People absolutely hate what is called "organized religion". I saw a shirt a couple years back that said, "I hate religion" on the front and had a definition of religion on the back: "An institution that provides a structure of rules and rituals for people to follow in order to please God and control humans." That's what people hate. So when people say they hate organized religion, what they mean is they hate the "hypocrisy and bureaucracy" of institutionalized church, where religion is a list of rules and where a leader uses his or her power to manipulate people."
But I was struck by the "organization" of Jesus in the story I read today. I fear that the term organized religion has made people question any church that provides an org chart or tries to organize a ministry plan, policy, or procedure. There is something worse than "organized" religion and that is "disorganized" religion. Organization isn't the problem, structure isn't the problem, leadership is the problem and the heart with which the leader leads.
Jesus was teaching a large group of people and the disciples came to him and said that he should send them home so they could eat and sleep. His response showed his leadership responsibility. It always does for anyone who's a leader. He replied, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty". I love it!--"about fifty"--as if to say, don't get too hung up on the exact number of 50, but shoot for something in that ballpark. The apostles did what he said, he manufactured the food, and the distribution began to take place. Organization, manufacturing and distribution have always been a part of ministry. Organization and order allow God's heart to be experienced in a distraction-free, user-friendly fashion. The gospel is offensive enough, so don't create a model, mode or method that offends them needlessly. What Jesus was implementing here is strategy. Strategy is an apparatus to serve the mission, a template to make ministry actually happen. You need this.
Just in case you thought Jesus wasn't into organization, I wanted to highlight this administration move. The problem isn't the order of worship, it's the worship of order. When the program serves the people, you do ministry Jesus' way. It's when the people serve the program that religion starts to go foul.
Speaking of breaking into groups...are you in a Life Group yet? This is where we manufacture Christ-followers to distribute the gospel by swapping stories, God's and ours. If not, join one this weekend! We are getting together all over the greater Lowell area to talk about what God is showing us in the Biblica New Testament study. Sign up in the cafe' this weekend.
Nothing like a shameless plug. If it felt like product placement, it was. Welcome to organized religion.