Have you ever heard someone say that they are against organized religion? Or perhaps they regard organized religion as having brought harm to society? After all, hasn’t religion been a cause of wars and suffering?
There’s no denying that some organized religion, like Islam, has brought suffering and has been spread through wars. But that is the exception rather than the rule. Rather, organized religion has brought great good to societies over the centuries.
What about unorganized religion? Shamanism may be defined as an unorganized religion. How has shamanism benefited the societies where it thrives? The answer is basically, none. What about private theistic beliefs where there is no church or other affiliation? How has that brought benefit to societies? Other than perhaps the occasional effort to help someone or give toward a good cause, unorganized , private beliefs have done very little to benefit society. So what’s wrong with organized religion? Very simply, nothing, nothing at all. In fact, from the Bible’s perspective, organization is a necessary component for an ongoing, healthy, and community benefiting religion. And I think that Christianity is a wonderful example of a world benefiting, organized religion. Today’s tragic earthquake in Nepal is an example of how organized religion benefits societies. Samaritan’s Purse, a relief agency founded by Franklin Graham, is preparing to deliver millions of dollars of relief supplies and aid to victims. In fact, most relief agencies are Christian founded organizations.
Organized religion has done more than humanitarian works. Organized religion has founded countless numbers of schools, universities, orphanages, half-way houses for released inmates, homeless shelters, job training centers, and efforts to halt human trafficking and the sex trade, worldwide. Christian work in these areas outstrips the secular and governmental by many times. It is because of organized religion that these efforts are not only founded, but thrive.
Most importantly, we cannot forget that the local church is the bedrock of organized religion and it’s because of local churches that these larger organizations are able to make their case to donors, as well as churches organizing fund drives and practical helps for people in need around the world.
Think also what a local church does. The weekly exposition of scripture provides the philosophical backdrop for all of the efforts embarked on by the church at large. The teachings of moral values based on scripture, advocating for the less fortunate along with forgiveness for the guilty has changed thousands, even millions of lives. And it is precisely because these churches are organized that they are able to multiply their efforts to change so many lives.
So, far from being a hurt to society, organized religion is a great boon to society. What would our society look like without organized religion? I don’t think we would like to find out. Thankfully, it was Jesus who first revealed that he was putting together an organized religion. When did he say this? After the Apostle Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my Church.” The implication is that Jesus was going to build a movement of people organized around the profession of faith in him. When he gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28 he implied organized religion. When he commissioned his disciples in Acts 1 he implied organization. As the Apostles began their ministries they established elders and deacons to organize an authority structure and minister to basic needs. When Paul was on his missionary journeys he organized the groups of believers and even commanded that they engage in humanitarian help for those suffering in Jerusalem.
As long as human beings exist there will always be the handful of charlatans, crooks, and deceivers. But they are the exception, not the rule. Walk in the front door of almost any church and notice what they hang on their bulletin boards, display on their screens, and print in their handouts. They not only feature information about their church, but they also feature opportunities to get involved in home groups, support groups, ministries to people in need domestically and overseas, and much, much more.
I’m very happy to say that I’m a part of, and a big believer in organized religion. There is no doubt that without organized religion the world would be a much less happier place.