Church institutions have to continue to change through our experience of Jesus by Thomas Gumbleton
A timely and encouraging article, maybe indicative of the evolution of the Christian religion, which The Urantia Book calls the religion ABOUT Jesus, rather than the religon OF Jesus. Some clips from the article that caught my eye:
"Over the years, I think, to some extent, we have put so much emphasis on the church, the institution, that we somewhat neglected the more basic understanding of how you become a disciple. It's not just by becoming a Roman Catholic; no, it's much deeper. It's because God comes alive in us through Jesus. He is the vine, we are the branches.
"So we do need a structured, institutional church, but we cannot let that be the dominant thing in our lives. The rules and the organization, the institutions of the church -- they have to continue to change and to grow because our experience of Jesus. I hope that as we listen to the Scriptures today, we realize how important it is for each of us to try to know Jesus. We'll never have the experience of Paul, I don't think, where it was so overwhelming, so overpowering that he was even knocked to the ground and had that instant, full enlightenment about Jesus. But gradually, as we reflect and enter into our own spirit life and begin to understand God living deep within us, we can experience Jesus."
Click to read the complete article
It's heartening to see that the institutionalized Christian church is beginning to question its real role in being the self-anointed representatives of Jesus.
I say that they are self-appointed because in a way, the Christian churches have appropriated Jesus; anyone who reads The Urantia Book knows that Jesus was not a Christian. He did not come to establish a church; instead he came to establish the KINGDOM OF GOD in the hearts of God's children. That the institutionalized churches claim him has been a good thing but also an unfortunate thing.
Click to read Urantia Book teachings about the Beginnings of the Christian Church
Even before Paul entered the picture, the message of Jesus had been altered from Jesus' simple gospel - that all people are children of God and by faith in this truth, by loving God and loving one another they are saved - to a gospel about the risen Christ. From The Urantia Book:
194:4.6 Christ was about to become the creed of the rapidly forming church. Jesus lives; he died for men; he gave the spirit; he is coming again. Jesus filled all their thoughts and determined all their new concept of God and everything else. They were too much enthused over the new doctrine that "God is the Father of the Lord Jesus" to be concerned with the old message that "God is the loving Father of all men," even of every single individual. True, a marvelous manifestation of brotherly love and unexampled good will did spring up in these early communities of believers. But it was a fellowship of believers in Jesus, not a fellowship of brothers in the family kingdom of the Father in heaven. Their good will arose from the love born of the concept of Jesus' bestowal and not from the recognition of the brotherhood of mortal man. Nevertheless, they were filled with joy, and they lived such new and unique lives that all men were attracted to their teachings about Jesus. They made the great mistake of using the living and illustrative commentary on the gospel of the kingdom for that gospel, but even that represented the greatest religion mankind had ever known.
99:3.1 Early Christianity was entirely free from all civil entanglements, social commitments, and economic alliances. Only did later institutionalized Christianity become an organic part of the political and social structure of Occidental civilization.
As to where Christianity stands today, please see Christianity's Problem.
To this writer, the biggest omission of the original message of Jesus was the idea of the religion of personal spiritual experience, the religion that Jesus himself practiced. This was left out, or somehow forgotten in favor of the individual being part of a church - an institutionalized version of religion ... really a second-hand religion, in that the individual believer is encouraged to follow the wisdom of the church in his/her relations with God, rather than relying solely on the wisdom that comes as the result of aligning oneself with God dwelling within. The outward church became favored above all, rather than the individual's relations with God. In addition, the institutionalized church allowed itself to become an integral part of society itself, instead of relying on individual religioniosts to shape and mold society.
99:2.6 Modern religion finds it difficult to adjust its attitude toward the rapidly shifting social changes only because it has permitted itself to become so thoroughly traditionalized, dogmatized, and institutionalized. The religion of living experience finds no difficulty in keeping ahead of ... social developments and economic upheavals, amid which it ever functions as a moral stabilizer, social guide, and spiritual pilot.
That seems to be the thrust of this article, and why it caught my eye. I hope that you'll read it, read the links that are provided to Urantia Book teachings, and make some evaluations of your own.
From the link above, Christianity's Problem:
195:9.8 The world needs more firsthand religion. Even Christianity—the best of the religions of the twentieth century—is not only a religion about Jesus, but it is so largely one which men experience secondhand. They take their religion wholly as handed down by their accepted religious teachers. What an awakening the world would experience if it could only see Jesus as he really lived on earth and know, firsthand, his life-giving teachings! Descriptive words of things beautiful cannot thrill like the sight thereof, neither can creedal words inspire men's souls like the experience of knowing the presence of God. But expectant faith will ever keep the hope-door of man's soul open for the entrance of the eternal spiritual realities of the divine values of the worlds beyond.