The Religion Racket
by Norman H. Wells
Former Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati
Now With The Lord

The Late Dr. Norman H. Wells

[GospelWeb.net Globe]

Printer Friendly Page.

Chapter 10

Do It Yourself Religion

Nearly everyone has heard the story of the minister on the golf course who sliced his drive off the first tee toward the rough. The ball hit a tree, ricocheted to the ground, hit a rock, and bounded back into the air. On its flight upward the ball hit a bird in flight just at the right angle and bounced onto the green, rolling to a stop one inch from the hole. A gentle wind blew it into the cup. A hole in one!

The minister raised his eyes to heaven and complained, "Father! Please! I'd rather do it myself."

This is not only amusing but also illustrates a truth. In matters of religion most people seem to prefer doing it themselves. We have developed a kind of "do it yourself" religion. The prophets spoke of "Every man doing that which was right in his own eyes" and this is, a description of today. Each individual seems to have his own particular idea of religion he is building from a do it yourself kit. We never seem to be content with what God has said or done ... we'd rather do it ourselves.

Nothing is more apparent than the uncomplicated simplicity of worship as it was practiced in New Testament times. Obviously this was to be the pattern but it has never satisfied man; he'd rather do it himself. Most of the elaborate, ornate, complicated rituals and procedures of today's worship came from man's do it yourself kit. One would be hard pressed to try and associate the pompous, formal, ritualistic ceremonies of today's religion with an example given by the Lord. We'd just rather do it our self in our own way. We want to be religious but we don't want the Lord to tell us how.

Much of today's religion is founded upon do it yourself creeds and doctrines. Jesus put it this way, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

Religion has developed its own methods for getting things done. Everyone seems to have his own schemes, systems, and methods for being religiously successful. "How to do it" books on just about any subject are available. A casual look at the books on religion reveals a great number with titles such as the following:

These books all present what are supposed to be tried and proven plans for being religiously successful. They might be called "Get Religious Quick" schemes. They are the "do it your selfers dream". These schemes all come packaged complete with elaborate details as to how to make them work. If the plan is followed results are guaranteed!

There are those alert enough to keep an eye on the advertising, business and entertainment world. Anything that works in these fields can usually be "religionized" and made to work in the churches. Too much of religion is concerned with carrying out success schemes and promotions.

We have taken the majesty, glory, and magnificence of religion and reduced it to a cheap, do it yourself plan.

Yes, do it yourself religion is popular. Everyone prays, "Thy will be done." But really, we'd rather do it our self. Everyone can know what the Bible says but we'd still rather do it our own way. The preacher brings good sermons but we are not about to receive his instructions. We'd rather do it our self.

Another very apparent quality that early worship services possessed was a lack of organizational machinery. Not so today's do it yourself religion. Look at the mass of complex organizational machinery we have found necessary to run our do it yourself religion. An overabundance of organization bogs down the whole structure. The average denomination has to operate in a complicated hierarchy that is awesome to behold.

The program of the church is normally carried on through a maze of committees, boards, departments, etc. Very little ever really gets done because it is almost impossible for any project to work its way through all the organizational channels. This reaches the extent that nearly all the members of some churches are officers in the church machinery. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians!

The church is nearly always a member of a local denominational organization which in turn is part of still a larger one. This proceeds until it reaches the world-wide activities. The organizations in these various branches of the denomination continually grow larger ... usually by duplication of labor. Ordinarily the denomination belongs to one of the super world organizations that bind the denominations together. One of these super organizations employs more than 200 ministers in desk jobs at their headquarters!

The average pastor could probably give himself full-time to keeping up with all the organizational machinery of which his position makes him a part. Too many times he finds this is what has happened.

The complex machinery of today's religion has also produced a need for spiritual specialists. There was a time when being a minister meant preaching and attending to the spiritual needs of a congregation. Today the cry is for specialization. The day of the general practitioner will probably soon be over. Today it is common for larger churches to have several different kinds of clergy on their ordained staffs. One minister can be in charge of sermons, another specializes in home visitations while another heads up the ministry of teaching. There are educational directors, music directors, and pastoral counselors who also operate clinics. In some cases there are even women preachers but these find it difficult to meet the requirement of being the husband of one wife.

Missionaries have to be experts in irrigation, social work, nutrition, contour plowing, construction, languages, etc. Missionaries have found that a lot of their work has been taken over by the Peace Corps. Some have found this gave them a little time to do such non-essential things as teaching the Bible.

Most of the activity in religion today is nothing more than keeping the machinery running. A lot of this organizational machinery is kept running long after its purpose has been forgotten. The resultant mess that man has made of religion reveals the utter failure of this complicated mass of organizational machinery. The simple solution seems to be to admit the failure, scrap the machinery, and turn the Lord's business back over to the Lord!

Today's do it yourself religion has even developed a language all its own. It is composed of words and phrases that never mean what they say. These words and phrases have to be translated, or at least, interpreted. Most church goers understand this language and the meanings have fairly well been standardized.

Here are some typical phrases and their interpretations:

"And in conclusion..."
Interpretation: "I am going to preach another 20 minutes."

"This is a really fine crowd for such a rainy morning."
Interpretation: "The attendance is way down."

"Now I never argue about religion."
Interpretation: "I'm going to set you straight about religion.

"Now I don't want to pass judgment."
Interpretation: "Here is my judgment."

"I don't believe in offering envelopes because the Scriptures say, 'let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."'
Interpretation: "I'm ashamed to let anyone know how little I give. "

"Now I don't want my children to get special attention."
Interpretation: "My kids are better than the others."

"Now I don't want to talk about them..."
Interpretation: "Wait until you hear what I heard about them."

"One thing about it, he really sings from the heart."
Interpretation: "He can't sing."

"I believe in allowing my children to express themselves fully. I don't believe we should lay down too many restrictions. Young people must have their fun."
Interpretation: "My children are running out of control. I can't do a thing with them."

"It's not the amount of the gift, it is the spirit that counts."
Interpretation: "I'm ashamed to give you this little gift."

"Now I know what I say doesn't amount to much."
Interpretation: "You had better listen to me."

"It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game that counts."
Interpretation: "We lost."

"After all, confession is good for the soul."
Interpretation: "I got caught."

"Sure, I take a little drink now and then."
Interpretation: "I'm a drunk."

"Let's adjourn the meeting and think about it for a week."
Interpretation: "Let's go home and see what our wives say."

"I won't make promises I might not keep but I'll try to be in church Sunday."
Interpretation: "I won't be in church Sunday."

"All that preacher is after is money."
Interpretation: "I'm not giving."

"I don't believe the pastor should be so personal in his preaching."
Interpretation: "I'm guilty."

"I don't care what people say about me."
Interpretation: "It kills me when I think people are talking about me."

"The preacher shouldn't have favorites."
Interpretation: "The preacher is not paying enough attention to me."

"I don't think she would be happy in our church."
Interpretation: "Don't invite her."

If you have comments about these pages of Bro. Norman Wells works, you may send them through the Webmaster: E-Mail , Webmaster, or send directly to David Wells, as you may wish!