Saturday, November 12, 2011

The “Church” is a Movement not a Place............

I am reading through the bible this year on a chronological plan. So, the last couple of days have been reading all the passages on the Resurrection. I was reminded of all the events surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb. Made me think of Peter and John running to see. Mary’s encounter with Jesus outside the tomb. Breakfast on the beach with His boys. They all ran and told everyone in sight about Jesus!

Then we move to Holy Spirit coming in Acts. It was like spontaneous combustion! The flames just ignited and spread like it was driven by a drought and gale force winds. They were crazy out of control with the Message! The Disciples were spreading the Good News throughout the Mediterranean world. Their number grew was organic not institutional. There was no “church”, no “place” they attended on Sunday where it all emanated from. No! A Movement was born! It was about Jesus and who He was and what He had done.....that’s all. There were no programs, productions or bulletins to be handed out with the tightly choreographed order of the day. It was just a Movement!

But something happened....... Something happened with the translation of the word “church” and now the “church” is understood to be a “place”, a building.  It’s the sanctuary, the house of The Lord. It is no longer an organic growing Movement but, an institution, Religion. Yes, I know there are some exceptions, some signs of “hope” that “The Movement” is stirring  again. There are some that are looking more to Jesus than a dead institution and that is a good thing.

I think many “churches” remain institutionalized because they are scared of what Paul said in Galatians 5:1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” (MSG) You see, A Movement can not be controlled. And that brings me to my closing comment and a question for you.

“Religion is scared of relationship, for if relationship with God is possible, religion is unnecessary.”
Is Religion scared of you?                                      
Or, have you become part of a fossilized institution?


  1. Hey Phil!

    I share much of your frustration with the Western church as an institution. Too many churches spend too much time hiring leaders to develop and maintain formal ministry programs for every niche in their congregation: surf ministry, sports ministry, biker ministry, homeless ministry, shut-in ministry, young married ministry, etc., and too little time and energy training leaders from within the church to head up all those good things in an organic and non-formal way.

    However, I do want to point out that I think the dichotomy between the organic church and the institutional church is a false one. In other words, I think the New Testament vision of the church is both, namely, an organic instituion. Like you said, the overall vibe from the book of Acts makes it clear that the churh is organic. But just as clear is the fact that within this organic church there are formal offices of elder and deacon, as well as formal sacrements/ordinances such as communtion and baptism. There is also formal church membership above and beyond conversion, as well as formal church discipline in cases where a member's life does not match his profession.

    In other words, I think the church is both organic and institutional. It is an organically growing movement of people, who are on mission organically in their community, who formally assemble, formally submit themselves under the formal service of the deacons and the formal authority, leadership, and teaching of the elders, and who formally practice institutional ordinances such as baptism, church membership/discipline, and communion.

  2. Great post Phil... keep up the good work!