The Christian faith has been deeply wounded by the individualism paraded by capitalistic society. Everything around us urges Christians to seek self-help and improve their personal lives. This has formed a church culture based on will-power and self-realization apart from Christ.
Pragmatism has trumped biblical truth.
The belief that Christianity is ONLY an individual decision made at the beckoning of a preacher or “spiritual experience” has been prominent in Western Christianity for centuries.
Nathan O. Hatch describes the religious attitude of the early 19th century, “Christians should shun all institutions, soon to topple around them, and allow the Spirit to work within. It was the disappearance of the church and the unmediated operation of the Spirit upon the individual soul that would mark the advent of the millennium.”
The dangerous thing about false teaching is that it is almost true. This attitude has been practiced by evangelicals for hundreds of years… to our own ruin. Let’s break this statement down and discern what is actually true:
CLAIM: Christian should shun all institutions.
TRUTH: Some institutions are evil. The institution of slavery, the practice of chauvinism, and a variety of other institutional abuse should be shunned. This does NOT mean ALL institutions should be rejected… even the institution of government has been established by God (Romans 13:1). An institution is simply an organization that is established for a specific purpose. Many religious leaders encourage Christians to “shun” the church in pursuit of purely seeking Jesus. This sounds spiritual… really it’s demonic (we’ll get to that in a second).
CLAIM: Christians should allow the Spirit to work within.
TRUTH: Yes, Christians SHOULD allow the Spirit to work within. Nevertheless, Christians should also allow the Spirit to work outside of them as well. The Holy Spirit often speaks through human mediums – pastors, authority figures, parents, friends, small groups – just to name a few. The Holy Spirit does not wait for a Christian to seek a mystical experience before speaking… the Spirit of God is constantly communicating with us; the real question is whether or not we are listening.
CLAIM: The Church is going to disappear.
TRUTH: This is what makes the belief so dangerous. Jesus is clear that not even Hell can overcome HIS Church (Matthew 16:18). The United States will cease to exist. Your job which you sacrifice countless hours and anxiety to will cease to exist. Yet the Church will outlast EVERYTHING!
Jesus Christ established the church and it will exist into eternity. This does not mean the church is perfect! Rather, we should believe in the Reformation principle of “Semper Reformanda” or ALWAYS REFORMING! You cannot reform the church by rejecting it; you can only reform the church by faithfully discerning whether the present practices align with Scripture.
Friends, there really is an enemy and he wants to destroy your soul. He cloaks demonic teaching in the veil of religion in order to distort the true faith delivered to the saints. Christianity is not an individual faith. It is vital to have a group of people around you – the local church – to support you in this tremendous pilgrimage.
There is no such thing as a lone-wolf Christian.
If you try to live the Christian life on your own, you will be torn apart by Satan. He prowls around like a lion looking for arrogant evangelicals to devour. Lions pounce on those separated from the pack; there is no living faith apart from being involved in a church.
Do YOU agree or disagree? Let me know by leaving a comment!
6 thoughts on “The Problem with “Individual” Religion”
I remember reading how upon Cornelius’ conversion, his whole household was baptized as well. It makes me wonder – if one of us de-converts, do the rest of us have an obligation to de-convert as well? To the degree that the ancient world in which Christianity was a collectivist honor/shame society and ours is an individualistic guilt/innocence society, we’ll always see some degree of disconnect. But I don’t think it makes us wrong, just different.
Very interesting observations… We seem to see both ideas in Scripture. In the Old Testament when Israel was a very collectivist honor/shame society, Deuteronomy 24:1 says “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.”
Yet there are other places where this seems to be different (i.e. Numbers 14:18). I don’t think it’s either/or but rather both/and. I think rather than a problem to be solved it is a tension to be managed. Nevertheless, our society has focused FAR too much on the individualistic guilt/innocence society.
I really like the terms you used to describe these concepts!
I borrowed them from reading: “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” It showed me that there’s a lot of thing I take for granted because I approach the Bible with a modern Western perspective and wasn’t looking at things from an ancient Eastern perspective.
you have reason to question this but i feel you have, like others, been led a lie.
when you write of Jesus and “his church” and relate this to Matthew 16:18 where it clearly does not describe a building or structure this obviously needs some clarification..so allow me to ask you some questions:
firstly Jesus in no way advocated a ‘building’ labelled ‘church’ where his followers would congregate and be closer to God..
is God not everywhere?
or is God confined to a building?
is being in a building labelled a church a ‘portal’ to God?
obviously you are in a building labelled church thus making it holier ground than say my home?
..could we expand that and ask if the grander the building(church) the holier it is? we can use the Vatican as an example or any other ‘grand’ church building..
would it mean if i were from a poor area where we did not have a church that people who attended church would have a better chance than me in reaching heaven?
does it make it holier if it is grander in scale? does it mean you are closer to God if it is taller than let’s say my tin shed that our village uses as a make shift church, town hall, to feed and house us all?
why jesus did not create what we know as ‘the church’? it was not his role as messenger. if God had willed this then he would of relayed this to his followers as he did Gods commandments. it was his followers that congregated ‘United’ in only one cause and that was to accept Jesus as their new King!
Did Jesus relay his own commands? OR was it gods word Jesus that was put to gods servants?
Jesus was spreading gods will and showing the people that no man ruled over another and that God was only. this was commanded and conveyed to us clearly!
Exodus 20 King James Version (KJV)
20 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.
24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.
As Jesus was conveying gods command the people were rising and congregating united as one under one banner under gods shadow with Jesus as their new king..but not in a building or buildings! they were forming what was known then as the system of ‘ecclesia’ and in no way was the system of ecclesia even remotely related to what is known as a ‘church’.
in a way you are right but in a way you are mistaken when you write of “individual religion” and attending a church where a proxy of God would preach the word of God from the very same bible you have at home.
Thank you for your comment! I agree completely that the church is the PEOPLE of God not a building. As Christians we should be part of a regular gathering of God’s people.
it is my pleasure and think nothing of it as it is my duty to help my brothers and sisters as did King Jesus! we follow in his footsteps and his spirit lives in us all, but somehow most have veered from the light and have succumb to the darkness which is full of sadness, hatred and greed the very things Jesus protected is from.
i claim to be no expert on religious labels my friend. I am here to learn and share my learning as you are doing here also.
i do not have a religious label. i am neither Christian, Catholic nor Muslim and if i had to choose my God i would choose the God of ‘good’ for this God would definitely show ‘compassion’, ‘forgiveness’ and ‘love’ ~ we are talking about the same God are we not?
one needs to love, do good; be compassionate to one another, as this was conveyed to us all by all of Gods messengers. if one does not love then unity cannot be achieved; and if unity cannot be achieved then we have failed Gods commandments; and for that we have been warned that without our unconditional love to one another we will never enter the Kingdom called Heaven.