Spiritual but not Religious…5 Reasons Not to Write off the Church

We’ve all heard it: “Yeah, uh, I’m spiritual, but you know, um, I’m just not religious, know what I mean?”
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Uh, no. Not really.

When we hear this sort of talk, it might seem somewhat profound. But first of all, let me be clear that being spiritual means to be at one with the Spirit of God, not some far off, nebulous mystical concept of self-defined happiness. Yet even assuming that the Holy Spirit is the context, with all this talk now and in the past about bad church experiences, the idea of giving up on the church might even seem an attractive thought. I mean, can’t you be Spiritual without being religious?

Well, yes and no. If you mean be in tune with the Spirit of Christ and reject hypocrisy in the church while staying in the church, well sure. I’m right there with you. As a pastor who has been in ministry for over two decades now, I’ve seen my share of ugly. And ugly is, well, sinful and shameful. Hey, there’s plenty of comfort loving, sin dwelling, pride filling, molehill making people who call themselves Christians to make grown men cry in a business meeting…and sometimes they do!

But if being Spiritual without being religious means to stay away from the church, then you are missing the mark on this one. Here’s a few reasons why we need not write off the church:

  1. We are all sinners. Hypocrisy in the church has and always will be, simply because sin will be until the Day of Christ. In fact, anyone who claims to be free of the struggle with sin is being dishonest. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There. We’re all hypocrites in some way.
  2. We are the Bride of Christ. Yep, sometimes an ugly bride, but the bride nonetheless. Jesus died for this bride! And as the bride, we are called to grow to be more like Christ, both individually and corporately. One day, all this will come to pass and we as believers will be invited to the Bridegroom’s wedding feast (Rev 19:7).
  3. We are One in Christ. I pastor a multiethnic, multigenerational church, a people who put away the labels of Black, White, Democrat, Republican, Rich, Poor, Young, Old, etc. We might have come from different cultures, but in Christ we are one new humanity (Eph 2:15).
  4. We are all partakers of grace. Christ in His death on the cross was an act of grace. Salvation is a gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9). Our sanctification is through God’s grace (Rom 8:29). And our love for one another must abound in grace and love (1 Pt 4:10). In fact, the church is at its finest when it is a beacon of grace to the world.
  5. We are better together. Ministry is given to, partaken in, and poured out through the church. God’s plans are realized through the church. He commended and corrected the church (see Rev 1-3). Though the church (the people) are far from perfect, the bible is clear: we are all pilgrims in this journey, and as we serve one another (Phil 2:2), we are better together!

Obviously, these are some reasons to still love the church and I’d love to hear more from you. The point is, I’m not writing off the church, and I pray that you won’t either.

My point: love the Bride of Christ as Jesus does!

Thirsty Thursday: Readings from the week 

What I read: This week has been an exploration of various Psalms. In fact, tomorrow’s reading on Psalm 136 is what the message will be on for Sunday. 

Scripture passage that popped out to me: Ps 130:3-4, “LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? 4 But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.”

Reflections: these psalms are by various writers, many of which were sung by the people of Israel as they made their way towards Jerusalem. As you read these, you get a real feel for their humility and dependence on the Father prior to the celebration of each of the festivals. It’s even likely that Jesus and His family sang some of these psalms as they ascended to Jerusalem! 

How God Changes You…

There is no doubt that a true change in Christ happens when a heart is transformed by the work of the Spirit. In fact, change really can’t happen without the work of the gospel in a new believer’s heart. From this life change, a desire for producing spiritual fruit almost immediately comes to a person’s life. This is an exciting time!

But what about the long term changes in maturity that a believer shampoogoes through? How does this sanctifying change happen? Often, people give simple instructions (like on a shampoo bottle) and simply tell new believers to read, study, and pray every morning. Sure, this makes sense, but it’s also easy to just read, study, and pray, and then get on with your day, never to think on what you read. You read, study, and pray, and move on, then wake up the next day, and it’s read, study, pray, and again move on, etc. Just like on a shampoo bottle: wash, rinse, repeat!

But is this what God intends? Of course not! God uses devotionals, bible reading, prayer, and other quiet moments with Him, but He really wants more than what is on the surface. He wants your full attention with Him in order to truly stretch and grow you in Him. Psalm 40:6 says, “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened;” You are not devoting time to God as a ritual, a sacrifice, or even a habit as much as to see God make real change within your heart. He has in mind a greater mission than a daily blank routine, He wants you to be conformed to the image of Christ!

That said, spend time with God in devotion, but make it count. Your time with the Creator is a time for real change, a change which affects everything you do- work, family, home, entertainment, and yes, your internal, private thoughts of your heart. I pray that this encourages you to grow in Him and for His glory!

What devotionals and time do you spend with the Lord?
How has God used this time to change you?

Pastor Fran