I have often heard people say: "I am spiritual, but not religious."
My understanding of why people say this is because they see the value of spirituality, but also the reality of the faults of the religious organizations with which they have contact.
To offer full disclosure, I am a priest. It is my job to be both spiritual and religious, but I chose this profession in part because I believe in organized religion.
Here are a couple of benefits I see to organized religion: organized religion offers guidance in spirituality, and engaging with it provides an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Organized religion offers guidance in spirituality.
Religious organizations exist to help people with spirituality. One way to view religion is as a spiritual path. To progress in spirituality, you must choose a path. Without an organization, a person must wander in the woods and see if he can find the path and manage to stay on it without any guidance. Organized religions offer the value of being able to pass along awareness of the dangers and also the great views that come when one walks the path.
An organization offers the guidance and wisdom of many people. This shared wisdom is of greater value than any one individual mentor could ever offer. Your view can benefit from being challenged and improved by many minds.
Engaging with organized religion provides an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Social tension is often an uncomfortable thing, and yet without tension you lose an opportunity to grow. To try to gain strength without some form of resistance is impossible. To try to play a musical instrument without the vibration of some tension is impossible. The tension caused by trying to work with others creates the opportunity for spiritual growth, which in turn creates the opportunity for harmony that would otherwise be impossible.
To take your opinion away from an organization leaves it at the mercy of those who disagree with you. To stay engaged with an organization forces you to come to terms with the tension between individual desires and the good of the whole community.
I invite you to engage with an organized religion because I firmly believe you and the organization will benefit.
So why choose one religion over another?
Why would you use Windows 98 when you could use Windows 7? Why use a commodore when you could use an iPad? I am admittedly biased, but generations of religion ought to improve, they ought to add more to what was before and deal with some of the serious drawbacks of what came before. The claim for the New Church is that we have a new generation of the religious organizations—a new revelation that offers more and helps us deal with some of the drawbacks of the previous approaches. Not that the previous religions are good for nothing or that there isn't much to be learned by exploring them or that those who use them don't get tremendous benefit, but if God has more to say, isn't it worth going with the latest?
Rev. Derrick Lumsden is pastor of Westville New Church. Learn more at newchurchwestville.co.za