Institutional Religion Is Worthless

Institutional religion is worthless precisely because it promotes institutions instead of God.  Another way of saying this is that organized religion promotes itself, not God.

This is not to say that religious institutions are devoid of truth.  On the contrary, they often have truth (though to varying degrees).  The problem is that they neither believe – nor obey – the truth they have to any significant degree.  If they did, they would be trusting God instead the institution.

During biblical times, God used organized religion (the nation of ancient Israel) to establish and record His truth in the earth.  Since the Bible was completed, however, He no longer needs institutional religion.

You can relate to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is God Almighty and wants to have personal communication with you.  He wants you to love Him as He loves you – which is to say, greatly!

Bible notes on this post.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus to those who want to hear about Him without having to join a group.

11 Replies to “Institutional Religion Is Worthless”

  1. Having spent my lunch time today playing piano for a lunch for the homeless of Auckland organised by the Pitt Street Methodist Church and seeing a large room packed with those who appreciated the Church’s long term instituational commitment to that cause, I cannot entirely agree. The Church got no publicity for the event and every day the Methodist Central Mission provides assistance for the poor of Auckland. For the recent Earthquake in Christchurch the institutional church rallied to the assistance of those affected. Saying that the institutional church is of no value does not correspond with my observations.Telling me you know what God is thinking, what he likes and dislikes appears to my rather simple mind to be claiming more wisdom than I would dare to claim. Perhaps if you had more contact with an institutional church just attempting to do its collective best in a difficult world you might be a little more charitable.

    1. I commend all your acts of kindness to those less fortunate than you, for it is always “more blessed to give than to receive.” I similarly commend all who show such kindnesses, especially to the least of His brethren. However, while institutions sometimes get involved in such charitable efforts and organize them, this does not absolve them of their usurpation of the Lord’s place in the hearts of humanity. Let them call themselves “benevolent societies” or something similar and I have no quarrel with them. However, when they declare themselves the God-ordained means of interacting with God I say they are “worthless” – and actually worse than worthless because they obscure the true way which is Jesus Christ Himself.

      1. I am puzzled that you should think that the New Zealand Methodist Church declares itself the God ordained method of interacting with God. I have never heard this even hinted at at their Conferences or Synods – or indeed anywhere and it is certainly not obvious in their literature. It is not part of their mission statement – which I think does line up with the gospel. My own personal criticism of our Church is rather that they are half hearted in their attempts to meet their mission intentions. Can you tell me where I can find this claim? Perhaps it is a claim of one of the groups of Churches in the US. Presumably by following God directly without the Church getting in the way you have discovered a way of being Christ to the world. Where and what do you do? If it is indeed having the impact you imply please share it. I am hoping it includes leading the way in doing something for the poor, the sick, the prisoners and those caught up in disasters. As you do it the the least of Christ’s brethren etc… If it is just prayer and Bible reading I guess I am not interested.



          In the About us section of the Methodist Church of New Zealand you will find this page in which the church “claims and cherishes its place in the Holy Catholic Church which is the Body of Christ.”  The statement goes on to affirm the MCNZ’s claim to the authority of God for its decisions, including its authority over its members.

          In this regard the MCNZ is no different from any other church, large or small, denominational or non-denominational.  However, the Methodist Church in general, as well as the MCNW in particular, is in our day more oriented to social action than to proclamation of the gospel, and so it is understandable if you are more conscious of its social stances than of its theological claims.

          As I’ve said, I applaud your activities (and those of the MCNZ) on behalf of the poor, the sick, the prisoners, and so on.  I would only add that one can show charity to the needy without necessarily being part of a group.  And as for individual giving, it is not just out of our abundance that Christ calls us to give.  On the contrary, He calls us to lay down our lives for others just as He laid down His life for us.  Even if you think the MCNZ is half-hearted in its mission intentions, their shortcomings do not prevent you from laying down for others all of your life that you wish.

          I would also add that the more of our charity we can perform away from human eyes (“not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing” Matthew 6:3) the more pleasure it brings our Lord.

          As for your preference for showing kindness to others over mere Bible reading and prayer, I think the Lord concurs (James 1:27; Matthew 23:3; 24:31-46).





  2. I still think you are confusing the acceptance of statements in the New Testament with the much more exclusive statement you accuse all institutional Churches as thinking themselves to be God ordained. For example we read

    24 . . . the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

    27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

    30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.

    As I understand it the Church, or Body of Christ, is composed of many members. Not every member has the same function or calling. God did not create or call each member to do the same thing.

