people is diverse in a variety of ways, then we can build in safeguards against bibliolatry.  (Please note that I’m not saying that we should never read the Bible alone.  I am, however, saying that we should always have a healthy dose of communal Bible reading!)
  • Obey what we read.  Perhaps the truest sign of bibliolatry is that we spend all of our time reading and studying the Bible and spend almost no time doing what it says (other than the whole “meditate on the law” part!).  Jesus didn’t die so that we could all sit with our faces gazing down at our Bible-filled laps.  No!  He died so that we could join him in his cosmic mission to make all things right by reconciling them himself!  And as we read the Bible, it should inspire us to join in that mission, not avoid it by merely learning more about it!

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Studying the Bible is greatly important!  I’ve devoted my entire adult life to this task.  But our love for the Bible should never rival our love for Jesus and our devotion to the Bible should never deter us from living out the mission of Jesus in the real world.

 

The danger of bibliolatry is real but quite subtle.  Do you agree?  If so, let me know how you think we should deal with this danger in the comments below.  If not, why not?  Let me know below!

Haters Gonna Hate Giving answers to our detractors

Haters were a major part of Jesus’ life.  How did he deal with them?  Did he focus on them?  Did he ignore them?  Did he let the haters get in the way of what he was doing?  Or did he try to appease them by softening his message?

Let’s find out!

Jesus and Some Haters

Since Jesus had a knack for valuing people over rules created by people, he healed a man on the Sabbath in John 5.  This caused the haters to come out of the woodwork!

Jesus told the man he healed to pick up his mat and walk.  When the man did, some Jewish leaders, probably a few vocal Pharisees, told him that carrying one’s mat was considered work and that he shouldn’t do that on the Sabbath.  The healed man told them that he was doing as he was told by the man who healed him.

After a little while Jesus saw the man again at the Temple and checked in on him.  After he did so the healed man went right over to tell the Jewish leaders (AKA the haters), who it was that healed him.

This caused the haters to go into action again.  It appears that they were angry that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, which they must have considered a “work.”

Jesus’ response infuriated them even further.  He said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5.17).  They were really mad that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath and that he called God his Father, which they interpreted as claiming equality with God.  So they decided all the more that they would try to kill Jesus.  These haters really overreacted to Jesus’ statement BIG TIME!

So how did Jesus respond?  Did he run away with his tail between his legs?  Did he promise never to do the things that angered them again?  Did he try to put the blame on someone else, like Peter, John, or even Judas?

Nope.  He did none of those things.

Jesus’ Response to the Haters

So what did Jesus do?

From John 5.19-47 Jesus give a long speech.  Here are some highlights from just the beginning of the speech:

  • Jesus said that he sees what God is doing and does likewise (vv. 19-20)
  • Jesus claims that he can give life like the Father does (v. 21)
  • Jesus says that the Father has given the Son all judgment (v. 22)
  • Jesus says that whoever honors him honors the Father and whoever dishonors him dishonors the Father (v.23)
  • Jesus says that whoever hears his word and believes in him will have eternal life (v. 24)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Jesus’ response to the haters was strong, bold, and direct.  He didn’t soften any language.  He didn’t try any avoidance tactics.  And he didn’t run away.

In fact, a really strong case could be made that Jesus used the hatred of his enemies as an opportunity to teach his disciples and ultimately to bring his Father glory.  In other words, these haters didn’t derail Jesus from the mission he was on — a mission to make disciples and honor his Father.

When Haters Attack!

But what are we to do when we face haters?  None of us is Jesus.  None of us has the kind of confidence that he did.  None of us has the same kind of fortitude that he possessed.

Well, we can learn a thing or two from Jesus here.

  1. Face Haters with Friends — Jesus wasn’t alone here.  We can assume that he was with his disciples.  I think so often when we face opposition of any sort we’re tempted to do so alone.  We must think that this makes us look tougher, more perfect, or something.  But Jesus faced all of his trials with people who loved him around.  Jesus even had community surrounding him as he died on the cross!  So when we face haters, let’s not do so alone.  Let’s lean on our community to help us, to give us strength, and to encourage us.
  2. Stick to the Truth — When Jesus faced his opponents here he didn’t create lies about them to make himself look better.  And he didn’t embellish his own story either.  Instead he simply told the truth about himself and his relationship to his Father.  When we face haters we may be tempted to trump ourselves up or beat them down, even twisting the truth to do so.  Instead, let’s just focus on what’s true: we’re God’s children, saved by grace, set free to serve the King.
  3. Don’t Be Deterred — It would have been really easy for Jesus to get sidetracked by his opponents.  They were plotting to kill him after all!  But he didn’t.  In fact, he used their rude interjection into his life as a way to further his mission of making disciples and honoring the Father.  So when we face opposition, persecution, and the like, how can we allow God to use it to further his mission in the world?  We can start by praying that God be with us in these difficult moments through his Spirit.  And in so doing we will demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, which will always help us stay on mission with Jesus and bring God glory!

