A Religion of Fear

by Chip Brogden
This is a transcripted excerpt from a recorded message.
Q: “At times waves of fear wash over me… if I am still in the system, will I miss the Rapture? I am slowly going out of the system and I am praying that the system is taken out of me. I love Jesus with all my heart and only want to follow what He asks me to do.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all follow the Lord and let Him lead us, without being hindered, or distracted, or held back, or intimidated, or fearful, because of something that the Church taught us, or something the preacher said?

That would be great. But you know, it’s fairly easy to come out of the system… it takes a bit longer for the system to come out of you.

The religious system uses fear to control its people. It’s their weapon of choice. Fear. The religious system uses fear to get people saved. You look at many of those cathedrals in Europe, and a lot of them have murals on the wall. The people couldn’t read, so the Churches would get artists to come in and paint murals on the wall. And you see a lot of beautiful depictions of heaven and creation and the angels and so forth, but also, very prominent, are illustrations of people being thrown into hell, and the devil and his demons tormenting the Lost. You wonder why they would put such disgusting, terrifying images on the walls of their cathedral, but the reason is simple: they’re trying to get a message across to people visually. What’s the message? Turn or burn, baby!

The Church had great power by aligning itself with God and getting people to believe that if you are in favor with the Church, you are in favor with God, and would enjoy an eternity of heavenly bliss. But, on the other hand, if you fell out of favor with the Church, you would fall out of favor with God, and you would be doomed to an eternity of hellfire and brimstone, everlasting torture and torment. And when you can’t read, seeing is believing. So the common folk would go to Church, and see these murals on the wall, and it kept them in line. Even the kings of the time were to some degree under the spell of the Church, and they tried to cooperate with the Church more times than not, because they didn’t want to make the Pope mad and get excommunicated – that would mean going to hell!

So just the threat of excommunication and eternal damnation would be enough to keep people in obedience to the religious system, even the kings and rulers who would otherwise just do whatever they felt like doing.

So religion is based on fear. Fear is how you attract people to Church, fear is how you keep them going to Church. Now, you might wonder why someone would be attracted to going to Church through fear. Usually they grew up in a religious, Church-going family with a mother or father who dragged them to Church every time the doors were open. Maybe they grew up and rebelled against that and decided Church wasn’t for them. So they go out into the world and go their own way. Meanwhile, mom and dad are worried about them and concerned for their soul, and they keep bugging them to go to Church. Nothing seems to work. Until there is an accident, or a sickness or illness, or something goes wrong in life. Then mom and dad say, “Well, you know, if you had stayed in Church, this might not have happened. You need to stop fighting against God and get back into Church.” And the person is in a weakened condition, they are worried or depressed or looking for whatever help they can get, and they think, “You know, maybe mom and dad are right. My life is a real mess. I think I’ll try this Church thing out again. Maybe it will help me.” So they go to Church, and their life is a mess, so when it comes time to get prayed over, they usually wind up going to the altar and breaking down, and everyone gathers around and prays, and there’s more crying. But just the process of crying and expressing your feelings is therapeutic… all that emotion comes out, and you’re in an environment that seems welcoming and comforting. People are praying for you, and they seem nice and supportive. And mom and dad are overjoyed that you’ve come back to Church. So you begin to think, “You know, Church isn’t that bad after all.” So you start going to Church.

Now that’s a fairly typical pattern of behavior. I’ve seen that scenario play itself out in hundreds and hundreds of people’s lives (if not thousands). I just want to point out that the whole story I just shared didn’t involve the Lord. Not one bit. It’s all Church-Centered. It’s not Christ-Centered. It’s about whether or not you’re going to Church, and the idea is, if you don’t go, bad things will happen; but if you do go, good things will happen, or at least, it will make the bad things easier to deal with. But the whole thing is based on attending Church, and it’s based on fear. It’s not based on where you are with the Lord, it’s based on where you are with the Church.

