Trying to nail down a post-institutional church theology and practice is a huge task and by attempting it, I am opening myself to misunderstanding. What I have typed out here is in no way meant to denigrate anyone who disagrees with me, but rather it is an attempt to describe what so many people, including myself, are experiencing as we find ourselves following Jesus in a post-institutional church mode.
The bible is not an encyclopedia to be used for proof texting. It is a narrative between God and man to be understood in its historical and cultural context. A pick-and-choose approach in the name of being biblical is unacceptable.
When there is a question about biblical teaching, the life and teaching of Jesus is the ultimate authority.
The differences between unsaved and saved, and churched and unchurched people have been exaggerated. God is at work in all people and cultures.
Jesus did not begin a new religion, institution, or an organization. He began a new way of believing God and living life.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus cannot be reduced to a positive response and prayer upon hearing an encapsulated pitch. The process is highly personal and unique to each person, but involves giving up upon trying to appease God, believing that Jesus is who he said he was, aligning with his kingdom, aspiring to live life as he taught and modeled, and falling short of that goal with great regularity.
Evangelism is not something to stress over, nor is it trying to manipulate somebody to do something. It is simply living out the life of Jesus (the Gospel) in synch with God’s working in another person’s life.
Church is not an institution or an organization. It is people committed to living life in the way of Jesus, drawing strength from one another and finding fulfillment through joining Christ in his kingdom.
Our theological understanding is incomplete, and likely off base in several ways. So, we make space for people who ask questions, even about those points that we consider to be pillars of our understanding about God.
A post-institutional church lover of Jesus…
does not have to be associated with a local church to follow Christ. He is free to bask in God’s grace as much as the most faithful church member. Since he is not immersed in church programs and meetings, he is free to live a totally integrated life, with no dichotomy between the religious and the secular or church events and the rest of life.
does not necessarily go to church on Sunday. He is free from church activities to enjoy a Sabbath, spend time with his family, and live out the Gospel among the people in his world.
does not have to participate in congregational singing to worship his God. He finds a multitude of ways to worship God everyday.
does not rely upon church programs for his spiritual nurturing. He finds avenues for reflection, community, and service to live out his faith.
is not necessarily supporting a local church and their mission endeavors with his finances. He is free to use his money to support kingdom activity as he sees fit.
does not delegate the spiritual training of his children to those running church programs. He is free to assume responsibility for his children, including their spiritual education.
is not bound to one group of people. He is free to be a part of community, wherever he finds it.
does not place himself under another human’s authority. He assumes responsibility for his own life before God.
Transitioning into a post-institutional way of following Jesus is a very interesting pilgrimage. It may not the path for everyone, but it is a rapidly growing reality.
Originally posted April 21, 2010.