My church journey began around 1999. I have fond memories of singing songs about Father Abraham and Abba Father. I remember making friends and entering into the world of church cliques at an early age. From 99 to 2006, I attended numerous church camps, events, joined the youth choir, competed in singing competitions, went to sleep overs and more. Church was a safe place for me, it was fun and friendly. At a predominately Caucasian church, I found a home with a group of about 5-6 young, pretty black girls. We all were a part of the choir and liked the same things: boys, clothes, and God. I grew up in church. I learned of my love for worship, community and I was baptized in a lake during a fiery thunderstorm at one of our summer camps. Those memories are invaluable and unforgettable.
In my young adult years, I joined a small group of young individuals that were committed to loving God and having fun. My relationship with God grew stronger because I was learning what it meant to grow in Him. I didn’t worry about rules, or doctrine; i simply wanted to praise God and grow into the woman that I was created to be.
Growing up, all we learned about was Jesus, how to treat people and how to behave as a Christian. It wasn’t until I attended a Baptist church as a young adult that I understood that there was a difference between religion and relationship. As a young adult, I experienced a culture shock as I heard conversations about Pastors whooping, people shouting, strict dress code, and 4 hour long church services.
Now, a few years after experiencing the culture shock of an African American run church, I realize that there truly is a difference between religion and relationship. Not only is there a difference, at times, the lines can seem blurred and confusion can run your relationship into religion and then into the ground.
Religion is lawful and often not based off of the Bible. Its often reflective of a brand that the organization created. I remember being a leader in a ministry and being told that I couldn’t do or say certain things because I was a leader. In reality, the premise was to be mindful of my actions so as to not steer others astray. And sometimes, people were just being petty and emotional. Religion often leaves no room for redemption. It’s often judgmental and senseless. Religion often focuses on things that God could care less about. Religion has rules in place that will try and beat you into a mode without loving you through the process. Religious people often have a face that they’re the upholders of the Christian faith yet they hold no compassion, repentance, or biblical base.
Relationship considers the heart of God. It entrusts itself to the Kingdom rather than the tradition church building. Relationship believes in loving people through sin instead of condemning them. Relationship is more reliant on communion with God than it is with the rules of the church. Relationship is unconventional and meets people where they are. Relationship believes in commitment to God above all. Relationship focuses on the true intent for the church and the people created on Earth. Relationship believes in the kingdom principle of purpose and individuality.
It’s so easy to get caught up in religion while pursuing a relationship with God. Whether being driven by a genuine desire to please God or a desire to get it right, there is room for correction. There is a place for Religion and tradition in our lives but it should never override the relationship that we have with God. True movement and success comes through relationship. All the religion and rules in the world will not comfort you when you’ve become depressed or wandering. Religion cannot redeem you, only relationship can do that.