I was visiting a friend recently and while over coffee she says to me. Oh, I must watch what I say because I know your religious. My face went dead pan. I said to her “In my faith world religion is a bad word” She couldn’t believe it. I went on and explained that I would rather be known as someone who has faith and evidences it everyday then be placed in a box called religion. Nor would I ever want my friend to feel that she couldn’t be her honest authentic self because I was “one of those religious people”. The truth is I hate boxes. I react at the thought that I was “just like so and so” because I went to church. Jesus confronted ingrained religious culture by evidencing grace, love and sacrifice in all that he did amd he still calls us to do the same. Truth be told I want to be one of those believers who exemplifies relationship and confronts religious boxes. Boxes are not helpful in displaying freedom in any situation. Just try to put a cat in a box or a toddler! They will never sit there for long as their sense of freedom is being opposed upon. We are exactly the same. It struck me that religion is alive outside of the church as much as it is inside the churches walls. I believe this needs to change and we have the power to do just that.
Jesus was clear about the dangers of religion as evidenced in Matthew 23. When teaching the disciples, he reflected on how NOT to follow their example. “For they don’t practice what they teach. The crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden (Matthew 23: 3-4).
I concur this same awareness stands today and needs to be broken.
I saw a video clip recently of a homeless man who attended a church. He stank, he looked disheveled and talked funny. He was either ignored or talked about and then was asked to sit at the back. As the speaker made an announcement to introduce the new pastor to the stage out walks this homeless looking man. The congregation was shocked. You see the pastor wanted to know who the congregation were when confronted with the ugliness of the world. I love this story not because of the reactions of the people but because a pastor was willing to really “see” his congregation. To me it is what Jesus was trying to convey to us. To choose love and grace while confronting mindsets that oppose this message. If the pastor chose to judge the congregation based on their reactions it would have been counterproductive to what he was there to do. It shows love and grace and a commitment to relationship beyond what is seen. I believe it will take this level of commitment to become what God would require of us to be effective leaders. Jesus said: and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10: 44-45).
Notice here he didn’t say that about just believers. His words were TO ALL. There he goes breaking religious cultures again! 😊
How do we counteract religion mindsets?
- Choose to live a surrendered life
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with any form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ forgave you (Eph 4: 31-32).
Notice that a choice is involved here. This is not for the faint hearted! Choose love and any grievances, pain and anger give to the Lord. I truly believe offence is one of the biggest tactics of the enemy and it wields its ugly head every day in families, churches and organizations. The more offended we become as a body the more our walls go up and relationships deteriorate. Choose to step out from that norm and confront those things that separate us and life as Christ would, surrendered.
- Exemplify what you want to see in others
In everything set an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they had nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8).
Be above reproach. In all that you do represent leadership by leading by example. Whether you are a mum, boss or in leadership what you do matters more than what you say. Be your authentic self in all situations the more we are in touch with ourselves the more the people around us will be the same. To many leaders focus more on the outside than what is happening on the inside for them. Practice self-awareness and authentically and vulnerably lead others to do the same. They will follow. People will follow authenticity.
- Mentor others and build strong kingdom focused networks.
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20:5).
As you have learnt the art of living a surrendered life and have mastered becoming an authentic person I would encourage anyone to eagerly pray to mentor others in the areas you have had victory. It could be business, family, church whatever! Anything that God brings us through is never just for us. Testimonies are one of the most powerful tools we have in effecting cultures to bring revival. As we can see in Proverbs it takes two effect purpose. Choose to be the man of understanding and draw out from our brothers and sisters their own purpose. I believe that making that choice to do that will help you to find yours. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing God move upon someone who desperately needed it. The more we choose to go deep in ourselves and for others the higher God will take us.
I hope and pray that this post will help you to think deeper about what it takes to break out of religious mindsets. Jesus wasn’t afraid to confront culture to do the work his Father sent him to do. Galatians 2:4 says “ This matter arose because some false believers had infiltered our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves”. What a problem to have! That freedom was so attractive that the ranks were infiltrated! Moreover, as John shows us If the son sets you free, you are free indeed, join with me to show our families, organizations and churches what freedom looks like. I truly believe that as we walk out in freedom then we are bringing kingdom to earth!