“I’m not religious, I’m more spiritual.”
A quote I often hear within my generation, especially from black millennials. I also normally receive this response after inviting a friend to church. To someone who is considered “religious” because I attend church more than I don’t, I find this statement quite offensive—but I completely understand its roots.
For many of us within the black community, growing up in church was not an option—it was mandatory. There was Sunday service, Sunday school, Monday night prayer meetings, Tuesday night choir rehearsal, Wednesday night bible study, Thursday night revival, Friday night power hour, children’s church, teen church, summer youth explosion, vacation bible school, and let’s not forget the New Year’s Eve lock-in and Hallelujah Night, an alternative service for those who weren’t allowed to trick-or-treat and participate in Halloween. That’s a lot! I get it. But I didn’t grow up that way. I didn’t grow up going to church every single day. I never participated in a New Year’s Eve lock-in, and it wasn’t until recently that I learned about Hallelujah Night. But because I now attend church multiple days a week, I’m considered more religious than spiritual?
I think the term "spiritual" has been misconstrued with praying when in need, reading your bible from time to time, and forsaking the assembling together (i.e. not going to church). However, what spirituality should be connected with is relationship. There’s a difference between religion-ship and relation-ship!
Religion-ship is a term that many of us unknowingly attach to the “more than Sunday” church attendees, especially in Christianity. What I believe religion-ship to be is the practice of following old doctrine, or in layman terms, those who follow the “rules and regulations” from the Bible out of obligation. That’s not what I know church to be. I attend church because I want to, not because I’m obligated to or because it’s “the right thing to do.” I obey the words in the Bible because I want to and it brings my heart joy, not because it's what I'm "expected to do." I look to church as school. It’s where I receive instruction, information and further explanation of those things I read in the Bible. Just like while in school, teachers and professors were necessary, I believe the same is true for pastors. They have a level of knowledge and understanding that we need to grow spiritually. A lot of times, I also hear the quote, “I don’t have a problem with church, it’s the people. They’re hypocrites.” I often use the verbal illustration of comparing church to a hospital. When you go to a doctor’s office or hospital, you will find sick and hurting people looking for help. The same is true for church. Church is not where perfect people congregate to show how holy they are, it’s where hurt people, those in need of the Savior, go to receive help. Again, pastors are the doctors of the church, we NEED them to survive and live better.
Now, am I saying you develop a spiritual relationship through attending church regularly? Absolutely not! Attending church regularly is a way to build a spiritual foundation and further develop your relationship. I look at church as the eggs in the cake batter and the icing on top. It helps to hold everything together while also adding to what you are already doing outside of the church doors. Look at your spouse or significant other, your parents, your best friends, or even your enemies/haters—a relationship is built by trust and choice, not obligation. Just like in any relationship, it is groomed by time. I choose to go to church. I choose to dedicate a certain amount of time to reading my bible. I choose to write letters to the Lord. I choose to pray. I choose to sing songs in praise. I choose to be in constant communication with Him. I choose to worship. I choose to fast. I choose to sacrifice outside of Lent. I choose to read spiritual devotionals and other edifying books. Most importantly, I choose to do these things in addition to attending church. Keywords: I and CHOOSE. I choose to do these things because I love Him, not only for what He’s done for me but because of who He is to me. I’ve experienced living life on my own, and it was hard. Building my relationship with Jesus Christ has been a constant journey of decisions and choices—the best decisions and choices of my life! I know that I can’t live my life successfully without Him…and I won’t. I am totally dependent on Jesus in every aspect of my life, and it's the best place to be.
Oh, and just as a bonus, church is my reset button! It’s refreshing, replenishing and rejuvenating. Being surrounded by like-minded people, all striving toward the same goal is extremely encouraging!
So in closing, the next time I invite you to church and your answer is, “I’m not religious, I’m more spiritual,” don’t be surprised when my response is, “Good—because I’m nowhere near religious. I’m super spiritual! Can you be ready by 9:30 a.m.?”