Thursday, April 07, 2011

A great comparison of the institutional church versus simple church

I want to thank Alan Knox for a great post this morning Examining the differences between simple church and institutional church. Unlike the dogmatic and often polemical posts I put up, Alan has an excellent comparison that points out the differences in a very fair and non-judgmental way. If you have come across my blog via a conversation at another blog and are uncertain what the definition of a simple church really is, you should check out Alan’s post. I liked his synopsis of simple/organic church…
To begin with, I need to describe what I mean by simple or organic church. A simple or organic church is a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who attempt to live together as family in the way that they understand the church is described and taught in the New Testament. [A house church, on the other hand, is a group of believers who meet in a home. A house church can be more simple/organic or it can be more traditional/institutional.]

Now, we must remember that no group of believers if purely simple/organic just as no group of believers is purely institutional. Instead, it is more like a gradient or spectrum, with some groups being more simple/organic while more groups are more institutional. So, my description will be generalizations by necessity.
I think that is vitally important to recognize what Alan calls the gradient or spectrum. Some people I have been discussing this issue with seem to think that simple church groups are against any organization at all and the fact that we even decide to get together at a particular time is a “Gotcha!”. Institutional churches, even within denominations, are not all the same. Some allow more participation, others less (although all of them far less than I think is appropriate) just as some simple churches have more formalized structure in their meeting, different views of leadership especially from a gender standpoint, etc. For example, a Plymouth Brethren gathering will seem very odd and unstructured to someone who has only experienced an institutional church setting but would seem very structured and institutional to someone used to a simple church gathering. One thing I have noticed and that I commented about on Alan’s post was that a big difference in institutional churches versus simple churches is the presence of people who are not Christians in the meeting. Here is what I wrote in a comment…

Something else I have noticed that really impacts the way institutional churches function versus simple churches is that institutional churches, by design, are a blend of believers and unbelievers. The simpler churches I have been to tend to be mostly or entirely made up of professing believers. The blending means that many institutional church gatherings are trying to do two things simultaneously and that is pretty hard to do. Not that having unbelievers in our gatherings is inherently a bad thing but the mindset is different, on the institutional side inviting unbelievers to “come to church” to hear the Gospel versus the church gathering to be equipped to take the Gospel to unbelievers.
Just my two cents. You should read the whole thing and comment, especially if you are more inclined to the institutional church.

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