The institutional church has always insisted that in order to have God you must have the church also. In their doctrine the road to God passes through the church. In fact the road begins and ends in the church and its teachings. That is the basic problem which most people have with Christianity. It is not so much that they disagree with the lessons of Jesus as it is a very real reluctance to place themselves under the tender mercies of the church and its all too human leadership. As I heard someone say once: I love Jesus; I just don’t care for His fan club.
No one should feel obliged to submit to human authority in order to reach God. Anyone should ask why God would want such submission in the first place. The tendencies of the natural man are exactly the things we are apparently trying to escape, and the introduction of human intermediaries into the process of achieving that end simply insures failure. We can’t overcome the problem by introducing a system which perpetuates it. Humans directing the spiritual achievement of other humans is never going to accomplish God’s purpose in humanity. That eliminates the institutional church, as we have known it, from being the vehicle to righteousness. Weekly homilies, sacred rituals, relentless exhortation, and even the threat of excommunication are not transformative. They are a mask that hides the real spiritual issues which plague our history.
If our spiritual fellowship groups are ever to become effective in actually promoting spirituality they will have to re-invent themselves. A first step would be to relinquish the fanciful idea that God selects some of us to manage the spiritual growth of the rest of us. With that in mind, we can stop honoring some people as leaders while the rest are consigned to follow. A second idea would be to forsake the notion that ritualism somehow is required by God as a way to show our great love for Him.
God’s purpose in Christ had nothing to do with defining how man must treat God in order to show respect and reverence. Instead it had everything to do with illustrating how to live fulfilled lives by treating each other with reverence and respect. Therefore, if we want to promote spiritual understanding and growth in our society at large, the only effective way does not require endless discourses on how to be righteous. Instead that promotion requires living, as best we can, the example of Jesus in our daily lives. When we begin to do that, all the discoursing and ritualism, which has historically been identified with so called Christianity, will be replaced by the true essence of what it means to be Christ followers.