So says Billy Graham’s 2nd oldest child, Anne Graham Lotz. Lotz is promoting a new book about her experience as a “believer in exile”, and was featured in last week’s Newsweek magazine:
Anne Graham Lotz, the second of Billy and Ruth Graham’s five children, says it’s all right: as long as you have a personal relationship with Jesus, church doesn’t really matter. Neither does denomination. “Religion is an impediment to knowing God,” says Lotz, who is promoting a new book, The Magnificent Obsession. “Procedures, rituals, creeds: how in the world can they help you connect with God? … If you’re sprinkled when you’re baptized or dunked when you’re baptized, it doesn’t matter as far as your salvation goes.”
The article’s author, Lisa Miller, is known for her potshots at Christianity (she’s the “Religion Writer” for Newsweek) – yet the article is of interest to me because of my own “believer in exile” status. I visit an assembly that is built on sound biblical foundation (OK – not as consistently as I’d like to), yet I still find myself “gun-shy” with formally joining another assembly since I fled my pimp and the plantation a few years ago. In speaking with others, I’m finding that there are people who dearly love God and His people (and study and share the Gospel everywhere they go), yet they can’t bring themselves to “join/commit/submit” to another assembly.
Thanks to technology, one can download sermons from some of the most august theologians past and present, study from intricately crafted study bibles and reference text, and communicate with other believers across the Web (blogs, Twitter, Facebook et al) – and NEVER step in another “church building” again.
I know, I know, we’re not supposed to forsake the assembly:
Hebrews 10:25 (New American Standard Bible)
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Many pastors use this scripture to intimidate members into continuing to attend and support their churches – even when all manner of corruption runs rampant. Since many believers “don’t want to forsake the assembly”, they stay in corrupt (or biblically questionable) churches to keep their “fire insurance”.
The author of Hebrews (who many assume is the Apostle Paul) is clearly referring to the importance of fellowshipping with other saints/believers, but the full context of Hebrews 10 helps explain the author’s exhortation. The author clearly establishes the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice as the ultimate propitiation for man’s sin, thus explaining the importance of remembering that sacrifice through assembly (worship and encouragement).
The Newsweek article ends with the following revelation from Lotz:
Church may not be necessary to knowing God, she says, but it keeps the relationship going: “You can really love the Lord, but after a while, if you’re all by yourself, the fire goes cold.”
Fair enough, but one could argue that you’re not “by yourself” in non-traditional assembly. So I’ll ask you sage readers: Can you be “on fire” for the Lord without regularly attending a church? Can you visit and volunteer in local asembly’s without formally aligning yourself with their ministries? Has e-Ministry supplanted many “brick-and-morter” ministries today? Have many churches “choked” a relationship with God with “religion”?
I’m anxious to see the dialogue…