Q. Pastor I recently heard someone say something and I was wondering how to respond to it. They said, "I believe in God but I don't believe in organized religion?"
A. So many times I have heard people make such statements and I believe they are made for a number of reasons. 1st, It is a statement that says, 'I am ignorant of God and since I don't want to be held accountable to God I will make this wise sounding statement. 2nd. It says, "I want the right to believe whatever I want to." It's just the way this world is. So let's look a little closer at this statement.
Now if the person is not a believer in the Bible that would definitely account for what is said. If you don't believe in the Bible as the revealed truth of God then really religion is just a free for all and it doesn't matter what you believe. But all of this changes if you are declaring yourself a believer in the God of the Bible (or any other so-called "holy" book). The minute you declare a certain God and a certain revelation to be your god's word the heart of your faith, then you are indeed bound to believe what your faith teaches. If not, then just realize that in truth you are only organizing your own religion, because just in believing and confessing a god there is organization, tenets, and the like. Now if you are going to maintain that you are a fan of "unorganized" religion, please take the time to explain to me just what that is.
I can't understand why we think such a statement so brilliant and that we allow people to make such statements without challenging them. To put it in perspective how would you react to this, "I like to play golf but I don't like organized courses." Or how about this, "I love bowling but I don't believe in leagues." I think the majority of us would do a double take and say, "That's a really foolish way of thinking. There wouldn't be any golf as we know the game today without organization and rules. And the point of bowling leagues is to get you involved with others who love the sport so that you can bowl together and learn more about the game. That said, let's then consider a few other things. From this point on we will consider the Biblical perspective.
Let's look at the history of the Bible. After Adam and Eve fell into sin, please note that without any rules or laws you find people joining in worship to the Lord. It seemed just a natural thing to do. Then God himself took greater steps. God called Abraham to be his special servant and promised that through Abraham a people of the Lord would be born.
Jump ahead some 500 years later. Here are the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham being lead out of slavery by Moses. After they are lead out, they go to Mt. Sinai and there receive the Law of God which in essence organizes them as a people and please note the heart and core of this people was the Tabernacle of God. Everything was to be organized around God. These were the people of God, served by his priests and prophets. God thus, organized them into his church, his holy people. Already then we begin to see the importance of this in the world.
Now I can't help it if the people back then twisted and contorted God's intent in giving them church. I can't help it that the people ignored God's clear promises and purposes and made his church something it was not supposed to be. Thank goodness God is patient.
Jump then to the New Testament. Here comes Jesus the Son of God. Please note that Jesus made it his habit to be in "synagogue" to worship (Lk 4:16). What's most fascinating about that is that Jesus considered the majority of the religious rulers of his day in error about the faith. Yet he was still there! There to hear and share the Word of God. Then when Jesus begins his ministry, one of the first things he does is gather a group of disciples who will go out and gather more disciples and bring in more believers who will gather more believers and so on. This is church. This is organized. This is what Jesus did.
The Apostle's then went out and established groups of people who believed, what we today call congregations or churches. So from an historical viewpoint and the teachings of God's Word it is clear that "church" or if you would "organized religion" was the intent and purpose of the Lord. My hat tips to the person who can still maintain that "church" is bad.
Do note what Hebrews 10:23-25 says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching." I believe those words clearly show us that God has given us church. We are to gather to be reminded of the hope we have in Jesus and the precious Gospel message. (Of course, if you don't know what the Gospel is, then you might see church as a kind of hopeless place.) We are gathering together to encourage one another, to spur one another on in God's love and thus in the good deeds that flow from that love. This is the whole purpose of church! Trust me, an organized church is much better than not organized.
Now again, I can't help it if people today have twisted and contorted the purpose of church. I can't help it that there are those who preach and teach falsely, who are more concerned with their own bellies than your souls. I can't help that mankind has taken a beautiful thing of God and trashed it. If that's the way it seems at your church, then find another one, one that teaches the truth of God, the truth firmly founded on God's Word. Then you will learn what a joyful and uplifting place church is to be. And you will realize what all believers do: God organized the church and His religion for our benefit and joy.