IF YOU have been disillusioned with organized religion or have dismissed it as irrelevant, you are not alone. In fact, the number of people who are choosing not to be affiliated with organized religions is mushrooming.
Some have abandoned organized religions because they believe that such institutions breed hypocrisy and intolerance. Others find it too complicated to follow a structured form of worship. Still others feel that organized religion is nothing but a superfluous “middleman” between God and his worshippers. What does the Bible really teach about organized religion?
God’s Friends in Ancient Times
The Bible provides a clear description of the form of worship practiced by ancient patriarchs, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For instance, on one occasion God said: “I have become acquainted with [Abraham] in order that he may command his sons and his household after him so that they shall keep Jehovah’s way to do righteousness and judgment.” (Genesis 18:19) Abraham was a friend of God and thus had a personal relationship with the Creator as an individual. But he also worshipped in the company of his household. Likewise, other patriarchs who were friends of God engaged in worship as a community, usually with immediate and extended family members as well as their servants.
In time, God required the ancient Israelites, and later the first-century Christians, to congregate for worship. (Leviticus 23:2, 4; Hebrews 10:24, 25) Those occasions for organized worship included singing, readings from the Scriptures, and public prayer. (Nehemiah 8:1-8; Colossians 3:16) The Scriptures also prescribed that a qualified body of men lead the congregation in worship.—1 Timothy 3:1-10.
The Benefits of Worshipping as a Congregation
Based on these Scriptural patterns, it is reasonable to conclude that today, too, God would expect his friends to worship him in an organized fashion. And there are benefits from worshipping God as part of a congregation.
For instance, the Scriptures liken the genuine worshipper to one who is traveling over a cramped road; and in another instance, to a runner in a race. (Matthew 7:14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) When running a long, hard race over difficult terrain, a runner may easily tire out and eventually give out. However, a runner can often push himself beyond his personal threshold if he has encouragement from others. Likewise, a spiritually-minded person can successfully maintain his relationship with God despite adversities if he has encouragement from other worshippers.
This explains the words at Hebrews 10:24, 25, where the Bible says: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” In fact, the Scriptures state that true worshippers would render worship as brothers and sisters, united as a figurative body.
The Bible describes that body, or congregation, as being united by a bond of love and peace. For instance, Ephesians 4:2, 3 admonishes true worshippers to act “with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” How could you comply with this admonition if your worship were independent and detached from other worshippers?
It is God’s will that instead of being a loose association of spiritually-minded individuals, true worshippers merge into a tight community of faith. The Bible exhorts worshippers to speak in agreement, to avoid divisions, and to be “fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) Those words would make little sense if God wanted people to worship him only as individuals apart from one another.
Clearly, evidence from the Bible points to an organized form of worship as the kind that is acceptable to God. And the organized religion that the Scriptures describe, the one that God sponsors, can give you the support you require to be successful in satisfying your spiritual needs.—Matthew 5:3.
Granted, many organized religions today are guilty of hypocrisy and countless atrocities. Yet, this does not mean that you should repudiate all organized religion. There must be a religion on earth that is organized to show love to all people—a religion that is organized to educate others about God’s moral principles. Such an organized religion can help you to build genuine faith. The Bible provides the necessary clues that can help you to identify the kind of organized worship that is acceptable to God.