"I don't want a religion, I want a relationship." I have seen this quote (and many like it) all around the internet and friends constantly saying it and some Christian churches teach that, but it kind of confuses me. I figure that religion and relationship should go hand-in-hand, especially after looking up the definition of religion. And it concerns me that it might give someone the false impression that you don't need to go to church if you have a relationship with God. Would there be any risk in using this quote? I don't know if I'm thinking too much into this or if there is actual risk in using that quote.
There is always a risk in being misunderstood by using a quote that different people use for different purposes. People inside and outside the church might use that quote to contrast organized religion and a person’s spirituality apart from organized religion.
Some people might contend that they do not need to belong to a church to worship God. That is true to some extent, but the Bible specifically directs us to gather together with fellow believers: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Corporate worship provides for mutual encouragement. It enables worshipers to be fed with God’s gospel in word and sacrament.
On the other hand, there might be churches which use that quote to illustrate how their worship style distinguishes them from liturgical churches. They might use that quote for outreach purposes, to emphasize the caring nature of their family of believers.
There can be other reasons why individuals and churches might use that quote.
Like you, I too find religion and relationships going hand-in-hand. That is because Scripture pairs them together. 1 Timothy 5:4 states: “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” True religion is one in which people love others—especially family members. Such action is pleasing to God who first loved us (1 John 4:19). James 1:27 explains: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” True religion is one in which people can call God their Father and Jesus Christ their Brother. True religion is one in which people care about others and show love to them. True religion is Christianity,and it is all about relationships—vertical and horizontal.