Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Shortcomings of Institutionalized Christianity

*Note: A friend of mine ran across this article composed by Steve Amato of Massachusetts. Although he wrote a terrific piece concerning the Institutional 'Church,' he seems to be resigned to the assumption that the Institutional model is of Christ's design and the evils within are a cross we must all bear as members of it. By permission, I have altered his piece slightly to align with the facts presented within this blog that Christ's church was never meant to be, or grew into an institutional model, but is the true, authentic and legitimate home church, which He continues to build. As an aid I will keep the guest author's thoughts in Times font (shown here). I will then use an * at the beginning and ending of my inserted thoughts using Arial font (shown here)*. As in all of my articles, I try to separate what man's idea of 'Church' is by rendering it as seen at the left. When I render the word church in all lower case lettering, I am referring to Christ's organic, authentic, legitimate assembly which He continues to build. Below, we'll find comprehensive definitions between man's style of 'Church' and Christ's design for church. If one finds himself within the confines of an Institutional 'Church' system but have concerns to whether it is of Christ's design, I offer this piece as food for thought. Enjoy the article.

The Shortcomings of
Institutionalized Christianity

Warning: This article so upset the institutional leaders of one church I went to
that they used it as a basis of expelling me from their institutional church!

What is the Church?
By Steve Amato
(Edited by Bobby Kmiec)

We can characterize the Church in one of two ways. Either it is an institute, which exists independent of its members or it is a corporate body, which is an ordered assembly of its individual members. 

*Here, Mr. Amato insists that an Institution exists independent of it's members. However this statement seems to be oxy-moronic as an Institution cannot exist and thrive without it's membership no more than a company cannot exist without the guidance, decision making and efforts of it's body. The CEO of a company may hire or fire a member and make financial decisions to accommodate the Institute as a whole, but he is still part of the company body. In the case of an Institutional 'Church' member who leads his congregation, the pastor functions much the same way as the business entity CEO. The pastor, also being a member, is just one member of a body. The Institutional aspect of a business entity has to be led, directed, supplied and funded by those who are not inanimate. This is also true of a business entity 'Church.' If the member or members do not run and keep it operating, who does?*

*One definition of an Institution is: a large company or other organization involved in financial trading. In other words, an institution deals with money. Another definition reads: an established official organization having an important role in the life of a country, such as a bank, church, or legislature. Here we see that this definition refers to an institution as a church that operates in an official organization.*

*In today's business conscious world, a corporate body is almost always thought of as a business entity. It could be a body of two or more people acting as 'one' who run a business for profit. Or, at the very least keep itself afloat just to exist. In this sense, this is what an Institution is. It is recognized as a number of members acting as 'one' so that they can engage in local commerce. This would imply that since the members are actively contributing to the welfare and upkeep of the business aspect, including supporting a staff, budgets and properties, they are 'one' with the Institutional format. So it goes with the run of the mill Institutional 'Church' structure by which we are accustomed to accepting as God's model.*

*The senior pastor in most cases is 'hired' from a vote of the body to oversee it's functions. People must be financially supported, grounds must be kept, utilities must be paid, budgets must be observed and administrative decisions must be made. To make this all work, the people must be involved. For the most part they are the ones who support (financially) this Institutional structure. The pastor doesn't take his orders from above. He takes it from either a deacon board, trustees, committees or from a vote. If he doesn't agree with the body's wishes, he may move on to bigger and better things sighting that he was led away by God. The average pastor usually lasts five years in one pulpit. Essentially, he is a hired gun. See my post, 'The Hireling' for more detail on this topic. Sadly, the membership body within the Institutional 'Church' structure believes that their pastor is empowered by God directly and therefore shouldn't be challenged. He is seen as the overseer, the shepherd, reverend, padre, bishop, and even pope. They pay him to steer this Institutional vessel along a chartered course. The problem is that most 'Church' goers do not recognize that this structure is not compatible with the Bible. They've been around it for so long, they've been conditioned to think of church in only one way.* 

*Let me shed some light on the second definition of a corporate church. In it's purest form, it is an organic assembly of local and physical believers who meet together as one body on a regular basis. It is not an 'organization.' They meet either in homes or somewhere outside of an institutional setting, but they do not operate in an 'official capacity' as our definition above states. Since this corporate body does not act as 'one' for a profit, or engages in commerce of any kind, it does not act as a business entity. Christ didn't create His church as a Philosophy, an Institution, a Culture or an Enterprise. He created it to be and function as a Fellowship. 

