First, let me define some terms. When I use religion, I don't mean religious acts designed to placate an angry God. no, when I use the term religion I mean a philosophy that tells one what to believe and how to live. Doesn't Christianity tell one what to believe and how to live? Further, when I use "Him", I am referring to Jesus, as he has been historically understood by the historic Christian faith. Lastly, when I refer to "him" I am referring to pastors that are exchanging their mission, vision, etc. for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what is the Gospel of which I write? The Gospel is defined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 (ESV):
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.This is the Gospel. The Good News. The thing that is ours to proclaim, not to edit.
What I want to write about today is men who exchange the Gospel for a vision, and the Savior for a founder. This is "the religion of him." In other words, exchanging the Religion of Him, for the religion of him. Understand that the use of the term vision came into vogue in the early 90s with the development of the "seeker sensitive" church. This term refers to the particular and subjective thought, burbling, or idea that motivated the pastor to found a church or movement.
So what is the "vision"? It comes in many forms. Usually in some pithy statement like "reaching the lost at any cost." What it really is, however, is law. It is do more, give more, follow these principles, etc. There is no rest, no trust, no grace, but only law. It is clearly the religion of him; the religion of the pastor. Many of these "vision-driven" churches are slavishly devoted to prayer, fasting and giving, and on the other hand pay lip service to God's word. This is demonstrated by whether or not the Bible is preached in a systematic and expositional manner. The "vision-driven" sermons are long in home-spun sentimentality and short on gospel truth.
Most of these "vision-driven" churches are mere fronts for "therapeutic moralistic deism". They teach that when you do for God, God is some how obligated to do for you. This is primarily taught to the church attenders through tithing principles. Many of these churches teach that your and your finances are under a curse if you do not tithe (pay 10% of your gross pay to the church). Now I have written on the tithe and why it is not applicable to the Christian on this blog in the past. Most of these churches over emphasize financial prosperity and health. These pastors teach their congregants to "lick the earth" as Blaise Pascal once said. In other words, these visionary pastors teach the congregants to get their sustenance from the world rather than from heaven.
The Religion of Him, by contrast, is not focused on what we can do for God, but on what He did for us. That everything we do to propitiate an angry God; a God that is rightfully angry at our sin. Jesus, on the cross, became us! He took on all of our sin, and the full measure of God's wrath came down upon Him on that Cross. He paid for every sin we have committed, and will ever commit has been atoned for on that cross. If you have placed your faith in that work, then there is no need for you to work in order to propitiate an angry God. The religion of him focuses on you and how you can live your best life now by applying various life principles.
Ultimately, the religion of him is about the pastor and what he has done, the miracles he performed, and his life spent for the church. The Religion of Him is about Jesus, His life, His work! Why would anyone want to exchange the Religion of Him for the religion of him? That is the question I leave you to answer.