Institutions and movements

Jesus led a movement in which described as the "Kingdom of God".  A movement is characterized by a sense of an injustice that must be righted.   A movement is not limited by buildings and programs, but is fueled by a deep sense that something must change.   An institution, on the other hand, is a set structure characterized by programming, place, or participation.  The church (little "c") is an institution, while the Church is to be a movement.

Institutions in themselves are not bad, evil, or even remotely negative.  Institutions are necessary particularly to stabilize a process.  The institution of government is necessary to promote a civil society.  Educational institutions need standardized approaches to education to maintain excellence and preparation.  However, the Church was never meant to be an institution.

The drawback of an institution is that its focus is on viability and sustainability.  The focus becomes inward.  For instance, a college with declining enrollment does not see that its services are no longer needed, but spends tremendous energy in redesigning itself to attract different students.  The end is no longer getting students educated (as they may be educated in different schools), but viability.

The doom of the church is when it chooses to focus on viability above and beyond mission.  Mission drives a movement.  Mission inflames passion.  Passion inspires, motivates, and draws. When churches focus a significant amount of energy into "how we can make our programs better", "how we can grow", and "how do I get people into Sunday School", we are being institutional instead of missional.

The more provocative questions comes when we set the expectaton that we are to be a movement of God.  Instead of "how do we make our programs better", we begin to ask "Do our programs serve to usher in or solidify the Kingdom of God".  There are programs in some churches that have not led a single person to know Jesus, nor have they promoted spiritual maturation.  Institutions insist that the programs continue while missional movements are courageous enough to eliminate practices that deflect the mssion.  Movements begin with the mission and move backwards.  The question the movement asks is "How do we fulfill the mission of bringing the Kingdom to people and places where it is not recognized"  From the mission, it analyzes the functionality of each initiative based upon its missional potential. 

As a pastor, I am aware that organization and institutionalization are needed in some extent.  However, the Church needs to realize its missional roots and return.  We need to look at each of our ministry offerings and ask about its effectiveness.  We need to then look at our motivations for ministry.  Is it our mission or our own sustainability.  Do we want kingdom impact or a stable Earthly institution.

Is your church a movement?  Is it passionate about the things that Jesus is passionate about?  Does its mission defy buildings, budgets, and membership goals and embrace the kingdom mandate (Mt 28:18-20)

God bless,

Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M TraylorComment