Twisted Religion

I had an intriguing conversation with a lady at the doctor’s office this week. After handing in my patient information sheets, she apparently creeped off the info that I work at a church. Here’s the conversation that followed.

Her: Where is your church located?

Me: Out in the middle of nowhere.

Her: So… what version of the Bible do you use?

Me: (KNOWING what she’s really asking) We have always traditionally preached from the KJV.

Her: Good answer! 

Me: …..(Gas face)……

Her: I’m looking for a good church for my ex-husband, and that’s one of my requirements for him. And plus, I’m one of those Christians who has to go deep into the Word, I don’t enjoy the surface level stuff.

Me: Believe me when I say I know how you feel.

Her: Yeah, I don’t go to a church, I listen to podcasts so I can get the meat. 

Me: Cool………………… I’ll be sitting over here when you’re ready for me.

<End of conversation>

What was a quick 15-second conversation gave me a huge glimpse into an issue that so many “Christians” have: twisted religion.

I’m not going to begin to touch the issue of divorce since I don’t know her story, but it stood right out there like a recently hammered thumb. 

My heart broke over the fact that this well-intended lady would rather debate which version of God’s Word is being used, than applying what all versions, and even the more loosely translated versions clearly state. 

Truth is, we were created for community and fellowship. Our involvement in a community of believers should be more important than our personal traditional tastes. The church wasn’t designed to be an internal meeting place, but an external greenhouse to develop a blossoming story of hope and redemption. When we aren’t part of a local active body of believers, we can’t spiritually flourish as we were designed. Despite many churches being hardly more than a social gathering, it’s within the confines of community that bonds of accountability and responsibility are established. Without that foundational structure, our theologies will always prove to be no more than mere ‘religion.’ A twisted religion.

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10 – The Message ( I’ve never quoted from The Message before, and probably never will again, but even IT gets the point of the scriptures.)

I’d love to think that I alone could change the world, but I’m not Jesus. Even Jesus Himself walked in community with his 12 closest friends. Imagine the impact we could make on our communities without the bondage of denominational arrogance and ignorance. Imagine the power we could have if we were to stop fighting about what divides us, and collectively seek the Christ who eagerly awaits to unite us! 

Have you ever heard of the 2-Horse Rule? It speaks for itself:

“The concept of teamwork can be illustrated by the two-horse rule. If one
horse can pull 700 pounds and another horse can pull 800 pounds, how much
weight will they pull yoked together? The answer may surprise you. The
two-horse team will pull their own weight plus the weight of their
interaction. Therefore, yoked together, the horses can pull 3000 pounds!”

What a beautiful picture of friendship, accountability, churches and marriage as well!

I would be the last person to diss someone for wanting to go deeper in the Word. I know what it’s like to sit through years of sermons and leave completely unchallenged and unsatisfied. Thankfully that aspect of my church has been fixed. However, leaving the fellowship of the church isn’t the answer. It’s ultimately my responsibility to study and prove myself (2 Timothy 2:15), regardless if my pastor is meeting my expectations or not. Don’t forget that imperfect people will NEVER achieve creating a perfect church. If you’re expecting perfection in your pastor, you’re looking for the right characteristic in the wrong person. Seek Christ instead. 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25 KJV

That verse ends with an often overlooked important point. Our biggest role in living in community is to encourage and exhort each other towards the Hope we have in Christ. It’s like a friend who helps us finish the last mile of a marathon strong, instead of giving up! That requires an active participation in people’s lives. It also means the requirement just may be for a lifetime!

Facebook and Twitter will NEVER replace true Christian community.

I had a young skeptical girl approach me after a youth meeting one night. We were deep in a series on apologetics and I happen to have a copy of Josh McDowell’s “The Evidence That Demands A Verdict” with me. She took it from me, quickly thumbed through it and quipped “You’re just reading stuff out of that book!” I think she intended to be accusatory and demeaning. I was just happy she could read. Still, she was absolutely right! It really is THAT simple. I then explained to her that the basis of our faith is founded on the testimony of real events written in the form of Words in a Book. If only we could untangle our religion and practice a straight and narrow faith based more on what the Words say, than how they might say it. Focus on the Word, and stop tripping over the wording.

Changing the world will NEVER start with an argument.

  1. #1 by Brandon on May 7, 2012 - 6:16 pm

    Love it bro. Well spoken.

  2. #2 by Beth Lea Barlow on May 7, 2012 - 8:31 pm

    Hey Trav,
    I loved your analogy about the church being an external greenhouse where growth is intended. I need to find one of those greenhouses soon. When I think about finding a church, I often become overwhelmed and anxious due to the sheer number of churches out there. I want to find the right one for ME. It seems like an insurmountable task, if you factor in the differences between bibles, etc..we get: confusion + overwhem = procrastination and avoidance.

    This is the second message that I’ve received in two days about getting to church. The first I received while I was busting my tail on the treadmill at the gym on Sunday morning. I decided to plug in and watch church while I was sweating profusely. And what was the message?? It was all about attending church! I’m listening to the messages. Looking for direction. Praying for direction.

    Love the blog! Keep up the good work.

    • #3 by tharmon29 on May 7, 2012 - 11:12 pm

      So glad to hear! It’s definitely the first step! Are you anywhere near Northstar? I know it’s possibly a little bigger, but there are some really good people over there that I know. The best step I would recommend is to look online. Most active, relevant churches in Knoxville these days will have AT LEAST a website. Ridgepoint is in Solway (right at the main bridge) and is an AMAZING church as well! I highly recommend it. But definitely pray for God’s direction for you, He’ll definitely guide you! Glad you liked the story. I think it fits your classroom perfectly too! Keep me updated, love you Beth!

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