 

What do you think?  How should we respond to haters?  Let me know in the comments below!

People > Rules Jesus always chooses people over rules

“Rules were made to be broken.”

While this old adage is said a lot, it’s definitely not true!

It seems to me that in most cases rules are meant to protect us in one form or another.  And sometimes they are made to ensure that we follow best practices.

But almost without a single doubt, rules were not made to be broken.

However, are there times when they should be broken?  Are there cases in which the rule, which was intended to protect or direct toward best practices, isn’t the best option?

Well, in John 5 we see Jesus choosing something above following a rule.

Rules and Jesus

First things first, Jesus wasn’t against all rules.  In fact, when Jesus was asked what the best ones were, he didn’t say “There are no rules, just love people.”  Nope.  Instead he said, “Here is the best rule: Love God, and the second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.36-40).  Then after he had died and been raised again, Jesus gave his followers a rule.  He told them that as they were going about that they must make disciples (I phrased this sentence this way so that the fact that the command in Greek is not “go” but “make disciples”) (Matthew 28.19-20).

So Jesus didn’t dislike rules.  But he clearly understood that too many rules muddied things up.  If there are a thousand things we are supposed to be doing or not doing, then we may spend all of our time thinking about those “dos and don’ts” instead of living the lives that God set out for us.  And Jesus consistently encountered people who did this — the Pharisees.

Rules and the Pharisees

The Pharisees were not all bad guys, despite how we tend to think of them.  There’s Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  And Gamiliel seems like a good guy too.  And Paul, who was a Pharisee, would eventually come around too.

But even the “bad” Pharisees weren’t setting out to be bad.  They were focused on performing the works of the law in order to worship God well.  They weren’t trying to be bad guys and they weren’t hoping to be exclusive and dogmatic.  Instead they were doing the best they could with the tradition in which they lived.

So in John 5 when Jesus encounters some uber-rule-loving Pharisees (called “Jewish leaders there), it’s easy to paint them in the worst possible light.  But that’s not fair.  Their insistence on not working on the Sabbath has biblical and cultural roots.  They weren’t pulling this rule out of thin air to attack Jesus.

However, they’re focus was wrong.

Rules Can Distract Our Focus

In the first part of John 5 Jesus heals a man who had been suffering for decades.  It just so happens that this healing happened on the Sabbath (John 5.9b).  When some of the Jewish leaders saw that this man was healed and was carrying his mat (which is considered work), they pounced!  Their rule-breaker lights went off and they went into action.

They first told this man that he shouldn’t be carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  The man says that the person who healed him told him to do so.  The Jewish leaders insisted on knowing who the healer was but the healed man didn’t know.  (He would eventually find out and tell the Jewish leaders, who then got super angry at Jesus!)

But here’s the point: The Jewish leaders’ focus on the rules didn’t allow them to see what was right in front of their faces.  They totally missed the fact that this man was healed!  Their focus was so narrowly aimed at the Sabbath rules, that they entirely missed an opportunity to praise God that he had healed this man!

 

This makes me wonder about what sorts of rules prevent us from seeing God do his thing in our day.  What are we focused on so much so that we miss out on what Jesus is doing through his Spirit?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

But here’s the big idea from this post: Jesus put the man who needed healing above rules — in fact, Jesus almost always put people before rules.  Therefore, as we seek to follow Jesus in the real world, we too should put people and their well-being above rules, especially those rules that are not the focus of Jesus himself.

 

What do you think?  Are people always greater than rules?  What rules do we tend to focus on more than people?  And is doing it the way Jesus did it even possible or practical for us today?  Let me know in the comments below!

Probing Questions Jesus' Way of Helping People See

Jesus liked to ask probing questions.  This much is obvious from a quick reading of the Gospels.  But why?

I mean, if what we believe about Jesus is true (namely, that he’s the Second Person of the Trinity, fully divine and fully human), then why does he need to ask questions?  He already knows the answers!

In John 5 we see an example of Jesus’ propensity toward asking probing questions.  He asks a man who had been suffering for a very long time this question: “Do you want to get well?”

probing questions

Scott McLeod … MMM! Cookies!

Jesus’ Probing Questions

So let’s look at this story.  Here’s John 5.1-9a:

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4]1 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

As I’ve written about before, since Jesus was involved in organized religion, he made his way up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  While in Israel’s capital, Jesus encountered a man which John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, calls an “invalid.”  We don’t know what exactly was wrong with this man.  All we know is that his condition was persistent (it had afflicted him for 38 years according to verse 5) and that it made movement slow and difficult for him (we see this in verse 7).  He may have been paralyzed, lame, or extremely weak; we’re simply not sure.