And you might say, “Well yeah, but the whole point is if they start going to Church then that’s going to lead them into a deeper relationship with God.” Not necessarily. Oh yes, that sounds like justification enough. But in my experience it rarely happens. The whole approach is wrong. I mean, if you want apples, you have to plant apple seeds. You can’t plant tomato seeds and think you’re going to get apples from it. So if you get people to go to Church through fear then they aren’t going to suddenly start going to the Lord in a love relationship. Fear doesn’t lead to love. Religion doesn’t lead to Relationship. It just doesn’t. The tree is known by the fruit. So the religious system is rooted in fear, and it can’t produce a love-relationship with God. It’s impossible.

Now people will say, “Oh, I know plenty of people who go to Church and they love Jesus with all their heart, and that contradicts what you’re saying.” No it doesn’t. If people happen to find God in Church, it’s not because of Church, it’s in spite of Church. It’s not because the Church is so powerful, it’s because God is so merciful. And if you’re honestly, truly seeking Him with all your heart, He says, “When you seek Me, you will find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” I have no doubt that people who are honestly seeking God usually end up in Church. I mean, that’s what they’ve been taught, right? They’ve been trained: “If you want to find God, go to Church.” So that’s where they go, because the religious system has for thousands of years trained people to think that God and the Church are one. So if you want to find God, go to Church. And that’s what people do.

But if they knew how, they could find God in Wal-Mart. They could find God at home in their broom closet. They could find Him in the cafeteria at work. They could find Him sitting on a beach. Do you understand what I’m saying? People go to Church to find God because that’s where they expect to find Him. People find God in Church because they are looking for God in Church. God honors those who seek Him, and He reveals Himself to them, wherever they are. That’s not an endorsement of the religious system. Often the religious system gets in the way of those honestly seeking God, and sometimes it does such a poor job that people don’t find God at Church. They just give up looking. Or, they figure if God exists at all, they won’t find Him in Church.

So my mission in life is to let people know that you don’t have to go to Church to find God. God’s favor doesn’t depend upon the Church’s favor. It just doesn’t. Religion is fear-based, and Relationship is love-based, and you can have that relationship right now. You know, that’s a revolutionary concept for most people. They can’t fathom it. But once they think about it, it makes total sense. And you don’t have to defend the religious system anymore. You can just separate all that from the Lord. The problem comes when you can’t separate it. You look at the Church and say, “If that’s what Jesus is all about, I don’t want Him.” No, that’s NOT what Jesus is all about – that’s the whole point. Are you disgusted by the hypocrisy and the greed and the crazy stuff going on? Great! Because it disgusts God too. That’s the message. People hear that for the first time, and they blink and go speechless. They expect you to defend Church, and you’re not defending, you’re not arguing, you’re agreeing. Yep, the religious system is a mess. But we’re not talking about Religion about Jesus, we’re talking about a Relationship with Jesus. That’s the message.

Now it’s easy to take those words – Religion and Relationship, because I use them all the time – and it becomes very passé, very much like a slogan. I’ve seen Church people talk about Religion and Relationship and then try to get people to go to Church. They’ve got the phraseology down but they missed the point. If you get the point then you won’t use these words and then talk about coming to Church. Your whole conversation shifts to coming to Jesus – not coming to Church. So you can’t just use these words and not live it. You have to live it. People have to see it. “Oh yeah, that’s the guy I was telling you about. Strange guy – he talks about Jesus but he doesn’t go to Church. Hmmm. Got to learn more. Got to see where this guy is coming from. That’s the kind of Jesus I can believe in.” See how it works? It’s fun.

I used to knock on doors, and we called it “witnessing” but really it was just inviting people to come to our Church. The motives were good, but it wasn’t pure. We honestly thought that if they came to our Church, they would meet the Lord in a powerful way. But that isn’t exactly the way it worked in the Book of Acts, is it? They didn’t talk about joining the Church, they talked about Jesus, and people believed on Him, they came to the Lord, and things just grew. Sure, they got together with one another, but that wasn’t the thrust of their message. Over the centuries it’s gone from “come to the Lord” to “come to Church.” Well, I’m just saying, Religion is based on Fear. That should be self-evident.

