Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It should therefore come as no surprise that the staunch traditionalism and impotency of the evangelical institutional church is now encountering such forceful resistance. Religion is big business, and the people who attend the “churches” have been reduced to being the means by which said business is perpetuated. However, for those who advocate “burning down the house,” perhaps the question of motivation should be addressed.
The story is told of a couple’s divorce and the resulting alienation of the children from the one parent by the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent was pleading his/her case as to interaction with the children, and stated, “Why do you keep me from the children? They need me and I need them. You say you love them and want what’s best for them, but I think the reality is that you really hate me far more than you love them.”
Sadly, in many cases, those who vehemently oppose the “traditional church” are more consumed by their hatred for the institution than their love for the body of Christ. Often, they have been hurt, abused, and overlooked resulting in bitterness taking root inside them. Yes, they see the legitimate deficiencies of the institutional church, but they have become more motivated by their pain produced hatred than authentic love. The scripture warns us of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sometimes it is easier to hide our pain behind supposed revelation and prophetic insight than it is to allow the Spirit of God to bring healing and remove the splinter of hatred that has become lodged within us.
It has been said that every rebel is a closet aristocrat. So often, when encountering institutional revolutionaries, you come away with the feeling that if someone had just acknowledged them, and given them a position of authority, they would have remained “in the fold.” Many decry the institutional church, leave and start a home-church, storefront- church, etc…; and fail to see that all they have done is recreated what they profess to hate so much. The only difference is now, in the new “community,” they are in charge. We must ask ourselves, “Am I motivated by love for the Body, or selfish ambition?”
My dear brothers and sisters, becoming “un-institutionalized” is more than just finding a new meeting place and burning down the old house. An institution is defined as the following:
1. an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, especially one of a public, educational, or charitable character.
2. the building devoted to such work.
3. a public or private place for the care or confinement of inmates, especially mental patients or other disabled or handicapped persons.
4. a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of aculture, as marriage: the institution of the family.
5. any established law, custom, etc.
So often our pain and bitterness blinds us to the reality that all we really desire is another institution, one that functions the way I want it to.
In our present context, there is only one “institution” that truly matters- the Body of Christ. This institution is organic, alive, and on the move. It is made up of people from every kindred, tribe, and tongue. Because the Church is alive and made up of many members, it gets messy sometimes. There are personality differences, doctrinal disputes, and a diversity of giftedness. Some are called to function in the traditional looking buildings. Others are led to fellowship in small home groups or strip plazas. However, this institution is comprised of people that unanimously promote one cause- God’s glory.
Let us be done with dead religion, and empty traditional institutionalism. Let us also be done with hatred, bitterness, and selfish ambition. Instead of burning down the house, let us understand that we all are, “as living stones, being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”