But Jesus saw this man and learned that he had been in this sad state for a great length of time.  Think about this: the man that Jesus encounters here had been struck with this malady for longer than the entirety of many people’s lives in the Mediterranean world in the first century!  In other words, this man’s condition was deeply-rooted and wouldn’t be easily “fixed.”

However, this man was sitting next to a pool that supposedly had healing powers, so much so that, according to verse 3, many suffering people came to it for healing.  Why had this man not been healed?  How did he get to this pool each day?  It was likely that he would have lived elsewhere, perhaps even outside of the city walls.  So, how did a man who couldn’t muster up enough movement to get to the pool before others get himself to this location each day?

It’s in this context that Jesus asks one of his poignant, probing questions: “Do you want to get well?”

Isn’t this a cruel question?  Obviously this man wants to get well, right?  He drags himself to the pool each day after all!  But maybe Jesus had another reason for asking this question.

Here’s my theory, I think that Jesus wanted to have this man evaluate his own situation.  He wanted to hear this man’s reasoning for why he hasn’t gotten better.

And that’s exactly what Jesus got!

In verse 7 we learn two exceedingly sad facts: 1) This man was under the impression that only the first person into the pool would be healed, thus leaving him at a distinct disadvantage considering his condition; and 2) This man was alone, he didn’t have anyone to help him.

In other words, he not only suffered physically but he was defeated and alone.

And suffering, defeated, and alone people are Jesus’ specialty!  He consistently reaches out to those in his society who are hurting the most, who are most alone, and who are most downtrodden.  And when he does, he shows them love.

So how does Jesus help here?  We’re not told why Jesus did what he did, but we can assume that it was out of love and concern for this man.  He says to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

What happens next is mind-boggling.

At once the man is cured!  This was no gradual healing!  He can walk freely for the first time in 38 years!

Then, out of obedience to Jesus’ request, this man picks up his mat and walks.  Why are these little details important?  Picking up the mat was a sign that this man had been healed to such an extent that he could not only walk, but that he could carry his own bedding.  Jesus was giving this man an opportunity to show himself and everyone else that he had been healed completely!

How amazing!  The entire world was open to him again!

And this whole scene started with Jesus trademark probing questions!

So What?

What does all of this mean for us?  What are some things we can take away from this story as we go about following Jesus in the real world today?

  1. Jesus still asks probing questions — Most of us won’t hear the audible voice of Jesus asking us probing questions, but we can still hear him in the Scriptures, through prayer, in our experiences, within our communities, and in any other ways that he so chooses.  Our duty in those moments is to respond to Jesus’ probing questions with honesty and candor, just as we see in the Gospels.  When we do so, we open ourselves up to whatever Jesus might have for us!
  2. Let’s ask probing questions too! — Now it’s not always appropriate to ask questions all the time but doing so often comes in handy.  Asking probing questions can be disarming and they can let the person answering the question share on their own terms instead of ours.  I’ve recently been reading a book that explores this idea from a leadership perspective and I highly recommend it!  It’s called Curious: The Unexpected Power of a Question-Led Life  and it’s written by Tom Hughes, the co-lead senior pastor at Christian Assembly in Eagle Rock, CA (a city near where I live).
  3. As we are involved in organized religion, let’s keep our eyes open — Jesus went to Jerusalem to participate in a Jewish festival.  He could have kept his head down and his mouth shut, doing his religious duties as quickly and quietly as possible.  But he didn’t do that, did he?  Instead he used his trip to Jerusalem as an opportunity to put the interests of a suffering person before his own.  As followers of Jesus, this is our calling too.  As we engage in the good things associated with organized religion (Bible reading and study, prayer, small groups, gathered worship, etc.), let’s not miss the divine appointments that God sets up for us to see, hear, care for, and love those who are marginalized, voiceless, downtrodden, and forgotten.

What do you think about the fact that Jesus asks probing questions?  Why does he do this?  And what can we learn from it?  Let me know in the comments below.

Organized Religion Is it as evil as people make it out to be?

Organized religion, especially the “institutional” church in the West, has gotten a lot of flack in recent years.  Is this popular negative assessment fair?  What can we learn about organized religion from the life of Jesus?

organized religion

By: fusion-of-horizons Doesn’t this church look like some kind of Eldar building fromWarhammer 40k? Bonus points if you have any idea what I’m talking about here!     

Organized Religion and It’s Perception

It seems rather obvious that people are less and less into organized religion these days.  Church attendance is down and continues to decrease, so much so that some church buildings are being converted into night clubs, small businesses, and residences.

