How I Define “Organized Religion” and Why I Believe It’s at the Heart of the Problem

Question: How do you define organized religion?

Answer: I define organized religion as the institutionalization of Christianity. It’s the effort that has arisen over many decades and centuries, to take the core message of the gospel and to use it as a source of power and control.

Most of us will acknowledge that we are profoundly spiritual beings. We’re hungry for transcendent truth. And that desire, that passion and hunger for God is easily manipulated by religion. Here are some of the ways that organized religion is the problem.

1. Christianity is about a relationship. Organized religion is about the rules. You relate to God by keeping the rules and it’s the job of organized religion to make the rules, teach the rules, and make sure you comply. Christianity is at the heart of a relationship with Jesus Christ. It requires a converted heart, not just compliance, but deep heart conversion that changes a person from the inside out.

2. Religion is about drawing smaller boxes. Christianity is about drawing bigger circles. Religion is about who is out. It’s about lines and boundaries of those who stand on one side or the other. Christianity, on the other hand, is about drawing circles as is seen in the command of Jesus, to go out in the highways and hedges and compel anyone who would be willing to come in. It was also affirmed in many of his stories. This is a “whosoever will” message and should be opened up.

3. Religion is about multi-layered doctrines and theological dogma.
Christianity is about a person, a simple story, and a redemptive thread that weaves itself throughout the total sweep of the Scriptures.

Don’t get me wrong. I think theology and doctrines are important as statements of truth, but not when they become the interpretation of an interpretation, of someone else’s interpretation. You can’t be a Christian without a converted heart, without life transformation. Agreeing with the information simply makes you religious. Being made alive by Christ makes you a Christian.