Before you read this post, please burn into your brain that I was one of the first authors to shoot a warning shot across the bow of the institutional church by questioning its effectiveness and validity. In 1993, I wrote the book Dancing with Dinosaurs, in which I said the present form of institutional Christianity was coming to an end. BUT, I didn’t throw the baby (the institutional church) out with the bath water, even though, for the most part, the form of church I began preaching in is in its last days.
Having said that, I must admit there is a lot of great conversation going on today about new forms of church. I’m enjoying most of it. HOWEVER, I also have a problem with most of it. Most of the critics of the institutional church aren’t playing fair. When downplaying the validity of the institutional church, they always use the worst examples of the institutional Christianity they can find, and when talking about their understanding of what the church should be, they always use the examples from the best part of their “new church.”
Another thing that bugs me: those who say the megachurch is part of the problem, citing that it only reaches a small segment of the population and that its presence hasn’t made any difference in the morals of the people it serves or added to the number of Christians. No one bothers to wonder how bad things might be if there weren’t any megachurches and if everything Christian was left up to the emerging churches.
I think it’s fair to criticize the institutional church; I just don’t think most of the criticism is fair. If you took the critics at face value you would think that all Christians do in the institutional church is sit in a pew, watching the professionals do all the ministry, never talking about their faith in public, avoiding any God-talk, never trying to live as Jesus lived… oh, I could go on and on.
But I think it’s time to get fair with the institutional church. Sure, it has its warts, but so do all of the new forms of church being written about. I could list them but I won’t, since I think any form of church in which two or three followers of Jesus gather to give honor to God and to transform society is a valid church no matter how many warts.
So, maybe it’s time to play fair. No one with any Christian sense wants a church where everyone sits in a pew, watching the professionals do ministry, never talking about their faith in public, avoiding any God talk, and never trying to live as Jesus lived. No real Christian thinks that’s Christianity. I know. There are a lot of church members who think that way. But just because they don’t understand the meaning of Christianity doesn’t mean the institutional church is all bad.
Question: Do you really believe that, in a country based on institutions and driven by a concert mentality, Christianity can survive without some form of institution? Share your thoughts and opinions in the Comments section below.