Instead of sharing straight from Scripture this time, I am going to share some things about my story. My heart is heavy with many things. I came across an old Tweet that I had re-tweeted from a previous pastor, with a quote that said something like, “God doesn’t care about your religion; it’s your relationships that matter.” I agreed with it at the time, but things have changed in my heart.
While it is true that we as believers are to love our neighbors and to go into the world and make disciples, I now think that religion matters more than what that quote seems to say. I have heard twice this week that the old saying, “don’t be so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good,” should not be heeded, and I agree.
I’ve been a Christian for 35 years, worked in a church for four years, and have attended eight churches in four states over those years. I only bring that up to say that never in that time, until now, have I considered myself Reformed or a Calvinist. In fact, I used to sway the Arminian way. The churches we’ve attended have pretty much all been the “squishy” seeker-sensitive types, welcoming all, making a point to not worry too much about the “little” things in our theology, as long as we agree on the big things. Most of them ranged from being open and accepting to the spiritual gifts to being outright charismatic.
We just relocated to Maine a year ago, and that outright charismatic church is one we began attending here. New England isn’t known for having many churches – especially good Gospel preaching ones. As I was researching more into the spiritual gifts since we were surrounded by all of it at this church, I realized that I was in danger of being led astray in all of it. I talked with my husband and we left that church.
I delved into studying theology, doctrine, church history, and most importantly, God’s Word. God’s grace turned me around, and brought me back into the fold and changed my thinking. Despite the low number of churches to choose from here, I was able to find a handful of churches that might be okay. We tried two and have attended the second one for several weeks. This church is not Reformed, but does seem to hold to most Calvinistic doctrines, as this is the camp where I have firmly landed.
I now see that many of the churches we have attended in the past were more liberal, even though I would not have classified them as such when we were there. I can see elements of things like neo-orthodoxy, the emergent church movement, being very into the social gospel, a focus on spiritual gifts, and roots from the old holiness movement. Not only that, but things like the church library and women’s ministry materials were never screened, and I for one, was exposed to a lot of not-so-good doctrines and theologies. Most of the churches talked about making disciples, but they were truly more seeker-sensitive, bringing in numbers, versus doing the work of discipling.
I am sad that none of these churches offered classes or training on things like church history, doctrine and theology. They all seem to have a “get to know us” class, where they do share what they believe. But it’s different than studying good doctrine and knowing what to watch out for. The sermons didn’t cover it, and rarely even convicted of sin. I am sad that they don’t screen materials. I am sad that I have noticed some of the pastors reading “bad” material or following false teachers online, and using some of it in their small groups. I am sad that the worship leaders, likewise, don’t seem to screen the music or where the music came from. All this stuff has just seeped in and twisted the modern evangelical landscape.
So in conclusion, I think that religion does matter more than relationships. Especially when the definition of religion is “the belief in and worship of…especially a personal God.” (Oxford Dictionary) If we don’t believe in God we can’t have a relationship with Jesus. In these other churches, it seemed like religion was almost a bad word, like it was too legalistic: “We’re not religious; We’re spiritual” attitude. I think it definitely matters knowing what we believe and why – finding out about good doctrine. Out of that we can build relationships, both in and outside the Church. Then discipleship can take place. We’re supposed to be discerning and operate in wisdom. We are supposed to be heavenly minded: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8; “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2
I don’t think it’s a good thing to be “church hopping.” All of us needs to find a church home. However, please find a gospel preaching church with solid doctrine. Go the extra mile to check them out. Remember that just because a church uses the Bible or Bible verses in its messages does not mean it’s preaching the true Gospel.