I noticed Easter Sunday afternoon on my Twitter feed the hashtag #ImNotGoingToChurchBecause was trending. Much to my surprise, many of the tweets were from Christians who proudly proclaimed that they don’t “need” religion or church, they just need Jesus.
Besides the obvious fact that this flies in the face of a couple millennia of Christian tradition, there is also the valid concern that this form of “Christianity,” based in nothing but sentiment, will, within a generation or two, become atheism.
So, how did this new form of “Christianity” evolve? Does stripping Christianity of “religion” help us return to the real roots of Christianity? To the original intentions of Jesus? Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers reveal very little to back up that claim. Here’s a few thoughts
- Christians assemble to worship: God gave us clear guidance and the Scriptures make clear that the early Christians gathered for worship and communion every Sunday. Sunday gatherings have never been an optional practice for Christians. If we believe that Jesus died for us, the very least we can do is worship him for an hour every Sunday. (Acts 20:7)
Ignatius of Antioch, in his first century letter to the Ephesians says: “Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith
- Relationship with God is nourished by outward practices; they bind us to God and we are bound to him through our worship. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. – James 2:26
- Christianity is community: Our faith is not just about an individual relationship with Jesus. Christianity involves relationship with God (who Himself is a community of persons) and relationship with others in his Church. It’s painful and difficult to be in relationship with other sinners. But our faith calls us to be in relationship not just with God but with other people.
1st Century theologian Tertullian writes: “We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation…We assemble to read our sacred writings…One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another
Romans 12:4-5 states: “For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another”.
- Yes, Christianity is a religion and has leadership structures. (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 1:5). When people reject hierarchy and legitimate authority in favor of individualism, they reject Jesus and the Church he founded. The movement to remove “religion” from our faith is a movement that ultimately could undermine the passing on of the faith for generations to come. All the more reason to live our lives as our VCF mission statement implores us to Pursue Jesus, Practice Love.