Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Narcissism of an Institution-less Church

Anybody else notice that the dudes most passionate about killing "church institution" aren't exactly institution-less? Their institution is just sexier. It has more buttons. It goes to 11.

This week Out of Ur shares:
They Love the Church but not the Institution
They Love the Church but not the Institution, Part 2

I get the contextualization thing. I'm down wit dat.
I get fluid culture, the need for translation, the move to missionalization.
I get all that.

I also get that way too many of the new "churches" are infantile exercises predicated on rebellion, pride, sectarianism, reverse pharisaism, and narcissism.

I think we could all do well to read the Eugene Peterson interview Spirituality for all the Wrong Reasons every flippin' week. Peterson (yeah, he's the Message guy) is one of those institutional dudes who's incredibly relevant without trying.
On the issue of the institutional church, Peterson says:
What other church is there besides institutional? There's nobody who doesn't have problems with the church, because there's sin in the church. But there's no other place to be a Christian except the church. There's sin in the local bank. There's sin in the grocery stores. I really don't understand this naive criticism of the institution. I really don't get it.

Frederick von Hugel said the institution of the church is like the bark on the tree. There's no life in the bark. It's dead wood. But it protects the life of the tree within. And the tree grows and grows and grows and grows. If you take the bark off, it's prone to disease, dehydration, death.

So, yes, the church is dead but it protects something alive. And when you try to have a church without bark, it doesn't last long. It disappears, gets sick, and it's prone to all kinds of disease, heresy, and narcissism.

Read the whole thing.

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