Relationship over Religion: Walking with God in today’s world
According to Gallup, U.S. Church membership falls below the majority for the first time in eight decades. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999. As a Christian, reading this type of statistic saddens me. Over the years faith has become something that is almost frowned upon. There is a growing number of people who are running from the church for various reasons.
They may have had a bad church experience, they can’t comprehend how there can be suffering in a world with an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God, or they never felt welcomed by the Church. No matter what the reason is, we are seeing a decline in people following Jesus.
Growing up as a son of two pastors, I have an interesting perspective on religion and Christianity. Religion has been a part of my everyday life for as long as I remember, and in the world around me, I felt as if you could see Christianity in a lot of the content that we consumed daily. I don’t know where the shift happened, but as I have grown up religion has in some cases become a thing of the past.
I think one of the biggest reasons we have seen this decline is because of the “church”. People have begun to look at the church as simply just a building, rather than a group of people.
Ephesians 4:16 says, “From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)” In many of his letters, Paul refers to the Church as “the body of Christ”. Let’s look at what “the body of Christ” actually is. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12–14, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many.” Christ is the head of the church, and we are his many members coming together to form the body. Each of us is blessed with different spiritual gifts and talents, but all are equally important to the mission and the effectiveness of the body.
The Greek word for Church is Ekklēsia meaning “gathering of those summoned.” It isn’t a building or an actual physical location, but instead a group of people gathering for a specific purpose. It is much easier for one person to disconnect themselves from the physical church building, but it is much more difficult to disconnect from the actual body of Christ. If we want to see more people coming back to Christ then we need the Church to stop just being a building, but an actual body of people who come together to commune and fellowship with God no matter the location.
Christianity today is often looked at as a chore.
A certain set of rules to follow and bible verses to memorize. But it is much more than that. God doesn’t just want us to follow him, he wants us to be intimate with him. He wants a relationship with us. John 15:7–8 Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (NIV)” God wants us to speak with him and ask him things. He wants to bless us and for us to live and walk abundantly with him on earth. In my own life, my faith shifted when I took on the perspective that Jesus wants a relationship with me, and since then I’ve developed and matured in my walk with him.
As believers, I think it is time that we stopped practicing religion and start practicing relationships. As we develop more intimate relationships with God and with each other he will begin to use us to bring those who might have lost their way from Jesus back home.
In a society, where walking in faith doesn’t always seem like the most popular choice. We have to continue to be strong and courageous in who God is and what he has called us to do. Although the format has changed of how we may walk with God, who he is and his message has remained the same.
Instead of creating a New Years’ resolution this year, I chose a word to focus my year around. The word that I chose was intimacy. I want 2022 to be all about creating more intimate relationships with everyone around me, but most importantly creating that intimate relationship with God. The world has become so divided and we need intimacy with each other desperately. This year I am choosing to do my part in bringing back intimacy into this world and I encourage all of you to do the same.