To recover a missional vitality of the early church, we have to reawaken a movement ethos in our organizations. Most churches have lost any remnant of the type of ethos they had when they started or when their denominations were founded. This is because along the way networks developed into organizations, and organizations developed into institutions. Institutions develop incrementally and are set up to maintain a certain expression by developing rites, rituals, a professional ministry class, buildings, creeds, etc., and to pass them on to succeeding generations. The intentions are usually very sincere, but the net effect often results in a controlling, high-conformity culture that tends to reject efforts to disturb the status quo. Thus, renewal is a difficult process, fraught with the possibility of failure. We do believe that in the end, institutionalization is to some extent inevitable, but we also think it can be held at bay if we are clever about it. Maintaining a movement ethos is one sure antidote to the dangers of increasing institutionalism.
– From The Forgotten Ways Handbook by Alan Hirsch and Darryn Altclass
I don’t think any of us would intentionally choose the “institutional” model for our churches. But for the majority of church leaders, this is all we’ve known. And for any of our people who have a background in church, this model is what “church” is for most.
So how do we break away from the institutional model? How do we lead people to see the alternative? What does it take to begin a “movement” that breaks free from the institution?
These are questions I’m wrestling with. What do you think?