Jason Clark has a great post up at Deep Church that challenges the notion that we can avoid institutions in the church… he doesn't deny the problems and inertia that institutions create, but also argues that to simply throw out any form of institution would be the same kind of action as closing all hospitals (because hospitals struggle with the same institutional problems churches do)… here's a quote:
What we need is not the absence of institutions, but an articulate
institutional imagination, something more than the incapacity of being
‘anti-institutional’. For if we get rid of hospitals, we might remove
the problems they produce as institutions, but with it we also remove
the provision of medical care from all those who had access to it
before, or we restrict it to only a few who are in proximity to those
who can provide it with no institutional support, or those who know how
to provide to themselves. Which is what much of the ‘institution-less’
church has come to look like.
The question is not whether you can avoid being an institution; the
question is what kind of institution can we imagine that will support
the purposes of who and what we are trying to bring to others?
Jason's whole post is not long, and worth a read.
Jason Clark says
Glad the post was helpful. Your reading list is impressive, and not the usual one for church leaders.
I hate to do this, and I realize the paralles are not exact, but since my background is in economics and not so much in ecclesiology..this reminds me of a basic market force. Whenever an industry or product is constrained by monopoly or over-regulation/price control, a black market is formed.
It may be popular among some of the Frank Viola crowd at the moment, but the holes in the arguments won’t bear out this trend for long…and many are already pointing them out; because lets face it, even the Bible itself is a tradition 😉
People cannot get rid of the institutional church, there may be a black market for the time being, but it will reemerge when it (like an industry) is allowed to function as it was intended.
Steve Coanoan says
The church is other than a hospital.
Ben Sternke says
That is true, of course, Steve. At some point every analogy breaks down.
I think it was more of an illustration than a direct comparison. And I think the point is still valid. Having some form of organization is not a bad thing in and of itself – it can easily become diseased and unhelpful, BUT ideally the reason it was there in the first place was to help channel the life of the church into fruitfulness. The answer isn’t to get rid of all organization, but to keep constant vigilance to make sure our structures are serving life and fruitfulness, and not the other way around.
The garden is another helpful metaphor here. It takes some organization, planning, etc, for a garden to grow as a fruitful thing. Otherwise it’s a few good crops among a lot of weeds.
eric thrasher says
ever go to an apple computer store? they are beautiful. too slick for many of the organics…but beautiful in my mind…institutions, when not contrived…systems when not heavy but hidden and purposeful….design when from the heart and not “bus-hut bull shit” can work to help with community, and art, and love……having an amplifier with my guitar can be nice….i don’t have to play a juice harp from 1863 to be stripped of institution…why can’t we have it all?