Being Christian makes us part of an organization
* By Todd Linn
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Recently, a major news organization ran a story on a growing national trend that seems to evince an equally growing disdain for organized religion. The story reported on the rising number of Americans who identify themselves as "spiritual but not religious," also known by the popular acronym, SBNR.
The group has a website (SBNR.org) and a Facebook page with more than 3,000 fans.
The movement seems to have emerged largely as a result of a 2002 Gallup survey that found one in three Americans identified himself by the phrase "spiritual, but not religious."
With a sense of validation, the SBNR website recently boasts that it "now has an entry on Wikipedia." Indeed, the encyclopedic king of the Internet identifies SBNR as "a popular phrase and acronym used to self-identify a life stance of spirituality which rejects traditional organized religion as the sole — or even most valuable — means of furthering spiritual growth."
Of course, one of the more salient features of this burgeoning belief system with an aversion to organized religion is its own development into something so — organized.
The very fact that there is a group identifiable by a particular moniker with more than 3,000 sympathetic followers on a social networking site along with a website full of helpful articles and tabs titled "About Us" and "Stay Connected!" reveals a yearning within humankind for spiritual networking and organization.
This irony suggests that those who disparage organized religion may do so for a number of personal reasons, such as previous bad experiences, trouble with authority, spiritual idealism or an aversion to moral discipline. In any case, to decry organized religion on the basis of its organization seems a bit circular in reasoning. Where would other institutions be without organization? Imagine an unorganized family or an unorganized government.
Truth is, any time one chooses to craft a belief statement or design a logo, one has entered into the realm of organization.
One thing is certain: One cannot be a Christian and at the same time claim to be against organized religion.
Jesus says, "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:19-20)."
The writer of Hebrews says, "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25)."
This, too, is organization.
In a real sense, the gathering together of the body of Christ each Sunday in corporate worship is a shared social networking event with a focus on Jesus Christ.
Christians are to love one another (John 13:34), serve one another (Galatians 5:13) and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). None of these things can be done independently and without organization.
The Rev. Todd Linn is pastor of First Baptist Church in Henderson, Ky.