Most of my regular readers know that I’m very concerned about the nature of the church. I believe that for many years people have viewed the church as an organization. Instead, I believe the church is the people of God themselves. My concern is not organization itself, but that organization often becomes the focus instead of the people.
Jeff at “Losing My Religion: Re-Thinking Church” has written about the distinction between church as an institution and church as an organism in a post called “Mistaken Identity (part 1)“. This is a great explanation of the distinction between institution and organism:
The church in general has suffered from mistaken identity for many centuries now. Itâ€™s far worse than a cat thinking itâ€™s a dog. The church is an organism that thinks it is an institution. We believe we are the machine.
Because so many of us believe this, several negative things take shape. First of all, it feeds the sacred cow. The church is sacred; the institution is not. But when we believe we are an institution, we treat the institution as sacred. We try to defend it, protect it, and preserve it, often at the expense of something else important we ought to be doing, like reaching the world with the good news of Jesus. We expend so much energy trying to build our church organizations and make them bigger and better. We build bigger buildings, we start better programs, mistakenly thinking weâ€™ll win more and more people that way, when actually, weâ€™re just creating bigger machines.
Secondly, our mistaken identity causes us to fight to defend something the Lord has never sworn to protect. Jesus is fiercely loyal to His bride, the church (the organism), but nowhere does He promise loyalty to our structures (the institution). The reason some people get so nervous when someone starts revealing the flaws of institutional Christianity is because they kind of take it personally. They feel as though the church itself is being attacked. That is because of mistaken identity. We think we are something we are not.
I’m looking forward to part 2 of Jeff’s post.