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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's All About God

Every now and then someone will ask me why I don't put my blog on popular religious websites? The answer, truthfully, is that the popular religious websites are about just that: "popular religion." Well, I don't do "religion," and if you've ever read any of my blogs you know I don't do "popular." Most curators know this as well, and a couple of times that I have offered to write for them they have politely declined. But not talking about religion is hard for someone who writes blogs about God...they seem to go hand-in-hand.

And that's a problem for me. Now, there are some folks out there such as Lillian Daniel, who makes a strong claim that religion can help in our relationship with God. Check out this book   She's on track with something here, and I love her book, but we're coming at this from different angles.

I am afraid when people too closely equate God with a religion. What happens when God and religion get too closely intertwined is that people think God can only be found in religion, mostly, in the religion I believe in. So, God gets trapped in a "religion" box, in which God is understandable, accessible, and available only within that particular religion. All the rest go "God"-less, unless the God inside the religion box either is really nice, or really mean. Of course, that seems silly if you hold God created EVERYTHING, and when you get to this point, you become "spiritual, but not religious," and cause Ms. Daniel to sigh...

And as much as it might be helpful for spiritual people to have a relationship to a religion, I would prefer them to have a relationship with God. Over the years of being a pastor, I have discovered that most of us find it easier to have a relationship with a religion rather than with God. It's tangible. Religions have buildings, holidays, Sunday School programs, choirs, outreach committees, and people who believe. God only has faith.

And there is no contest when you ask a bunch of pragmatic, North American people which relationship they want to spend time with each year. There is so much more stuff to do with "religion." Faith...not so much. For example, when people think about switching houses of worship, they call if "church shopping." When you "church shop" you look for religious expressions that will likely fulfill your religious needs. You look for programs for children or senior adults, ministries that go beyond the doors of the church building, worship that doesn't bore you to death, sermons that make sense to you, and that's all the stuff of religion. (Note: I am thinking primarily of my Christian tradition, but I wonder if other faiths do not have the same issues?)

What if, instead of "church shopping," you went to "How does God express God's self in this neighborhood" shopping? What would it mean to be at a church where you were searching for God, and God's expressions of who God is in this part of the world? How would our religion change if God, not ourselves, was the reason we joined a congregation? In this way, wouldn't we be religious, not from some pre-conceived notion of religion, but rather from joining our relationship with God to our relationship with a neighborhood? What would that kind of religion look like? Would it be "religious" enough? More importantly, would such a religion would be spiritual enough for us...and for God?

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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