Saint Cyprian said that if we will not have the church as our mother, we cannot have God as our Father. In an age where we hate authority, this is a statement that makes us very uncomfortable. I was reminded of this statement when I came across a video that sets “religion” against Jesus. (See the video here and here.)
There are many things wrong with this video. The primary problem is that it is a series of straw men and ignores instructions throughout the Old and New Testaments for the structured worship of God. We had church officers in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Take a look at the Apostle Paul’s letters on the subject. (Remember, Apostle is an office.)
Churches with structured leadership were established all through the New Testament. Any time the Apostle Paul went to a new city, he set up a church. Without structured leadership, the Apostle Paul would not have been able to order the Corinthian church to excommunicate the man who was having sex with his stepmother.
Matthew 18 – the words of Jesus Himself – is an establishment of church authority. If you have a dispute, you handle it informally before taking it to the church. This is a clear establishment of “religion” by our Lord Himself. When Jesus condemned the Pharisees, it was not because he opposed “religion.” It was because the Pharisees had perverted the teachings of Scripture for their own benefit. (See Matthew 23:13-39.)
As to the straw men, obviously it is a problem when church leaders are hypocrites more interested in the numbers they are “running” than shepherding the souls God has entrusted to their care. The video would have you believe that church is by its nature run this way, which is why he is a follower of Christ – just as some of the Corinthians were of Paul and some of Apollos, but the most “righteous” were “of Christ.”
Christianity was never designed to be “me and Jesus.” It has always been a team effort, with authority in worship. This is clear throughout all of Scripture. Those who set up Christ in opposition to “religion” either do not know Scripture or they are heretics.