Look, I'm in the processes of starting a new church, Crossroads United Methodist Church, and it is unapologetically a United Methodist Church. It is the UMC which has ordained me and sent me. It was the UMC that has been most formational in helping me grow in my faith and come to an encounter with Jesus Christ, God's Son, an encounter that radically altered my life.
Go figure that I encountered Jesus in an institutional church.
I know that conventional wisdom says the institutional church turns people off and labels drive people away. John makes a great point on this at Come to the Waters. However, when the connection to a denomination is hidden away or pastors don't acknowledge their connections, those who supported them, it just seems so inauthentic. Most of us like to know when we're playing a game.
But then to say you can have a church and not have some form of institution, well it seems this is a bit disingenuous too. It is kind of hard to miss the institutional structure recorded in the book of Acts, or Paul's pastoral letters to Timothy and Titus, or any of Paul's letters for that matter.
I think it is a fallacy to act like or talk about throwing out the institutional nature of the church. Every church which casts off its connection to an institution is merely trading one hat for another. It is just more moving of chairs on the Titanic. There has to be structure.
I think it is kind of like looking for a doctor. I wanted to know what hospital they were connected to and that they had the credentials and certification that was appropriate. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I got a second opinion. When I look at the service industries I use, I look into reputation - their connection to an institution.
It isn't that people don't really like institutional church, I don't know any church that isn't, after all, an institution. The real fallacy is when we begin to come to pay homage to the church rather than to Christ Jesus.
May I Ask: How have you benefited from the institution of a church? What could be done better to help with the institutional nature?
May I Suggest: Look into the structures of other churches, what are some of the similarities and differences? What good comes from these? Bad?