And when surveyed, people are increasingly saying that they’re spiritual but not religious.  Usually what people seem to mean by this is that they want to believe in a higher power or a generically loving Jesus, but not be connected to the big “C” Church with all of its baggage.

Perhaps THE voice for this movement is Jefferson Bethke, the star of a viral YouTube video entitled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word.”  Here it is:

His piece of poetry was so popular that he ended up getting a book deal out of it (here’s the link to the book: Jesus > Religion).

Why is this the case?  Why do so many people want to be spiritual but also want to distance themselves from organized religion?

Here are a few ideas that come to my mind:

  • Organized religion represents closed-mindedness and bigotry for many, especially younger people.
  • Many people were hurt directly or indirectly by organized religion.  Maybe there was abuse, neglect, or misuse of power.  And perhaps people’s parents forced religion on them.
  • Maybe some people don’t like the feeling that religion brings with it obligations to obey things while being spiritual is more nebulous.
  • Being spiritual seems more open and inclusive than organized religion is typically represented.
  • And being spiritual is much less political in nature than being associated with organized religion tends to be.

I’m sure that there are dozens of other reasons (let me know some in the comments below!), but the point is this: many people are not pleased with organized religion these days.

Jesus and Organized Religion

And another reason that many people give for their disdain for organized religion goes something like this: Jesus was more about the heart and spirituality than all that religious stuff!

But is this sentiment true?  What do the authors of the Gospels reveal to us about Jesus’ connection to organized religion?

This morning I was doing my devotional time and I began reading John 5.  I didn’t get very far before something stood out to me.  Here it is (John 5.1):

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.

This verse is easily passed over when reading the exciting narratives of John 4 and 5.  But it highlights something interesting: Jesus was involved in organized religion.

Jesus left his home-base and traveled by foot or caravan to Jerusalem.  Why?  Did he like the mall in Jerusalem?  Nope!  He went up to Israel’s capital in order to participate in a Jewish festival.

To repeat: Jesus was involved in organized religion.

So the mentality that Jesus hated organized religion and was only about spirituality is simply wrong, the text doesn’t support this idea.

However, we should note that when Jesus engaged in organized religion, he did so in ways that brought glory to God and furthered his mission, the Missio Dei.

Often, when we engage in organized religion we do so out of obligation or tradition.  And even when we have good intentions, we often simply support the status quo of the religious group we’re part of instead of pursuing Jesus and his mission at all costs.

In the story in John 5, Jesus went up to celebrate the festivals.  But as he was in Jerusalem he kept his eyes open — and in so doing he met someone in need and helped him out.

At another time Jesus preached at a synagogue, another example of Jesus engaging in organized religion (Luke 4).  But, again, Jesus did so in ways that furthered God’s glory and mission, this time encouraging the people to share the good news with the downcast (which wasn’t a popular message).

And there are many, many other examples of how Jesus engaged in organized religion.

In fact, this was such a common part of Jesus’ ministry, that his earliest followers did the same.  Check out this passage from the first part of Acts 2.46:

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

The earliest followers of Jesus were involved in organized religion too, meeting in the temple courts.  Later, in Acts 3.1, we see Peter and John following Jesus again, going to the temple but keeping their eyes open to further God’s glory and mission by helping someone out.

And, lastly in this section, Paul almost always started ministry in a new area by preaching in the synagogue or whatever other organized gathering of Jews he could find.  And when he did so, he always found ways to point to the love and grace of Jesus.  In other words, Paul was involved in organized religion as well.

So What Does This Mean for Us Today?

So Jesus and his earliest followers didn’t shy away from organized religion.  Why, then, should we?  Wouldn’t it be better for us to follow their leads (especially that of Jesus) by engaging in organized religion but always with an eye toward bringing God glory and furthering his kingdom?

Here are a few initial thoughts about how we can move forward today:

  1. “Because” is not a good reason.  We need a better reason to be engaged in organized religion than “because.”  It’ not enough that we feel like we should or someone we love wants us to.  And “that’s the way we’ve always done things” isnot enough either.
  2. Actually ENGAGE in organized religion. Just like Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and so many others, we should participate in organized religion on purpose.  As we do so, are there people for us to love?  Are there unhelpful tradition for us to challenge?  Are there opportunities to share and embody the good news?
  3. Make religion about connection.  From the beginning of God’s calling us to gather to worship him together, he did so in order that we would connect with him and with one another.  In fact, from eternity past and into eternity future, the Triune God has always been about connection, engaging in the divine and mysterious dance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And as we gather to worship him together, we join in that dance, thus connecting with God and with one another.

 

What do you think?  What value is there to be found in organized religion?  And how do we avoid its potential pitfalls?  Let me know in the comments below!