Institution-alized

The institutionalization of the Lord’s church, and of various ministries and Christian organizations, continues.  Once an organization or group reaches a certain mass, it will tend toward institutionalization.  I don’t think this happens at the same mass for every example, and it will likely vary, depending on a lot of different factors.  However, once it begins to be institutionalized, it’s mission will be changed from what it was originally, to self-perpetuation.  At this moment, if not before, it will also begin to calcify and lose it’s flexibility.  It will respond in a natural way to threats, to silence or marginalize them, and also remove dissenting voices from it’s midst.  This is often done with the proclamation that the group is more important than the individual, which has an element of truth, but is the wrong comparison.  In Christ, we should be following Christ, not the group, or the individual.  Systematically, Christ Jesus and His leadership fade into the background, and the original mission becomes the focus of marketing efforts, though it has likely been supplanted by a motive that the “organization” must continue.  This is one of the reasons why the institutions of man are temporary, but what God does lasts forever.

More thoughts on this later….

3 Replies to “Institution-alized”

  1. The generations preceding us tended to create hierarchical, top-down organizations. These kind of organizations were independent, free-standing entities which, though perhaps established in the beginning with noble purposes, eventually became primarily focused on self-perpetuation. Therefore, their primary mission became one of self interest. This means an inward focus rather than an outward focus. These organizations have worked hard to fool us into thinking that they are wholeheartedly focused and dedicated to their original mission – they all have clever and convincing missions statements, don’t they? – but anyone close to their orbit will quickly realize, with some discernment, the true nature of these organizations. Sadly, many of these organizations leave a stream of broken relationships and hurt individuals in their wake. They have a tendency to suck in, chew up and spit out their staff and members. This is, unfortunately, the nature of this particular kind of beast – sinful, competitive human nature projected outward onto the organization when everything exists by and for that particular organization.

    Some will say out loud: “I know organizations can hurt people, but look how much they get done!” One must not be fooled by illusions. The illusion of the efficiency of centralized, top-down planning coupled with the inflexibility of its leadership structure, even if they have accomplished much, have made these entities dinosaurs in our age, the Age of Google. The “one size fits all” and impersonal “organization first” way of thinking is repulsive to the younger generations. In our time, these old organizations are like shrubs in the desert – they are so because they have made man their strength. They have far removed themselves from the living stream, the well-spring of life. Billy Graham once speculated that if the Holy Spirit was pulled out of the early church, 95% of its activity would ground to an immediate halt, but if the Holy Spirit was pulled out of the modern church, with all our programs and well-planned institutions, 95% of the activity would keep on running as smoothly as before! This is probably a little too harsh on the modern church, but I do believe there is a measure of truth to this illustration. We should not be against planning and organization but rather on leaning too much on our own abilities and cleverness. This sounds so simple and elementary – and I imagine most of the old school organizations would agree to that statement – but the proof is in the fruit. It doesn’t take much analysis to determine if an organization exists for its own self-propagation and glory. The fruit is not primarily in the organization’s many exploits or great accomplishments. This is, though, how they usually measure their fruit – by the things they’ve done. Getting things done is of course important (do I really have to say that?), but there is another standard – one which places human relationships above great projects. This standard says that people are more important than projects – Christ died for individuals, not for grand, clever schemes. Remember, it’s go and make disciples….disciples…disciples… Yes, let’s imagine and work toward great, earth-shattering projects! Let’s take on the difficult and push back the boundaries of the impossible! Let us seize the day! But at the end of the day, we are left with people – and these people will either be better off or damaged by our grand, world-reaching schemes. Selah.

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