We understand that faith expresses itself in many different ways and we rejoice in the diversity that can be found across the spectrum of Christianity. It takes all sorts of churches to reach all sorts of people and no church or denomination can claim any monopoly on the right way to do church.
Having said that, we notice a stand-out theme in the gospels and in the person and character of Jesus. Put simply, Jesus is just not “religious” at all! Not in the sense of having cherished and special customs, traditions, places, times, objects, procedures, rituals or ceremonies. He is completely free of all the trappings of organised “religion”. Moreover, his sharpest criticism was reserved for those who were outwardly the most religious, and he warned his disciples to watch out for the “yeast of the pharisees”.
The New Testament has no altars, no candles, no orders of service, no liturgy, no pulpits, no stained glass and no religious calendar with special dates, Sabbaths or festivals. And it has a Jesus who goes to parties, trashes the temple, breaks religious rules and chooses to ordain Peter to ministry informally at a beach Bar-B-Que over a fish breakfast, instead of in the synagogue. What’s going on? How did we become so religious, when the Master plainly wasn’t? And have you ever wondered why there is so much material on the pharisees in the New Testament?
None of the above things are necessarily wrong and they may even be helpful on occasion, but the danger comes when we substitute such objects, customs, or rituals for God himself; when they become the focus of our love, the fuel for our pride or the source of our identity. We may become proud that we are AV-only, or attached to our 16th-century font, or concerned that we lit the candles in the right order! That’s the yeast of the pharisees, a “religious spirit”. It’s absolutely lethal to a healthy faith and a healthy church.
So it’s possible to be religious without really having an authentic relationship with God. And it’s possible to have an authentic relationship with God without being religious. Here at Bodmin Road our aim is to encourage the latter not the former.