Has the institutional church forgotten the purpose of its structures?

How should the members of subsystems respond when the hierarchy has forgotten its tasks: achieving coordination among and maintaining autonomy of subsystems? The leaders response?

Think in Systems, by Donella Meadows
Systems (wikipedia)
Why I Left the Institutional Church, by Frank Viola

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  1. Andrew, I've not read it yet, but will certainly take a look and offer a view.

  2. I am not quite as pessimistic as Michael Spencer. I do see a clarification of differences in Evangelicalism's future. Those churches who have become addicted to "pragmatism and shallowness" will likely increase their addiction. Those churches who spurn such things and embrace separation will likely become more separate. Those churches who are dedicated to Jesus and his work will likely continue to hold that dedication, casting hindrances aside, and restructuring themselves to clearly communicate God's truth in the coming cultures.

    Their external form will probably change, maybe into house churches, maybe into small neighborhood churches--who knows. So much is dependent on internal and external influences about which we have little, if any, clear knowledge.

    Our task in this is to remain steadfast in our trust in Jesus, flexible in our forms and structures, and passionate in our love for Jesus, his people, and his world.

    In his response to Michael Spencer, C. Michael Patton shares an "Evangelical Bailout Package" that hits home. I especially resonate with his recurring theme: "This can start right now."

    It's well worth a read.

  3. Thanks Laura, I read C.Michael Patton. If something like 'evangelicalism' is to be rescued, he is on the right track.

    It seems to me that the trend in the US is towards a landscape more like Europe where active, involved believers are a (small) minority of the population and Christian institutions are (mostly) not regarded as part of mainstream society and culture.

  4. Andrew,

    I agree with your assessment. From what I know of the religious landscape in Europe, the church is America is going a similar direction.

    What remains is what we of the minority do (besides sit and complain about how hopeless it all is--nothing is hopeless where God is involved). Patton is certainly on the right track.

  5. Frank Viola has posted some comments and quotes related to Michael Spencer's articles.

    He includes an extensive quote from Hal Millar who suggests evangelicalism (in the US at least) unknowingly adopted the culture of individualism and thereby missed a stage between transforming people and transforming the world. In between these two should be the formation of community 'transforming them into a people'.

    And, surprisingly to me, he suggests that high churches, including Anglicans, are strong on Christian community.

    Any thoughts?

  6. Andrew,

    I'll check out Frank Viola's article for sure. My initial response to Millar's assessment: true. Evangelicalism in America is very individualistic--and often quite inward, spending money and effort on the persons within the community rather than upon forming those persons into one community in Christ.

    I've very little experience of high church, but from what I know, I'm not surprised. It may be that their focus on passing traditions from generation to generation and on all participating in those traditions may do much to form community.

    Free church and high church have much to learn from one another.