When people speak of being “spiritual but not religious” they often mean they like Jesus but not the church. They’ve accepted Christ but rejected institutional Christianity. This is sometimes called “anti-institutionalism.”
In my book “Preaching to Pluralists” I describe three reasons why some love spirituality but hate religion and three things churches should do in response.
First, there is a practical problem. Some do not value the institution of church because the church doesn’t seem to add anything of practical substance to the culture–socially, morally or spiritually. In this case, churches need to give attention to their ministry. Is the church engaged in practical and relevant ministry that impacts the social, moral and spiritual lives of people in positive ways? Is the church serving the needs of the community and those living within it?
Second, there is a philosophical problem. Some do not value the institution of the church because they are skeptical of any institution claiming to have a corner on absolute Truth. In this case, churches need to give attention to their message. Churches cannot abandon preaching/ teaching which is authoritative. But is the church presenting messages of truth and grace? Is the church giving context for and reasons why biblical Truth matters in a world of many truths?
Third, there is a personal problem. Some do not value the institution of the church because they’ve been hurt by church-goers. Or they’ve seen too many hypocritical church-goers. In this case, churches need to give attention to their manners. Has the church adopted a manner of living that is praiseworthy? Is the church producing disciples who truly live as salt and light and whose good deeds lead others to glorify the Father?