'Church' as we know it today is separate from what Jesus created. This religious machine did not evolve into the Institution we see thousands "go to" each and every Sunday. He created His church to be a simple fellowship. In other words, it does not engage or encourage income tithing from it's members to pay for a building, staff and Programs. If we can separate in our minds the differences between an Institution and Christ's local assembly, we'd have a better understanding of our place and participation in one entity (the Institutional business model for 'Church,' which is man's design) and Jesus' design for a local, physical assembly. The Institutional model subsists on money and Christ's church thrives on Power from on high.* 

*As you read this piece, please know that Mr. Amato is confused as to knowing the difference between a business entity that calls itself a 'Church' and a church (fellowship~assembly) that doesn't engage in business at all. By most, this is a common misconception. Mr. Amato hasn't separated in his mind these two distinct concepts. Most assume that a church must run as a business, not considering that it does not, nor is it supposed to. The only time this concept applies is when man engages his idea of 'Church' into the world of commerce. This is not Christ's standard for His body, therefore, it's man standard. This shows two distinct and different concepts of what church is. One is man's, the other is God's. His misunderstanding however does not detract from his piece because the ideas expressed in it regarding those trapped within an Institutional 'Church' setting are well stated. The only flaw I see is his lack of separation between these two ideas of church.*

The word "Church" itself is "ekklesia." which means an assembly. *To be more accurate, it is a called out assembly that has convened and does convene*."And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church" ~Colossians 1:18, and He suffered "for his body’s sake, which is the church: ~Col 1:24. Thus we see that the Biblical definition of "church" is a body and not an institute or a *corporate business entity*. This is also opposed to those who call the Church "our Mother" in the sense of it being an entity separate from the Christians who compose it. The Church is not "our Mother" in that sense or any other sense. The Church is us collectively as local saved believers. The institutional forms associated with the assembling of Christians together are neither individually nor collectively "the Church."
In addition, the body of Christ is supposed to be a living healthy body and not a sick or dead body. The difference between these is that a sick or dead body has non-functioning members. You could assemble a body together by assembling a bunch of dead non-functioning members together and end up with a dead body. But that is not the kind of assembly the Bible speaks of when referring to the Church. Notice the Biblical description of the church.

Romans 12:4, 5  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.“

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

Thus every individual member should not simply be present, but be functioning. And there should be growth in maturity. That is the objective, but institutionalism has, to varying degrees, obscured this perspective and hindered the accomplishing of this objective.

As for the size of the assembly, other than Matthew 18:20, the Bible doesn't give any indication as to how many believers have to be assembled for the group to be considered a "church." *Although this verse has been misapplied by good people with good intentions as to a minimum number, we'll see that Matt 18:15-20 is speaking within the context of two brothers who aren't getting along. The third member would witness the conversation to establish what was said*. But, if we take Mt 18:20 as the standard as most do, Jesus says, “
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Well, as far as the size of the body is concerned, there you go.

Furthermore the Bible indicates that the assembly does not need leaders before they are reckoned a "church." For it says in Acts 14:23 that Paul and Barnabas went around appointing elders for each church. So before they had elders they were reckoned churches. This is in great contrast to the post-Biblical megalomaniac view of the religious elite that institutional leadership is largely what constitutes "the church."

Indeed what are today referred to as "Para churches," like campus ministries and independent Bible study groups, would in New Testament times be referred to as churches *apart from not having to deal with discipline and other formalities*. The Bible seems to imply that any regular meeting of an assembly of believers is a church.

