19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Christianity is in fact a religion. Indeed it is the one true religion. The effort to trade in the timeless structure and order of the Church for “it’s just a relationship” goo is part to blame for where we are. You can’t build civilizations on goo. You need a firm foundation and strong structures that the religion of Christianity offers.
“It’s not a religion it’s a relationship” is a self-centered emotionally based rip-off of Christianity that shrinks Christianity down to each individual’s little pea-sized world and promotes an introspective and inverted way of life. But when someone walks into the ancient halls of Christianity they are immediately brought into a world much bigger than themselves, struck with awe at the reality of the transcendent.
You can’t have truth, beauty, and goodness in a “it’s just a relationship” Christianity, for it is all about in inward spiritual personal experience. But when Christianity is rightly seen as the one true religion, institutional and all, that is when truth, beauty, and goodness are seen and cultivated. I am talking about many things here, but you can see it in the way a worship service is structured. In a “it’s not a religion it’s a relationship” church, the services will often be completely dark in the audience so as to create an atmosphere where each individual is having their own personal time with God. In contrast, a local church that recognizes they are part of something bigger than themselves will have all kinds of natural light pouring in where the congregation sees and interacts with others so as not to think all that matters is their own personal little world and mind. They will often have beautiful structures, or things like stained glass windows (as resources allow), so as to enrapture the congregations wonder to God in Heaven who is beauty Himself, and from which all beauty flows.
Some of you will read this and think that I am talking about architecture, but I am not. I am talking about Christianity as religion, which means order, structure, history, beauty, architecture, generational continuity, creeds, confessions, hymnals, corporate-ness, etc. The implications of this are many. It starts very simply. It starts with thinking about Christianity as about more than yourself and your experience; but about yourself in the life of the Church – and not just the church here and now but the Church throughout the ages – past, present, and future.
Christianity as religion is not simply being historical, although it of course is not less than that. It is about being historical and future oriented. Future oriented does not mean present and trendy minded. Future orientation is about building and participating in things that last – things that are bigger than yourself. I don’t want a church that shifts and bends to fit the desires of every so called seeker and unbeliever. I want a church that understands the desires of the individual must be informed and shaped by the transcendent Christian religion. By God’s grace, this is Hope Baptist Church.
As Christians we are a part of something that has a history and a future. The Church was here before us, and it will be here when we are gone. Because we are apart of an institution that is built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles with Christ as her head, it is an institution with a recorded history. This means it matters greatly what we do here and now. Will we be part of the mushy goo, or will we be part of those who rise from muck with hammers and nails, with hands, hearts, and heads ready to build anew, ready to revive the old foundations, and ready to make the church beautiful again?
If we want to build for the future we need more than private devotions. We need families doing family worship, but we need more than that. We need households of households (local churches) building together in the same direction, not simply communing together on a spiritual plane with no outward lasting manifestations. Come build with us.