Thursday, October 15, 2009

"It's not about Religion; It's about Relationships"

I was talking to my dad last week and he told me about a promo he had seen for a new church in Toledo, OH.  The church was "Cedar Creek Church" and the promo included a lady who said, "At Cedar Creek, it's not about religion; it's about relationships."  This reminded me of the time I heard Rick Warren, one of America's most famous "pastors" and author of the "Purpose-Driven" series of books, describe the church he serves (Saddleback in CA) as "a church for people who don't like church."

Here is a pic of what things look like in places that aren't about religion, but relationships; in places for people who don't like church to gather (pic is from "worship" at Cedar Creek):

It is simply insane that anyone claiming to be part of Christ's Church would market themselves in this manner.  "You'll love it here.  Come join us.  You won't even realize you're in church.  It's not about religion here; it's about relationships."  And yet, at the same time, there is something refreshingly honest about their marketing techniques.  They tell you up front that they're different, that they're not into the whole religion thing.  Sure, they're still being deceptive in that they think they're still a part of Christ's Church, but at least they're honest about who they really are and what they do.  They readily admit that they don't like church.  They readily admit that they're not about religion.  They readily admit that they're open to anything and everything.  They readily admit that they believe "worship" should be lively, fun, and entertaining.  In other words, they're not hiding anything here.  They put their cards on the table and say, "This is what our version of non-religious, all-inclusive, people-centered, relationship-focused 'Christianity' looks like.  Like it?  Good.  Come and join us."

And, the people come.  Oh, how they come!  They flock to these non-church, non-religion "churches."  Why wouldn't they?  They don't like church.  They have no interest in religion.  But, they do like to be entertained.  They enjoy being motivated.  They're all for talking about a Jesus who is accepting of anything and everything.  That kind of Jesus is okay with them.   They're just looking for a social club anyway, a place to have a little fun and establish some relationships.  "Finally," they say, "this 'church' gets me.  They know what I want.  They meet my 'felt needs.'  This place is cool.  I get my 'spiritual' fix on my terms, with no strings attached.  No guilt.  No shame.  Just me.  Just as I am.  I don't have to change a bit.  I can show up for the show once a week, get my fill, and nothing is expected from me in return.  This is great!"

The problem, of course, is that it's all a sham.  It's not Christ's Church.  It's not about the real Jesus, who is revealed in Holy Scripture.  The real Jesus is a bit different from the "rock-n-roll" version put forth in these non-religious, non-church "churches."  The real Jesus makes some pretty outrageous statements, like, "Deny yourself.  Pick up your cross and follow Me.  Abide in My word.  Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but a sword.  Beware of false prophets.  My kingdom is not of this world.  You will be persecuted for My sake," and so on.  He's not very popular, to be sure.  But, then, He didn't come to be popular, but Savior.  He didn't come to entertain or be entertained, but to live and die to save sinners, and to rise from the tomb and ascend into heaven to serve as Mediator between His Father and us.

If you're not into the real Jesus, there are plenty of non-religious, non-church "churches" out there for you today.  Heck, you can even find many today which masquerade as "Lutheran."  You'll have fun in these places.  You'll be entertained.  You'll feel right at home.  You'll even establish relationships with others who like to have fun and be entertained as you do.

But, if you're interested in eternal salvation, well, you'll just have to get over your dislike of the Church established by the One who lived the perfect life you can't live and died on the cross to pay the full price for all of your sins.  His Church is meant to be a sanctuary from this dead and dying world, not a mirror image of it.  His Church is not a concert hall or arena where people are invited to come and be entertained, but a place of refuge where sinners are invited to lay their sins upon Him and receive forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments.  And, guess what:  In Christ's Church, you receive something so much better than earthly relationships - you are welcomed into an intimate fellowship (communion) with the Triune God of the universe and all His children FOREVER!

So, no thanks Cedar Creek.  I'll stick to my Christian religion, which is lived out in Christ's Holy Church where I am welcomed into eternal relationships.  I'll get my fun and entertainment elsewhere.    


