Some Thoughts On “Organized Religion”

People often excuse their lack of religious affiliation by claiming that they are not comfortable with “organized” or “formal” religion. Some of these people claim to believe in God and in the Bible, but they have no interest in attending any church service. They take comfort in their personal beliefs and individual practices. They believe themselves to be “spiritual,” but without any church affiliation. What does the Bible say about “organized” religion?

It is true that the Scriptures emphasize the importance of individuality in service to God. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). And it is individuals that will stand before the judgment seat of Christ where “each one” will be judged according to “his deeds” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

It is also true that some levels and types of “organization” are unscriptural and wrong. For example, the gospel of Christ does not authorize any organizational connections between local churches. Each local church is to have its own “elders” (Acts 14:23). These elders, also called “pastors” and “bishops” (see Acts 20:17 and 28), are to superintend the flock that is “among them” and they are to oversee only that church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2). No scriptural authority exists for them to rule over the members of other churches where they are not members. Furthermore, no scriptural authority exists to form any religious organization that is larger than, smaller than, or other than the local church. This prohibits the organizational structures of Catholicism and most denominational churches.

However, the Bible does authorize the organization of the local church. In its universal sense, the church has no organization except for Christ as its Head (Ephesians 5:23). This same verse also teaches that Christ is the Savior of the church. Baptized believers are added by God to the universal church (Acts 2:38, 47; 5:11, 14). Once saved, these saints join together in their respective communities in a local church for the purpose of collective functions (Acts 9:26; Ephesians 4:12-16). As noted above, each local church is to be ruled by qualified elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Individual saints are to submit to their rule in the divinely designed organization of the local church (Hebrews 13:17). God commands Christians to “assemble” (Hebrews 10:25), and the New Testament gives the reasons for these assemblies (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20-33; 14:15, 26; 16:1-2). The Lord’s Supper is an assembly function (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20 & 33). Those who refuse to attend church services due to a rejection of what they call “organized religion” make themselves unable to scripturally observe the Lord’s Supper!

So, while it is good to reject the organizations of human origin and design, one must not reject God’s organization — the New Testament church! By rejecting ALL “organized” religion, one rejects God’s very “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:10-11). The apostle went on to say, “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

By Tim Haile

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