Chip Brogden, at Watchmen.net (thanks, John for pointing me to the article), has some strong words to say about "organized religion." This is a short excerpt from a much longer article:
What is Babylon? It is the marriage of church and state, religion and government; or to be more direct, it is allowing the leaven of the world to spread via Organized Religion and Institutional Christianity. As an example, consider how pastoring a church has become more of a profession than a calling, and how church government has digressed from a theocratic, Spirit-led consensus to a "Spirit-led" democracy, or worse, a "Spirit-led" benevolent dictatorship of a single pastor or a church board. This is the result of the spirit of Babylon. Whereas the True Church is to be "in the world, but not of the world", Babylon is that which is both in the world and of the world - it is by, for, and of the worldly system, yet it retains the outward appearances of godliness and spirituality. It is a synthesis of God and man, taking the best that each has to offer and fashioning a golden calf with it.
He also has some strong words to challenge those involved in house church:
The clarion call of recent years has been the Scriptural injunction to "come out of Babylon", and when applied to the Institutional Church, it is interpreted to mean have nothing at all to do with the present religious system as represented by the clergy / laity distinction, the hierarchy of leadership with the pastor at the head, and the platform-based, event-oriented programs and church building projects. Invariably the trend has been towards informal small groups and home churches. We believe this to be a partial but incomplete solution. We see Babylon not as a political or institutional state, but a spiritual state. To truly come out of Babylon requires something more than deciding to meet in homes or resolving to do away with the external trappings of Churchianity. Many claim to have come out of Babylon because they no longer attend church services, but Babylon has not come out of them. They have only exchanged one sophisticated form of religious bondage for a less sophisticated one, perhaps creating an Institutional House Church in the process.
More than changing a few external rituals and adopting a so-called New Testament pattern to the exclusion of all others, coming out of Babylon requires an attitudinal adjustment on the part of the believer, a genuine paradigm shift and seeing the Lord and the Lord's Church; it cannot merely be a reacting to the obvious wrongs perpetuated in the name of God by Organized Religion. It is quite possible to be out of the system but still be bound to Babylon, still chained by bitterness and fixated with all that is wrong with the Body.
I like the way that Chris points to the importance of a genuine "paradigm shift." In my experience this is crucial, otherwise people are just exchanging one form of external Christianity for another. I also like his challenge to leave "organized religion" for the right reasons:
There is only one right way to leave Babylon, and that is by way of Christ. To leave because of hurt, bitterness, dissatisfaction with the status quo, rebellion, or anything short of seeing Christ is to be in a precarious situation. Certainly hurt, bitterness, and the like are compelling reasons to leave, but only when they drive us to Christ do they help and not hinder. If our experiences drive us into a quagmire of depression and unforgiveness then all meaning and purpose for the experience is lost. On the other hand, if our disenchantment, disillusionment, and despair drive us deeper into Christ, we will find healing through Him and we will be enabled to extend grace to those who persecuted us. Then the experience is meaningful, the pain had purpose, and the lesson is learned.
This is why we do not command all Christians everywhere to stop attending church services. To leave, or to stay, apart from revelation, apart from seeing Christ and His Body, and based only upon the word of some man or group, no matter how true, is not sufficient to escape from Babylon. Others may bring us out of Babylon, but they cannot bring Babylon out of us. This is the Lord's work. And this explains why we find some who have left Organized Religion but are not better off spiritually than they were before leaving. In fact, after several years they have become cold, aloof, distant, critical, and suspicious of others. Their world has become smaller, whereas the one who leaves Organized Religion because of revelation lives in a much larger world as entire new vistas of opportunity appear. With an awareness of the Body, fellowship is no longer restricted to time, place, church, or denomination, thus opportunities for fellowship abound.