So everything Religion touches produces fear. The fear touches everything. It touches your finances. I had a couple who came up to me while the Church was kicking me out, and they said, “We don’t agree with what’s going on here, but we have to keep paying our tithes because we don’t want our finances to be cursed.” What do you say to something like that? What amazing ignorance – that you would actually give money to something you don’t support because you’re afraid to stop tithing. Where does that fear come from? Doesn’t come from God. It comes from a Church-Centered Faith, which is really just a Self-Centered Faith. We’re going to do what is in our own best interest, and we believe it is in our best interest to keep tithing because we’re afraid of what might happen if we don’t. That’s a Self-Centered Faith. That’s a Church-Centered Faith. It’s not a Christ-centered faith based on love. The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”

There’s the fear of not attending Church. Why is it such a struggle for people? They see the truth, they certainly hear the truth if they listen to this program, but there’s this ongoing struggle. They just can’t let go of the idea that if they stop going to Church, something bad is going to happen to them. Maybe they’ll backslide. Maybe their family won’t approve. Maybe they will lose their friends. Maybe the devil will catch them somewhere else on Sunday morning and make something bad happen to them. All kinds of strange things and excuses why people still cling to something that God has already judged and told us to come out of. But they don’t come out. One reason: FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what might happen to them.

They are like the fellow in The Shawshank Redemption – the guy is so afraid of getting his freedom after a lifetime of prison that he ends up killing himself a few days after his release. Why? One guy said it’s because he’s been institutionalized. What’s that mean, they asked. He said when you first come into prison, you hate the walls, then you get used to them, then you can’t live without them. That, he said, is institutionalized. Well, that’s a very fitting description of the Institutional Church. People think they can’t live without it. That just goes to show you where they think their life is. Those with a Christ-centered Faith know that their life is in Christ, it’s not in a religious system.

So here’s the fear in the question: will I miss the Rapture? That’s another example of fear. Instead of love and hope and joyful expectation for the return of Christ, Religion has produced this fear in you. It’s like a black cloud hanging over your head, turning what should be a joyful thing into a fearful thing. I don’t blame you, I blame the religious system. Fear is the fruit of that religious system.

Now I don’t know you other than what you’ve written, and in the last part of your question you said, “I LOVE JESUS WITH ALL MY HEART AND ONLY WANT TO FOLLOW WHAT HE ASKS ME TO DO.” Well, there you go. It sounds to me that you are in a good place with the Lord. Loving God and only wanting to follow His Will – it doesn’t get any better than that. According to Scripture, if we are faithful servants, we will not be surprised or frightened by the sudden return of the Master. The only ones who have something to fear are the lazy, the lukewarm, the hypocritical, the slothful, unfaithful servants. You don’t sound that way to me.

So, provided your heart is in the right place, I think you can just recognize that fear of being “left behind” for what it is – just another symptom of the religious addiction you’re getting over. It’s like a headache from a hangover. You stopped drinking the night before, but the headache still lingers. It takes some time to get over that religious hangover, and the headaches can last a lot longer than one or two days. But you’ll grow out of it soon enough.

And I’d like you to find a new place of faith, trust, and love through this experience. There are many different interpretations of the Rapture – will it be before, during, or after the Tribulation. I’m sure you’ve got ideas about that based on what you learned in Church. But that’s not important, and knowing if Jesus will return before, during, or after the Tribulation isn’t important. What’s important is that you love Him, and you look forward to His return, and it’s a time of joyful expectation. And my hope for you would be, that you don’t care when He returns, whether it’s before, during, or after the Tribulation – you’ll be ready for Him, and you’ll be faithful. But regardless of how all that works out, the important thing is that you are motivated, not by fear, but by love. And love has a way of working things out for good in the end.

This is a transcripted excerpt from a recorded message.

About the Author

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor. His writings and teachings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message focusing on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


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