But post-Biblical Christianity has obsessed over institutional forms rather than the intended function of the assembly. This I reckon to be largely due to the inherent pride of institutional leadership.

But as for leadership, it should go without saying, for obvious reasons, that small groups don't need much oversight in comparison with larger groups. But as the assembly grows in numbers, the corruption of leadership becomes the major issue.

The Shortcomings of Institutionalized Christianity

Much of the shortcomings of institutionalized Christianity are simply due to the nature of institutions themselves. The same kind of shortcomings can be found in secular institutions.

Institutionalized Christianity:

Tends to align itself against the significance of the ordinary individual Christian, while at the same time exalting an elite few. In fact, there is the tendency to reckon "the Church" to be only the officers of the institutional church, or some mystical being called "Mother" from whom the officers are presumed endowed with authority. This concept is common in large, highly organized structures such as the Roman Catholic “Church” *and the more affluent Protestant “Churches." Methodists, Lutherans and those in the Reformed family of “Churches” are included. In fact, any organization that calls itself THE Church” fits this description. Christ’s church isn’t an organization and never was intended to be. It’s a called out assembly of local, physical believers who meet regularly. That’s it.*

But, Institutionalized Christianity tends to view itself as the only legitimate form of Christianity. It tends to develop a divisive attitude even between institutions and tends towards exclusivity. This is just human nature at work. As people form groups, its natural to reckon their group, country, race, or whatever is particular to their group, to be superior to other groups.

As a result, any challenge to the superiority or criticism of the group is taken as a threat and dealt with often in a hostile manner. The degree of hostility is often a function of the degree to which the group has been institutionalized. Thus, Christ was callously murdered by the institutional leaders of his day; the Catholic Church callously murdered Protestants; Calvin and his people murdered Anabaptists and Mennonites. It's the "lynch mob" effect. Groups callously commit atrocities whereas left to themselves, the individuals in the groups would have never thought of carrying out such atrocities. To quote John Calvin, "Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt."

Such an attitude was also present in the religious leaders of Jesus' day. But we also see another effect of institutionalism. Criticism of the institution or its leadership is of itself taken as heresy. And thus Jesus and those who walk as Jesus did were murdered, excommunicated, or shunned - depending on how institutionalized the organization is.
This implies also that Institutionalism:
  • Inflates one's own opinion
  • Inflates human dogma
  • Inflates one's prejudices
The institutionalized Christian will tend to mindlessly accept whatever is the dogma of his particular institutional church. Indeed, surveys have proven that the more institutionalized a Christian, the less he knows the Bible. In fact, the hyper-institutional forms of Christianity will say that you as an individual Christian cannot understand the Bible. Rather the correct interpretation has to be dictated to you by the institutional leaders. Well then, why bother reading the Bible at all? That's the reason that they don't.

This ignorance of the Bible imposed indirectly upon the members by the institutional leaderships allows for the exaltation of human dogma, regulations, and indeed false teachings without any corrective mechanism in place. For example the Catholics don't seem to realize that the Bible doesn't make such a big deal about Mary. And by the way the Bible says that Joseph “… knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." ~Mat 1:25.  Given the degree of Biblical ignorance of the more institutionalized, one could go on and on pointing out many things of which the less institutionalized are well aware. In less institutionalized forms of Christianity, an individual member could object with Bible in hand. But such a person would be reckoned a heretic and treated with hostility in the more institutionalized groups regardless of whether the objection was legitimate from a Biblical standpoint.

This is not to say that the more institutionalized reckon the Bible less relevant. No, rather all forms of Christianity, and indeed all Christians, reckon their own version of Christianity to be the most Biblical, though most don't seriously study the Bible. *Included are those within the more fundamental of Christian circles such as Independent Fundamental Baptists Churches, a.k.a. IFBCs.*

Institutionalism tends towards reducing openness to self-evaluation. In institutionalism "self-evaluation" comes down to the leadership judging the ordinary members, but not the institutional leadership themselves being subject to judgment. Yet the Bible teaches, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.~1John 4:1. By "spirit" he is referring to those who teach and preach. The Lord commands the ordinary Christian to be skeptical about all teachings and to compare them to what the Bible says. Indeed Paul commended the Bereans who exercised skepticism towards his own teachings. "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." ~Acts 17:11,12. It's less honorable to gullibly accept whatever is taught, even if such teachings happen to be correct. Even Jesus himself said, "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." ~John 10:37 He doesn't want gullible type of followers.  