    Are you saying the Church is not the metaphorical body of Christ, or alternately are you proposing the Methodist Church should not claim to be part of the Church (which is what I thought Catholic Church actually means as opposed the the Roman Catholic Church.). Are you saying Paul got it wrong. Are you saying the Methodist Church is wrong to accept that concept when it seems to me to be so much a part of New Testament theology. When I think of some of the most significant Christians through the last few centuries I am struggling to think of one who was not a member of an institutional Church. I am not saying you are not a significant Christian or that you need a Church to follow Christ, it is rather that if you are leading Christian thinking in a helpful direction I am a little puzzled that I should be so unaware of the real life outcomes. Your telling me that I shouldnt ask because you dont want to boast about it doesnt really help me learn more.

    1. Paul certainly had it right, but churches today are not listening to Paul.  If they were, they would recognize that the kingdom of God – for which the New Testament church was waiting – has since come, just as Paul and the other apostles had predicted it would.  Therefore we are to seek the kingdom of God instead of church.  (There is a broader explanation of this concept outlined in this overview).

      Christ now rules the entire human race and therefore every human being may now rightly be considered a member of His body.

      All significant movements of God throughout church history have been led by individuals acting in Christ’s name, inspired by His Holy Spirit.  The institutional church has not only not been at the forefront of these activities, it normally opposes them – and often with fierce persecution.

      Nevertheless, the Spirit of Christ reigns.  All who follow Him bring honor and glory to His name.

  3. The church is an assembling together of God’s imperfect people being made perfect, in Christ. Being sent out on mission all across the world and seeing many people being saved and transformed by the gospel everyday and in many different ways. Bill gave just a couple of really good examples of Christ-centered church action above.

    If you are apart of a local church, worship and live with those fellow saints and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus unto the glory of God. Don’t let one man and his liberal interpretation of scripture take you away from your walk with Christ and from your local church. It’s an illogical argument rooted in the assumption that all institutional churches are the same, and they’re not. There are legit, gospel-centered, Spirit-filled churches in the world.

    Paul assigned various leadership roles within the local church. Pastors/Elders/Deacons/Deaconnesses. Of course, I agree with you Mike that many churches are far from Paul’s/God’s initial desire for the Church, but that doesn’t mean that you abandon something just because it’s imperfect. That’s actually anti-Christ, anti-gospel. Think of it in this way: Christ doesn’t abandon us, He rescues us. Many churches/socities/gatherings/assemblies are imperfect, that doesn’t mean we give up and abandon relationships/growth with fellow believers. It’s only in America where we adopt this individualistic sort of spirituality. Paul had alot of help within his ministry. He wasn’t a one-man-spiritual-superstar. We can’t live out our faith alone. I can’t agree with you on that, from personal experience and the testimony of all sorts of Christians from different backgrounds.

    Grace, mercy, and peace.

    1. When people’s lives are transformed through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is just that: transformation through the gospel, not transformation through the church.

      God is not watching over church to support it; He is watching over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:11-12).

      Wherever the gospel of truth is declared, God’s Holy Spirit is active. Church structure is man’s attempt to capture and capitalize on the work of God. It is man’s attempt to catch the wind and put it in a bottle.

      I am not suggesting that you abandon church because it is imperfect. I am suggesting you abandon it so that you can pursue the kingdom of God instead (Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church).

      You are clinging to the letter of Paul’s instructions while missing their spirit just as Paul’s opponents clung to the letter of Moses’ instructions while missing their spirit.

      I am not suggesting that you live out your faith alone. Rather I am suggesting that you live out your faith amid your family, neighbors, and co-workers. Will you bypass them to meet with a “holier” group than they? If so, what distinguishes you from the priest and the Levite who bypassed the wounded traveler? (Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37) The good Samaritan was not a one-man-spiritual superstar; rather, he was a man humble enough to recognize that God is everywhere and wants His mercy shown everywhere.

      Grace to all, mercy to all, peace to all.

  4. Unless your argument Mike is that churches as ‘institutions’ are useless. But, if you’re saying that churches as local gatherings/asssemblies are alltogether useless, I can’t agree with you there because I don’t see how you could confess sin and pray for others needs and serve others like Jesus did unless there are other believers in your life to experience these things with, via the local church/gathering.

    1. Cannot all these things be done for your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates? Can you not pray for them? Can you not ask God to forgive them? Can you not serve them?

      Don’t be like the Pharisees who traveled far and wide to make a convert – a convert who, in the end, turned out to be just like them (Matthew 23:15). Follow churchgoers and you’ll become like a churchgoer, but follow Christ and you’ll become like Christ.

      The expression “holier than thou” comes from Isaiah 65:5. It is a warning to those who would try to pursue God by pursuing “the people of God” (as is Jeremiah 17:5-8). If you want to pursue God, pursue Him. Otherwise, you’re just trying to please people (John 5:44; Galatians 1:10).

      Someone at your church preached Christ to you, and for that I commend them and thank them (Philippians 1:18). Be faithful to Christ, however, and not to a human social structure that calls itself church. I learned arithmetic as a young boy in a brick building. It is the arithmetic which has stayed with me, helping me through life – not the brick building (or even the faculty and students).

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