So this video is making the rounds on the Internet about how this guy ditched “religion” for Jesus. Well, I hate to break it to you, brother, but as much as you try to separate Jesus from “religion,” it’s impossible. What he actually means is he ditched a false religion that worships the processes and not Jesus Christ, which is in fact a problem. Yes, there are churches our there with congregations filled with people that are dead in their faith. But it is their faith that is dead, not necessarily the religion. So chucking out the sanctuary, the hymn book and the pipe organ and putting in your own definition of what you feel is your way to Jesus isn’t automatically going to fix someone who lost their way. They could just as easily find their way again within the context of the traditional form of religion that this young man criticizes.

I will give him credit for trying, but it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t understand that there are churches out there that follow liturgical processes and have Jesus as their focus. He’s talking about many of the core tenets of the Reformation–that our faith in Christ is what saves us and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross has paid for our sins. It isn’t about what we do, but what Christ did for us. Following that means following a set of beliefs, which is a religion. The fact that I go to a church that you call a “religion” because of the method of worship doesn’t necessarily change that. You can’t really call this anything else actually.

So often, I’ve heard people say that churches that follow a liturgical service are filled with people whose faith is dead and who are just there out of form. How can you know that though? Why cast judgment on how someone worships? If your only concern is the focus of one’s worship, you can be just as faithful to Christ following the rich overtones of an organ and reciting the words of the liturgy as you can singing along to a praise band and listening to a impassioned speech. (I believe one possesses more depth than the other, but that’s another blog post.) Assuming that all churches that resemble a “religion” are dead institutions is offensive to those of us who find the peace that Christ  gives us in the traditional format of the liturgy. It isn’t the format that is the problem, it’s the person’s heart and mind that have been infected by sin. We need to address the problem where it lies.

There are many individual congregations who have done some terrible things over the years, and we all encounter individuals in our own congregations that clearly are struggling with issues of pride. These are people who have been infected with sin and need to address that issue. However, painting all churches as uncaring religious institutions is not the way to do it, and pretending that simply “following Jesus” is anything other than a religion is careless and irresponsible. This young man’s poem should be rewritten to state that he rediscovered his faith in Christ and decided to start following what the Bible says. That’s wonderful, but he’s still following a belief system. It’s still a religion. We all have our stories of the sins of  our youth and growth in our faith. But, that’s not saying we’re no longer in a religion. You can’t separate out the terms. If you believe a certain thing and follow its practices, by definition, that is a religion. There’s nothing else to call it. If you’re going to call out people for worshiping the wrong thing, i.e the process and not Christ, do that. Be aware though that you are calling people to renew and/or refocus their faith. You are not calling them to leave a religion.

Sorry, bro, you’re still religious.