Those he describes in the parable of the sower, "And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended." ~Mark 4:16,17. Thus we could say that institutionalism tends towards producing unrooted Christians - those who have a faith, which is only on the surface. Not that they may not have a deeply rooted faith in the institution. But having a deeply rooted faith in Christ is quite a different thing.

What is the emphasis of institutional teachings?

Institutions focus on:
  • Forms rather than function
  • Outward appearance rather than inward nature
  • Letter rather than the spirit
  • Law or regulations rather than grace and purpose
  • Human dogma rather than Biblical truth

The institutional mindset tends towards obsessing over issues of ritual, time, place, buildings and material things. And even "going to church" becomes an end in itself rather than a means to an end.

The Origin of the Corrupting Effects of Institutionalism

Sinful human nature is of course the origin. But we must take care not to lay responsibility on institutional leadership alone.

Corruption among the Leadership

Perhaps given their position leadership should take the bulk of the responsibility, as Jesus had the chief priests. But realize they are also in positions subjected to the greater temptations. Such positions could of course also tend to attract people who are already corrupt or prone to corruption. Power corrupts, but positions of power also attract people who are prone to being corrupted by it. Which is not meant as an accusation against any particular leader. Furthermore we see, particularly from democratic societies, that its generally the most popular who attain to leadership. But is popularity a good measure of a leader? Statistically, positions of popularity attract people who want to be popular. Notice Jesus' accusation against the religious leaders, But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” ~Matt 23:5-7. And so even today we see many religious leaders dressing in special clothes to distinguish themselves and demanding to be call "Father" or "Reverend" and such.

Money also corrupts, as Paul writes, "For the love of money is a root of all evil." ~1Tim 6:10. Thus he avoided getting paid for ministry and advised the Ephesian elders also, saying, "I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. ~Acts 20: 33-35
Professional Ministers have the right to get paid for ministry. *But remember that “Professional Ministers” are not an ingredient of Christ’s true assembly. This concept is only supported within man’s Institutional corporate business structure labeled as “Church.*" Nevertheless, in 1Cor 9 Paul advocates freely giving up receiving financial support so as to minister more effectively. Financial dependency may cause one's ministry to be suspect and may consciously or unconsciously influence the minister to modify his ministry so as to optimize his earnings. This would make one's popularity an even greater factor. This can be seen most obviously when we observe how the minister handles doctrines, which are true but unpopular. The temptation is to either advocate popular ideas contrary to the truth, or avoid talking on the subject or else speaking of it in such an obscure manner so as to say nothing.

Paul warned the church leaders in Ephesus of the inevitable corruption which would occur among their own leadership just prior to his advising them concerning ministering free of charge saying, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." ~Acts 20:30. He doesn't say that such men might arise from among the church leadership, but rather that it is inevitable that they will arise. This has proven to be consistent throughout the history of the institutional Church, *but Paul is not writing to the Institutional 'Church.' He is writing to Christ’s authentic assembly, which has no need for institutionalism, corporate image or business organization.*

Paul tried to restrict positions of leadership to the most godly, not because they are the only ones qualified to make disciples. For the Great Commission commands to make disciples of all nations would apply to all Christians. Rather, Paul imposed restrictions on leadership positions so as to reduce the likeliness of corruption. Notice for example he says, "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." ~1Tim 3:6. Why may he become conceited? Because it is just human nature that such positions invoke pride, and only those experience in humility can hope to avoid such influences. 

