Immortality, Infallibility and Human Sacrifice

During my weekend conversation in Clovis a couple of weeks ago someone shared a thought they had recently read on a blog, though they couldn’t recall where it had come from. I have searched the web to see if I can find anything like it and have not been able to do so. If anyone knows where this came from, please let me know. I always enjoy giving credit where credit is due, but this is too good not to share now. It painted an all-too-accurate picture of the process of institutionalizing and the cost of doing so.

What he said was, people create institutions in an attempt to pass on their contributions to future generations. Therefore at the outset they are an attempt to grasp an illusion of immortality by creating a system designed to perpetuate itself. For it to do that it has to offer an air of infallibility, so that its aims and methods go unquestioned by subsequent generations. In essence, our religious institutions by projecting immortality and infallibility actually become false gods that people are asked to serve instead of teaching them how to follow the Living God.

And like any false god, the institution will occasionally needs a human sacrifice to keep up the illusion. Challenge its priorities or methods and you must be ejected immediately and discredited so everyone else will be afraid to do so. If you dare to question those who feel called by God to manage such institution, you will be considered a threat and forced from the group. How many of reading this have been that sacrifice? Even formerly close friends will ostracize you and gossip about your “rebellion” or “bitterness” to make sure you are marginalized as an example to others.

It reminded of Israel’s desire for a king and God’s warning that putting power in the hands of a king would mean that he would take the best of everything that they had for his own benefit. God knew how power corrupts the human heart and anyone with absolute power would think he should have all the best for himself. He’d said their sons to war, steal their daughters for himself, and take the best of their crops and herds. Even a man with a heart like David’s thought himself special enough to rape Urriah’s wife and then have him killed in battle when he refused to come home and sleep with her so that he would think David’s baby was his own.

Notice how this entire process can begin with the purest of motives but still end up exploiting and manipulating people in a way that is incredibly destructive. I’ve seen it happen over and over again to people and those who think they lead the institutions have no idea how much it has disfigured them. While being otherwise generous and gracious people, they become hurtful and destructive in the name of protecting what they mistakenly to be God’s gift.

Do all institutions have to end up like that? Can people find ways to cooperate together without falling victim to an institution’s need to perpetuate itself? I believe it can, but in honesty the examples of that are thin indeed. Almost all begin by a group of loving people who want to share a vibrant life in Jesus, but over time become those more concerned with protecting their turf rather than continuing to love the way Jesus loves them.

And I’ve been with so many incredible people in the last two decades who became the human sacrifices the institution needed when they recognized it had look forsaken God’s priorities for its own. Maybe that’s why Jesus told us to love each other, not to create systems we think will outlive us.

Share this Post!

Related post

18 Comments
  1. Penny Dugan April 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    All I can say is Wow! this is so true.

  2. Dixie Diamanti April 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Very well put!! I, too, was one of the ‘sacrifices’ of the institution. Boy, did they do me a favor or what? I love Jesus more now than I ever did then because I was so ‘busy’ doing wonderful works for good of the organization.

  3. amy h April 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    This was a huge one that weekend…thanks for putting it down on “paper”

  4. Bonny Nelson April 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Profound insight…as I read the article I was well aware of the fact that I have been both the “Called One needing to protect and steward the ministry turf given to ME…” and “the sacrifice”. Surprisingly this was happening both at the same time! Talk about being bipolar!!! By the time the manure hit the fan what I thought was the devil trying to get me was really God trying to free me. I am especially drawn to the line “Almost all [institutions] begin by a group of loving people who want to share a vibrant life in Jesus, but over time become those more concerned with protecting their turf than continuing to love the way Jesus loves them.” It’s hard to contiinue something you never really started. Growing up “in” the church with its definitions and expectations of Christian behaviour/service the love of Jesus got translated by this little performance oriented girl into commands of “have to’s” instead of “get to’s”. The amazing part of de-institutionalizing is being left with the simple truth that “Jesus loves me this I know! No, Really….this I KNOW!’

  5. Penny Dugan April 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    All I can say is Wow! this is so true.

  6. Dixie Diamanti April 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Very well put!! I, too, was one of the ‘sacrifices’ of the institution. Boy, did they do me a favor or what? I love Jesus more now than I ever did then because I was so ‘busy’ doing wonderful works for good of the organization.

  7. amy h April 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    This was a huge one that weekend…thanks for putting it down on “paper”

  8. Bonny Nelson April 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Profound insight…as I read the article I was well aware of the fact that I have been both the “Called One needing to protect and steward the ministry turf given to ME…” and “the sacrifice”. Surprisingly this was happening both at the same time! Talk about being bipolar!!! By the time the manure hit the fan what I thought was the devil trying to get me was really God trying to free me. I am especially drawn to the line “Almost all [institutions] begin by a group of loving people who want to share a vibrant life in Jesus, but over time become those more concerned with protecting their turf than continuing to love the way Jesus loves them.” It’s hard to contiinue something you never really started. Growing up “in” the church with its definitions and expectations of Christian behaviour/service the love of Jesus got translated by this little performance oriented girl into commands of “have to’s” instead of “get to’s”. The amazing part of de-institutionalizing is being left with the simple truth that “Jesus loves me this I know! No, Really….this I KNOW!’

  9. Dan Mayhew April 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Don’t know if you meant to, but either way, the subject line seems to fit as it’s written: “immorality.” When we sacrifice integrity and love in the name of some quest for institutional immortality, it becomes immoral.

  10. Dan Mayhew April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Don’t know if you meant to, but either way, the subject line seems to fit as it’s written: “immorality.” When we sacrifice integrity and love in the name of some quest for institutional immortality, it becomes immoral.

  11. Will Pearce April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Wayne, you’ve talked before about your observation that church institutions that go past the 7-year point seem to become primarily focused on self-perpetuation. I wonder if this is (at least in part) what Jesus was warning about when he spoke of not putting new wine in old wineskins?

  12. Wayne April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    And a fine typo it was, too, Dan. But it was a typo and I’ve since fixed it so that it makes more sense. But I agree that it is all pretty immoral…

  13. Wayne April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Will, you may be right. But then he might have warned us not to put the wine in any wineskin at all, if it becomes more about the wineskin than it is about the wine…

  14. Mike April 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    A most excellent post!

    When I read this I think of my days in leadership in a house church network way more than my days in the traditional church. It’s a good reminder that the institution we need freed from is a mindset and not bricks and mortar.

    Bonny- “By the time the manure hit the fan what I thought was the devil trying to get me was really God trying to free me.” That is a great line!!

  15. Will Pearce April 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Wayne, you’ve talked before about your observation that church institutions that go past the 7-year point seem to become primarily focused on self-perpetuation. I wonder if this is (at least in part) what Jesus was warning about when he spoke of not putting new wine in old wineskins?

  16. Wayne April 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    And a fine typo it was, too, Dan. But it was a typo and I’ve since fixed it so that it makes more sense. But I agree that it is all pretty immoral…

  17. Wayne April 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Will, you may be right. But then he might have warned us not to put the wine in any wineskin at all, if it becomes more about the wineskin than it is about the wine…

  18. Mike April 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    A most excellent post!

    When I read this I think of my days in leadership in a house church network way more than my days in the traditional church. It’s a good reminder that the institution we need freed from is a mindset and not bricks and mortar.

    Bonny- “By the time the manure hit the fan what I thought was the devil trying to get me was really God trying to free me.” That is a great line!!

Comments are closed.