You can follow a religion without knowing Christ, but you can’t know Christ without following a religion. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and “Keep my commandments.” This involves taking certain steps. In other words, following Christ’s religion as taught by him and his apostles.
The teaching that says, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion” is itself a novel religious tradition not taught by Jesus, his apostles, the Church or Scripture. They never condemned religion, only hypocritical or false religion. Never did they teach believers to dump religion and only have a relationship with Jesus. Never did they teach that “it doesn’t matter what church you belong to as long as you love Jesus” (Jesus only established one Church, which, by the way, was visible because believers could go to it to have disputes settled). On the contrary, Jesus and his apostles provided very specific dos and don’ts for believers to follow.
Religion is a human universal. It is found in every culture of every age because God built that desire into our hearts. Embracing the religion of Jesus (the fullness of the Faith) is the best way to know Jesus. It’s how we learn his terms for the relationship and how to come to the Father through him. It’s not a way to “earn salvation by following rules.” It’s a participation in salvation “through him, with him and in him.” One Lord, one Faith, one baptism. One holy, catholic, apostolic Church.