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The spiritual-but-not-religious experiment
Pastor Mike Novotny
by Pastor Mike Novotny
March 31, 2021

Do you know someone who is “spiritual but not religious”? After witnessing a thousand sex and/or stealing scandals and overhearing a million petty fights in their parents’ churches, many young Americans are turning away from organized religion altogether. They still consider themselves spiritual people, but who needs the flawed institution of organized religion? Maybe you feel the same way.

We should sympathize with our loved ones who struggle with the necessity of church. It’s hard to be committed to such an obviously imperfect institution. Yet we should also remind ourselves that another culture tried this experiment before. For nearly three hundred years, the people of Israel tried to give, pray, and worship without organized leadership. The story is summarized in the book of Judges where “everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). 

Spoiler Alert—It did not go well. The people added idols to their “worship” of the Lord. They gave in to short-term pleasures. The grandchildren of the very people whose feet walked through the Red Sea fell far from God fast. As the author repeats time and again, the people needed a king, someone to love them sincerely and protect them from themselves.

So let’s deal with our church’s flaws without running away from the church. If Israel’s story is any indication, simply being spiritual does not lead us closer to Jesus.