The Inevitability of Institutionalization
Galli points out that every movement has an expiration date and that their actions will inevitably produce unwanted consequences in the future. I will not refute his point as history is soundly in support of his hypothesis. We have wondered about this for some time now. asked If it is impossible to stop the death, is it at least possible to delay the decay of institutionalization?
Ten years ago we were not a movement. Back then we were just a few of us scheming and dreaming for one. Even then, we asked the question: What prevents a vital movement from becoming institutionalized? We recognized that every denomination was once a movement that became institutionalized. The track record for movements is not good. They typically run their course and suffer from the hardening of the categories within a single generation. Once the visionary leader passes from the scene others that are more managerial step in to take the lead.
We wondered if we could take steps even before the movement was moving to prevent institutionalization from creeping in later. We even decided to establish some policies to prevent institutionalization, only to find out that doing so took us ten steps closer to institutionalization not further from it. We stopped immediately. We began to pray and seek the Lord about how to keep our future movement from becoming another denomination. Is that even possible?
What delays the decay of institutionalism for a movement like ours? Ironically, our sustainability is directly tied to our willingness to not be sustained. As long as we cling to Jesus and His life with white knuckles and release everything else we will continue in vitality. When we let go of that life and cling to our reputation, methodology or organization we will begin to decay. Institutionalization is directly related to a protectionist approach to ministry.
Is the Organic Church Movement Sustainable?
In every city of America there is at least one church with a building worth hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars. This church meets every Sunday morning with only eight to ten silver and blue haired women and one or two balding gentlemen for a “service”. They sing a hymn or two, one of the stately gentlemen shares a few opinions of things in the world today, they say a prayer, amen and then go home.
Empty parking spaces, silent pulpits and dusty pews cry out for days of glory gone by. The church has been dead for years, perhaps decades, but has been kept alive unnaturally by an artificial life support system. The soul is gone, brain waves have ceased, but mechanization keeps the lungs breathing, the heart beating, and the door opening every Sunday morning at precisely 10 AM.
Why? We are so desperately afraid to admit failure that we will keep the church alive as long as we can. It is as if the continuity of Christianity depends upon this one church staying alive. If the church dies God has failed, and we cannot allow that.
Why are we so desperate to keep churches alive? While I know that the church is special to Jesus (His bride!) I think we have lost touch with something very spiritual…death. Can it be that death is as spiritually right as life?