Skye Jethani of Out of Ur argues that many of us have confused the church with the church institution. He talks about new questions many Christians should be asking regarding how to advance the gospel, which I think are worthy to ponder over:
Not: How do we grow the institution?
But: How do we grow people?
Not: How do we motivate people to serve in the church/institution?
But: How do we equip people and release them to serve outside the church/institution?
Not: How do we convince more people to come?
But: How do we inspire more people to go?
Not: How many programs can the church start?
But: How many programs have other churches started that we can help support?
Not: How many people have a committed relationship with our institution?
But: How many people have a committed relationship with another brother or sister in Christ?
Not: How do we make people dependent on the institution for their growth?
But: How do we equip people to grow independent of the institution?
Not: How much revenue can the institution generate?
But: How much revenue can the institution give away?
Not: How many buildings, pastors, and programs are necessary for the institution to have maximum exposure in the community?
But: How few buildings, pastors, and programs are necessary for God’s people to have time and energy to engage the community?
There’s too much to write regarding this issue of institutionalism. I wrote about “The organizational, the institutional and the bureaucratic” here. Many young Christians are sick of what is called organizational or institutional Christianity and I’m one of them. If businesses can be accused of placing profits about people, organizational or institutional Christianity can be accused of placing methods, size and effectiveness above people. And that’s dangerous because after the gospel (in which God’s love for us is revealed in Christ), Christianity is all about loving people. I think there is a certain extent in which good organization and structures can support the focus on people. But more often than not, it becomes more about the way of doing things than on people.