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I think relationship does get in the way here. :)

See: Does 'Relationship' Get in the Way?

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...


Thanks for the link. Good post, as usual. Enjoy your blog! :)

Todd Wilken said...

So good, I think I'll read it on the air today.


Dan at Necessary Roughness said...

Nice! Congrats!

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Thanks Megan, Todd, and Dan!

terriergal said...

Excellent. The irony is that I find that these 'relationship' churches don't do *that* very well either. The relationship is only given as a reward for not questioning the leadership. It is all (or mostly) law.

Bringeroflight said...

I found this blog very interesting, yet at the same time it can swing quite the opposite direction by becoming so religious that we forget about experiencing a real relationship with our heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ. We become so wrapped up in serving and doing good works that we don't take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listening to His Word, daily in our lives. A time to be still before the Lord.
Isn't that the reason why God has restored us back to him through His beloved Son Jesus Christ? So that we can have a right standing before God? So we could worship Him, have a personal relationship with Him? Jesus said to His disciples, "I no longer call you my servant, but I now call you my friend" Isn't that having a relationship with God? John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Did Jesus have a relationship with his disciples? Yes I am so very much for worshipping my heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ in reverence and in true worship! I don't go to church to be entertained but to be feed on the very Word of God and in sacraments. To hear have an initmate relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and heavenly Father. To hear that my sins have been forgiven, go in the peace of Christ! I have to admitted I have use this phrase before, "It's not a religion, but a relationship", meaning that religion to me isn't like that of the Pharasees, so focused on the Law that they didn't show any mercy to God's people...In His Word He also speaks on how He desires mercy over sacrifice. Hosea 6:6
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.Matthew 9:13
But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

They missed out on having a right relationship with their Messiah, because they were so focused on the Laws, they even added to them. that they missed out on God's grace through Christ Jesus, for the Law had been given to them to point them to their promise Messiah. Galatians 3:24 “So that the Law has become our tutor to bring us unto Christ

that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come,

we are no longer under a tutor.”

We to have to be careful not to get so caught up in the Laws that we miss out on the Gospel message. We can not have one without the other! The Law and Gospel must be shared. For it is through the Law that we are lead to faith in Christ Jesus and the Gospel that shows us we are set free in Christ Jesus death and resurrection! This is what Christianity is all about!

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Dear Bringeroflight,

You make many good points in your post. Please know and understand that my original post is not in any way, shape, or form intent on denying the fact that we who have been baptized into Christ have an intimate, personal relationship with Him. So intimate and personal is this relationship that He fills us with Himself whenever we gather around the altar to receive His very Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith. Yes, we most definitely have an intimate, personal relationship with our Lord!

The original post was aimed at those who are wont to create "churches for those who don't like church." Their emphasis of "relationship" over "religion" does not speak to the same "relationship" you bring up in your post and which is affirmed by me above. The "relationship" they emphasize is one that they themselves establish and maintain, based on their personal decision to accept Jesus as Savior, etc. Quite a different thing indeed!

Also, please be careful when distinguishing Law and Gospel. The Law does not lead us to faith in Jesus; the Gospel does that. The Law kills us and prepares us for the Gospel, which makes us alive in Christ.

Thanks for your post.

Bringeroflight said...

thank you for your correction on Law and Gospel. Truth is that is what I was trying to say, only I'm afraid I didn't use the right words and explanation. I at times get so confused in how to share this part of my faith...I understand it, but when it comes to sharing it in words, i'm afraid I fumble. I suppose I should stay away from sharing it until I can share it correctly...=>
Thanks for clarifying things for me...=>

In Christ

Jeremy McKinney said... you've been to this church? You've experienced a worship service there? You sat in the crowd and sensed the presence of God once you stepped outside of your comfortable religious box? Didn't think so...

Jeremy McKinney said... you've been to this church? You've experienced a worship service there? You sat in the crowd and sensed the presence of God once you stepped outside of your comfortable religious box? Didn't think so...