Christianity Without the Religion
An Interview With Greg Albrecht
An Interview With Greg Albrecht
Q. In 2006 you launched an ambitious, and somewhat unorthodox way to worship – without entering into specific building. Its services are on the Internet, and you say it’s Christianity Without the Religion. Is there a need for the service(s) you are providing?
A. George Barna is a leading authority on what is happening within North American Christianity. One of his recent books, Revolution, reports that in the early 21st century church attendance has fallen throughout North America, and he predicts that it will continue to do so for the next few decades. But, in contrast to other similar reports and prognostications on this topic, Barna does not link falling church attendance with a corresponding downturn in the practice of Christianity. He believes that Christianity in North America is not necessarily following the European model, where some believe churches are empty and Christianity is in retreat. Barna believes, based on extensive surveys and studies, that Christianity is alive and well in North America, but it is morphing and changing. Many are dissatisfied with denominations and local churches and are looking for alternative ways to worship and be nourished with the Word of God.
Q. So are you saying that it’s okay for Christians not to attend a church?
A. What conclusion can we reach about people who don’t attend a building that calls itself a church? There are people who are Christians, but do not attend a brick and mortar church. There are also people who think they are Christians who do not attend church. In addition, there are many people who do not attend church who do not profess to be Christian at all. On the other hand, those same descriptors and disclaimers can apply to those who regularly attend a building on a piece of real estate. There are people who are Christians who regularly attend a brick and mortar church. There are people who think they’re Christians, but aren’t, but feel better if they make the effort to attend worship services confined within four walls. There are also people who don’t pretend to be Christians who attend a church that meets in a building. Moral? Getting in your car and driving to church, or taking the bus or train, to worship God in a building is not critically important to one’s Christianity. It may help or it may hinder your relationship with God. Sitting in a building does not transform us into being Christian — and it doesn’t necessarily maintain our Christianity.
We started providing the audio ministry of Christianity Without the Religion (CWR) because there is a need. Many who look to PTM for spiritual direction have implored us to give them Christ-centered and biblically based teaching within the format of worship services. There are many whom we already serve who have had a hell-on-earth experience with a group of people who called themselves a church. These folks have been burned — and have no intention of darkening the door to any building with a sign outside that pronounces itself to be a church — they just won’t take the risk of being religiously mugged again. They feel safer worshipping online.
There are people we serve who can’t find a healthy, well-balanced church close to their home. There are people who can’t, for health reasons, leave their home. There are people who find it difficult to find or pay for transportation to get to the church they would like to attend. Why not serve those who cannot or will not attend church in a brick and mortar building?
Q. What about the name of your online worship services — Christianity Without the Religion — isn’t that an odd name for a Christ-centered ministry?
A. Not at all. We make this distinction because there is a great deal of religion without Christ. Legalistic religion abounds today. It is a contributing factor to why many people are turned off with God. These people have been turned away from God by those who, wittingly or unwittingly, have misrepresented him. Tens of millions need to know that God is not at all who or what they have been told. They need to hear the gospel of grace. They need to hear core Christianity, without all of the religious rites and rituals, pills and prescriptions, ceremonies and conventions.
Q. Your worship services last a little less than 30 minutes. Doesn’t this sound a little like “Christianity lite” — isn’t this catering to people rather than feeding them?
A. Who said that worship services must be a specific length of time? Are worship services that are three hours long better than those that are an hour long? Is a 90 minute sermon better than a 30 minute sermon? How long does it take to contact God? Will he only listen to us because of our “much speaking”? Is the only kind of worship that pleases God worship that is inconvenient to us — a church that takes us an hour to get to and an experience from which it takes three days to recover?
This is not the 18th century. We live in a time when there is a great deal of competition for our time. People don’t gather in the town square or the town hall to hear visiting politicians or ministers. People gather in homes and apartments, in front of computers and entertainment centers. People live on their smart phones and iPads. We are taking the gospel to people where they are — around this world — using the technology of the Internet for a Christ-centered purpose.
“Christianity lite”? That is an appropriate concern, but we invite all who worship with us to evaluate whether our services are watered down, feel-good entertainment or whether they are the gospel of Jesus Christ. We do make it convenient for people around the world to be able to worship God, in song, in prayer with communion and the spoken word of teaching. Prayer, praise and proclamation are key elements of worship — and they are always present, in a Christ-centered way, in our worship services.
After people join us for worship at CWR they will not leave wondering whether they have just attended a rock concert or a worship service. There is no doubt whatsoever, when you worship with us at CWR, that Jesus Christ is the center of all that we say and do.
Q. What kind of sermons can we expect at Christianity Without the Religion?
A. Christ-centered, grace based messages. Messages that spring from the Bible — expository messages that start in the Bible, as opposed to sermons that are topical and then “find” biblical references to help prove a point. We “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). We believe that this is a time when many “do not endure sound doctrine, but with itching ears” gather around teachers that make them feel good (2 Timothy 4:3). CWR is convenient, our doors are never closed. People may worship anytime, 24/7. We will have a new, timely and relevant sermon every week. But while our worship services are convenient and easy to find, they are definitely not feel-good, sugar-coated, politically correct messages. We challenge and teach, exhort and inspire, lead and encourage.
Q. Are you trying to get people who are already attending church to stop doing so — and “attend” online instead?
A. We don’t have to try to get people to stop attending church. That has already happened. The first group to whom we minister at CWR are people who believe that we are their primary, and perhaps only spiritual resource. They are not interested in attending a church that meets in a building. We don’t try to convince them to stop attending church — they have already, for whatever reason, made that decision. We are ministering to these people, who need and want sound, Christ-centered teaching.
The second group of people to whom we minister are attending a brick and mortar church. Some of these folks have already told us that they don’t intend on leaving their church, but want to consider themselves as “members” of CWR as well (we prefer to call those who choose CWR “friends”). Some of these folks who are attending a land-locked church are attending with us because they are curious, while others attend because they want and desire more teaching and worship than they receive in their geographically defined church.
We encourage people to attend healthy, Christ-centered churches — churches where God’s grace is believed and proclaimed. There are many grace-based, biblically sound churches that meet in a building with a street address who provide just that — but simply because someone hangs a sign up in front of a building and announces that a church meets there does not make that church healthy and well-balanced. There is a need for the proclamation of authentic Christianity. We are here to proclaim the gospel, not to steal sheep, but to feed sheep. If sheep are not being fed, then we want to provide them with Christ-centered nourishment.
Q. CWR is a worship service. Do you pray for those who request it — do you accept offerings?
A. Yes to both. We offer prayer, both in the worship service and for those who may request it, via our website and toll free phone number. We will encourage those to whom we minister to financially help us provide the gospel, via the many ministries and services of Plain Truth Ministries.