” I hate organized religion.”
At one time I shared that sentiment. When I was an Evangelical Christian attending a Pentecostal church, organization was not a priority. I wanted a “move of the Spirit,” not stodgy, dead religion.
But eventually I tired of the free-for-all of unorganized religion. Walking into our Charismatic church, you never knew what might be going on. There might be an orderly church service, or a two-hour praise and worship session. There could be crying and praying at the altar, or a quick service before an even quicker exit.
Our increasingly secular culture makes organized religion seem like a bad thing. Why would you want religion, when you can have a one-on-one relationship with Christ?
Why Organized Religion Is A Good Thing
It’s common to hear those who are nominally Christian say they hate organized religion. But it’s important to understand that Jesus did not oppose organized religion. He was a practicing Jew, and followed Judaic customs. He preached in the synagogue and read from the scriptures.
Jesus founded a religion. This was not an accident, or a misunderstanding by His followers. He instituted a new covenant through the breaking of bread with His disciples.
So why is organized religion a good thing? Why can’t we worship God however we choose? Can’t I be “spiritual, not religious?”
Sure, you probably can be. But here are reasons you shouldn’t.
It prevents error in doctrine.
In times of controversy over correct doctrine, the Church met in council to ensure the purity of the Christian faith. At these councils the Church has clarified the true faith and condemned heresies contrary to the teachings of Christ.
In a world where every street corner has someone preaching their own version of Christianity, The Holy Orthodox Church has preserved the faith of the Apostles.
It preserves the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus created a brotherhood of followers, and spent years instructing them. He commissioned them to go into all the world and teach the nations what He had taught them. These disciples of Christ defied the might of the Roman Empire to spread the news that God had become Man.
The Apostles took great care to pass down the teachings of Jesus to their successors, insuring an accurate transmission of His message. In both written and oral tradition, great care has gone into the preservation the Gospel.
It gave us the Holy Bible.
For over 300 years, the Church worshiped without a Bible as we know it today. The canon of scripture came through the wisdom of the Church. The Church fathers preserved the writings agreed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Bible did not spring into existence on its own. It was compiled by the Church through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Worship requires order.
“I can worship God anywhere.” We certainly should pray and seek God at all times. But there are times when we should worship in a more orderly fashion.
Having a priest guide us through our worship directs our minds and hearts. Receiving the Holy Eucharist is the result of preparation and organization. Singing hymns with a well-rehearsed choir guides our prayers through song.
It is through the orderly practice of the Liturgy that we gain the wisdom and training to truly worship God in spirit and in truth.
We are better together.
Man was created to be in communion. We are social beings, and we are at our best when we live in harmony with others. This is no accident. Our highest purpose in life is to love and serve others. Jesus commanded us to serve our fellow man in His parables.
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
From the earliest days of Christianity, believers came together to worship as a group. Through corporate worship and the Eucharist, Christ is present. Coming together to worship helps us to bear each others burdens and to preserve in the faith.
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I love the Divine Liturgy, and I can no longer say I hate organized religion. If you struggle with the temptation to abandon organized religion, I’d invite you to attend an Orthodox liturgy. Come and see how the Church is the foundation of orderly worship.
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