Kevin posed this question to my recent posting regarding Where Transformation Ensues:, Where Transformation Ensues:
I think we’re having a bit of a semantic problem here, Kevin. By institutional priorities I was referring to what an institution needs to survive: buildings, budgets, planning programs, security, making people confirm and leaders who must stay in control. It is always amazing to me how even the best of our so-called ‘church’ environments reward people who fit in the program unquestioningly and not those who are living closely to Jesus and seeking to follow him. Thus it champions those things it can measure: attendance, giving, and working on its programs. One can do well at all of those without cultivating a deep and personal relationship with God.
I would consider the example you give is a family priority. How do we each yield our own preferences to cooperate with others as we follow Jesus together? When believers do that together in freedom and joy, they are living relationally and reflect the life Jesus called us to share together. I don’t think of that as an institutional priority at all.
You have to keep in mind that I don’t consider something institutional because it has a name, or a building or a structure, and I don’t consider something a family just because it meets in a home. What we always have to look for is what priorities that guide they way they live together:
• Institutions demand commitment. Healthy families enjoy being together.
• Institutions compel people to conform even if they have to pretend. Healthy families prefer people be genuine, even in their struggles and doubts.
• Institutions push programs. Healthy families help people connect in safe and growing relationships.
• Institutions demand that people be accountable. Healthy families encourage each other to live more fully in God.
• Institutions guarantee their stability by making people dependent on them. Healthy families find their security in the Father and look to help people live free in him.
• Institutions create power-centers where leaders get to make decisions for others. Healthy families help equip each person to make healthy decisions.
• Institutions always end up putting their own survival above the individual. Healthy families will lay down their lives for the needs of one person.
As I’ve said many times before. I see lots of home meetings reflect more institutional priorities than family ones. And I know folks who meet in buildings who keep their life in God at the center and don’t give into the institutional demands that always seek to control them. That’s why I say in time institutional priorities always seem to win out. We have 2000 years of church history that show an alive group of people moving away from the status quo to live free, then in time creating their own institutions that the next generation has to move away from. It has been going on through the whole of church history.