The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Spiritual vs. religious

Hope found in role of emerging churches

How do you respond when someone says: “I am a very spiritual person. I am just not religious”? Or perhaps you have heard, “Religion is for those who are trying to avoid going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there.”

I will be honest: I too often become defensive or even dismissive rather than exploring what the person means by such statements.

I feel irritated at the implication that the organized church is a shallow escape for those who are out of touch with everyday realities. I bristle at the allegations that our energies and resources perpetuate religious institutions rather than invite people to experience a Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life. I spurn the idea that one can escape the messiness of human institutions and sinfulness and achieve some realm of pure spirituality.

In fact, the word of God finally puts to death such illusions and frees me for a life of faith by God’s grace on account of Christ. Apart from the people and practices, the rituals and routines, the expectations and imperfections of the institutional church—“organized religion”—my spiritual life would languish.

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February issue


Embracing diversity