Love the church, hate the institution

Dismantling the churchDo you feel that way sometimes? I cannot tell you how many people I know who would agree with this quote (its long, sorry about that):

I genuinely love the church; the community of God’s people who are together striving, and often failing, to pursue Christ and his mission. I love the men, women, and children that I share my life with, worship with, and serve alongside. I have even found myself feeling an unexpected love (although not always) for a critical church member complaining in my office, or the cantankerous person who seems to delight in disagreeing with my perspective on even mundane issues. Admittedly, mine is an imperfect love of the church, but it is real.

What I don’t love is the 501c3 tax-exempt institution we incorrectly refer to as “the church.” For decades we’ve heard the old adage, “the church isn’t a building, it’s the people.” We’ve come to recognize that the brick and mortar structure isn’t the church, but somehow we haven’t had the same epiphany about the intangible structures of the institution. In many peoples’ imaginations the church remains a bundle of programs, committees, policies, teams, ministries, initiatives, budgets, and events. Most people speak of “the church” the same way they refer to “the government”—it’s a hierarchy of leaders managing an organization that they engage but remain apart from.

—Dan Kimball, Blog: Out Of Ur, Christianity Today

I agree that the church is the people and not the building and that it is the people and not the structures or administration we have built…but… I do believe that God has built a structure or administration by giving us the Spiritual gifts. For every person who is a follower of Jesus Christ God gives a special spiritual ability that is to be used to serve other people who follow Jesus Christ. These gifts come with a structure of apostles, pastors, teachers, leaders and evangelists. Then there are the other gifts that form other structures. The people who have these gifts are the ones who then, in the exercising of their gifts, develop structures or an administration that best expresses their gifts to meet the needs of the other followers of Christ.

What I am saying is that there is no way to avoid having church structures. Now, maybe some structures are obsolete or irrelevant. Ok, in that case we may have institutionalized something that should be dismantled.

[The picture is from here with the caption: “Workers preparing to dismantle St. Louis Church confer Monday outside the remains of the burner-out structure.”].

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One Response

  1. andiwolf
    andiwolf at | | Reply

    i fully agree with that we inevitably not only have but need structures and that the consequent question is about the nature of those structures. keep in mind though that it is a two-way road: people do create structures (by their giftings if you wish), but also do structures create people (by creating/ limiting spaces for exercising “roles” to be filled by biographic identies). so there might be times to start with the people and others to start with structures for people to grow into. just thinking along. cheers

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