Does the Institutionalization of the Church Help Us or Hurt Us?

Can the true, Spirit-filled church of the New Testament survive becoming a cultural institution? (Flickr/isthis4real [edited])
Can the true, Spirit-filled church of the New Testament survive becoming a cultural institution? (Flickr/isthis4real [edited])
“And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.” (Mk. 11:12-17)

Jesus cursed a fig tree just before He cleansed the temple and drove out all those who bought and sold there. The contrast in these parallel acts is striking. The cursing of the fig tree represented the destruction of a fruitless religious system. It served as a visual object lesson of what Jesus had come to do in the Jewish temple before He established the new covenant.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree He was cursing forms of religion that rob the heart of power. There are some concepts found in Christianity today that are robbing many of the true power of God. Allow me to briefly address these by using my limited knowledge of church history.

When Constantine, emperor of Rome, made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it marked the beginning of the institutionalization of the Church. Constantine made the Church a state institution. From that point in time until the period of the dark ages (1500 AD) much of the Church died. What we’ve seen in the last 500 years has been the renewal, revival, and restoration of many truths that had been lost in the Church age. Yet there remains a recovery and a resurrection of the effects of the institutionalization of the Church. What do I mean by this?

There were two basic fallacies that were birthed during the institutionalization process. The first was the thought of the Church being a building. Constantine built beautiful edifices and required Christians to attend. As someone once sarcastically said: “The Church building became a theatre, the ministers the actors, and the tithes and offerings were the admittance fee”. In this way Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Up until that time Christians had met in homes. This change in regards to Christianity and the Church meeting in large elaborate buildings affected the mind-set of multitudes of people during the Roman Empire, and in future generations. The issue is not the location or venue of where the Church meets so don’t get hung up there.

It doesn’t matter where the Church gathers – in a big building, a small building, a house, a garage, a barn, a tent, or under a tree. The bigger issue is in possessing a New Testament mind-set that the Church is not a building, but it is the people who are the temple of the living God. This may sound too simple, but this mind-set began restricting the gospel to the four walls of a building instead of taking it into public life. It killed the evangelistic fervor of the Church. The Church is not a building.

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SOURCE: Charisma News
Bert M. Farias

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