When Organized Religion Fails

First a few disclaimers:

  1. I’m not against organized religion
  2. I think there are many organized religious efforts that are good and succeeding
  3. I’ve been an active and inactive part of organized religion since 1976

All that said, this blog is about when it fails.  And why would I want to discuss failure?  Isn’t it better, and more uplifting to talk about success.  Well, generally, yes.  But, sometimes it is helpful to understand why people may feel that organized religion, of any kind, has failed them.  Of course, we could just turn our back on those folks, and utter “well, they just don’t understand spiritual things.”  Or, we could try and better understand what some of their thoughts might be.

So, here are my theories on why I think organized religion has failed, and why some folks won’t touch it with a ten foot pole:

  1. It’s too exclusive – it’s been made into an exclusive club for members-only, and there are strict entrance requirements.  If you don’t measure up, you are not only excluded from membership, but you are judged.
  2. It’s too commercial – well, there are quite a few people out there in the realm of organized religion who have made it their life calling to ask, and ask, and ask again for more money.
  3. It’s doesn’t deal with my real problems – platitudes, old sayings, and promises are not what many folks are looking for.  Pat answers for complex situations, just don’t cut it.
  4. If church is just about getting in a group and getting ‘jazzed’ about the music, I can do that in most any club in town.  This is not an indictment of good Praise and Worship.  This is an indictment of moving hungry people to an emotional high, with no second course on the menu.
  5. Life is not as simple, as it once was.  Just a few years ago you were either married, or you were single.  These days, I could be on my third marriage, with two children from my first, and one from my third, and my wife could be on her second marriage, with one child from each.  There are custody issues, there are child support issues, there are estate planning issues, there are survivor rights issues, there are adoption issues, there are financial issues, there are wounded heart issues, there are grievance issues, and organized religion hasn’t had any decent answers to any of these, except to tell me how wrong I am, and to read my Bible.

Organized religion doesn’t fail because it is wrong.  It fails because it has lost the central focus which Christ began 2,000 years ago, which is to help suffering people.  If we take a close look at how Christ ministered the Gospel (The Good News), he didn’t just tell them a story.  He fed them, he healed them, he encouraged them.  He gave them hope.  He gave them purpose.  He didn’t judge, and he didn’t condemn.  His one mission seemed to be something along these lines, “If I can get you close enough to God, I believe your problems will be taken care of.”  He didn’t promise you wouldn’t have problems, or that your problems would go away, but that you would be able to make it through the problems of life, and come out victorious.

There is power in numbers.  There is power in unity.  These factors make organized religion a desired part of our world ministry.  But, with power and authority come great responsibility.  That responsibility should always challenge us to do better, to not forget our core purpose, and to stay focused on the goals Christ, Himself, set down.  It’s not about the power, or the money, or wheeling and dealing.  It’s about people.  And if the focus is about people, then it must minister to ALL people, not just the ones we agree with, or who live according to our standards or principles.  Think about this – if Jesus had only ministered to those people who ‘deserved’ to be ministered to He might have talked to only a handful of people.  But, He didn’t.  He ministered to every person who would listen.

Now, a final note to those who think this post is about condemning organized religion, and displaying all of its faults for everyone to look at.  I have to admit, there is some purpose in my writing to try and get folks to think about what it means to carry the gospel, and minister to a hurting world.  To not lose focus on the things that are really important, and to not get carried away with power, organization, money, and the other things that excite the natural man.

Organized religion can be a good thing, if it remains focused on the elements that are most important, and reigns in those things that are humanistic, material and take away people’s dignity.  Organized religion should not be about getting everyone to conform to one way of thinking, one way of doing – one way or the highway.  It should be about trying to help as many people as possible, in a troubling and hurting world.

One Response to “When Organized Religion Fails”

  1. Barbara McGuire Says:

    This blog is close to my heart because after 42 years in “organized” religion we broke free and care for hurting people as you said. Our entire focus is on a lost and dying world and it feels wonderful to be able to concentrate on that and that alone! Great food for thought here! Blessings…

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