The demise of the Institutional Church has been written about many times over. The statistics are there for people to see. 4000 churches closing their doors each year. Barely a 10-12% retention rate among young people. The only generation still half-way decently tithing is passing from the scene. I know, it doesn’t look good.
But… What if you love the Institution? Sure, we can talk about the Institutional Church in the general sense. We like to apply it to all of those “other” churches out there. However, “My” church is a different story. My church has many things about it that “I” would like to retain. “My” church isn’t an “Institution,” its a family!
Well… Yes, it is a family. And yes, it is an institution as well.
I love my church, institution and all! I don’t want to see it pass from the scene. I don’t believe that it’s season finale has finally come. So, what do I do?
First, I keep on loving it, and stay connected to it. I learned this in the hospital chaplaincy. When people think that someone is going to die, fairly soon, they start to detatch themselves from their loved one. They start to talk about them to others, while they are in the same room with them. They are emotionally getting ready for the eventual separation.
If you want something to die, then detatch from it. If you want to give it a chance to survive, then stay connected with it.
Secondly, and I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, the church family has to live beyond itself. We are the only institution that isn’t made for it’s membership. We are made for the non-members. We don’t serve ourselves, but in Christ-likeness, we serve others that are not “of” us.
This will be a terribly hard shift for any congregation to make. It isn’t easy. It hasn’t been easy for my church, and we’ve still a long way to go on it.
Finally, an ultimately, we have to focuse on obedience. We have to specifically focus on individual and corporate obedience to Christ in the day-to-day. That doesn’t mean that following a particular set of rules is synonomous with following Christ. It means that we all seek his will, and endeavor to follow it…in the day-to-day.
For to long we’ve been nice to each other, saying we’re following the “golden rule,” as if that is real obedience. Many non-Christians are nice to each other, treat others like they would want to be treated. As far as I can tell, they aren’t intentionally trying to follow Christ in obedience. No, there needs to be more of an intentionality about it. It has less to do with “being good,” and more to do with, “Jesus, talk to me now. I’m listening.”