Seminaries can even exacerbate the problem. What comes out can often be worse than what goes in. What comes out is often a person who has been trained to have an elitist clergy/laity mentality, and as such reckons himself automatically qualified for leadership over people who have worked for a living. After all, if we're really committed to Christ we'd become a full time minister getting paid by those under-committed Christians working at secular jobs. That's the attitude I've gotten from a number who have gone through seminary. In fact, this tendency has been so disturbing that whoever asks me advice about going to seminary I tell them not to go. Seminaries themselves can often cause one to lose their objectivity in studying the Word of God. Whether by choice or unconsciously, human dogma can replace Biblical truth.

One seminarian spoke of his teacher being flexible on the interpretation of whether women should be in positions of church leadership over men, leaving it up to the students to develop their own convictions. It turns out the teacher was a woman teaching men. And what is being taught by that fact? The leavenous philosophy of Feminism permeates modern Christianity just as it does the society in general. Just as Isaiah said, "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them." ~Isaiah 3:12.  And since it is popular, Church leadership opposing it is more the exception than the rule. And so also for many other popular philosophies. But what of Catholicism in its opposition to women in the priesthood. Well, they already made Mary into a goddess, *and a co-savior with Christ*, carrying around Rosary beads, praying to her over and over. Talk about reckoning women to be in authority over men!

And just as we see political correctness operating in the society, so we see political correctness is at work in the “Church," even though it may be over different issues. Young Earth Creationism for example is mindlessly advocated by much of the Christian community disregarding any alternative interpretation of Genesis and turning a blind eye to (actually not even bothering to investigate) legitimate scientific claims to the contrary. Such blind irrational faith is simply a product of institutionalism and is contrary to Biblical faith. *To this point, I do not agree with Mr. Amato that science suggests an Earth older than six to ten thousand years of age. I believe his statement is in error of empirical fact, however one may choose to swap a different example to make his point, such as 'Same Sex Marriage or women pastors. If anything should be articulated as "mindlessly advocated as politically correct," that would be it.* Politics is an institutional matter. Church politics can take priority over Biblical truth.

The typical loss of objectivity due to the elitist attitude and emphasis on institutional dogma can make a professional minister much less objective in Bible study than the ordinary layman. *But let’s not lose focus on the fact that Professional Ministers have no place in Christ’s authentic and legitimate assemblies. Here we are speaking of the problems within the Institutional model separate from Christ’s model.*

Here are some questions to consider in evaluating your minister: What percentage of his preaching are quotes from the Bible? And what percentage are quotes from other theologians, philosophers and such? Does he have a tendency to use the Bible as simply a springboard to say whatever he wishes by allegorizing passages to death, making them say whatever he wants them to say? Is his preaching application-oriented? If it's application-oriented is it legalistic? And how does he respond to correction? (If indeed he even allows any feedback at all). There are natural tendencies due to the corrupting influences and the natural selection processes of institutionalism. 

Concerning even popular theologians of the past like John Calvin and Augustine, if they were to express their writings in simple layman's terms, they're not particularly good in doing Bible study. At times they bring in unnecessary (and I would say even unbiblical) philosophical presumptions resulting in bizarre ideas. And yet, if we were to oppose them on such flimsy points, we'd be reckoned a heretic and perhaps even put to death. There's an institutional philosophy, which is often applied either consciously or unconsciously, that since by God's sovereignty whoever is the leader must have been God's choice and therefore whatever they decide, whatever they say, must be from God. Thus human dogma and tradition replaces Biblical truth. I've run into such an attitude a number of times in different churches even in the evangelical community. I've seen Institutional Church leaders become hostile against Para-church organizations. They're insecure because Para-church organizations have generally proven more effective in carrying out God's work. *Still, Para-church organizations are not the same as Christ's church. They're 'organizations,' and not necessarily a body of believers.*

Corruption Among the Laymen

Laymen among the congregation are not above reproach in exacerbating the corrupting effects of institutionalism. It's one thing to give due honor and respect to leadership. But it's another to play the tempter by provoking their sinful passions. What keeps the leadership's pride in check? Treat them like Chinese emperors and they'll behave like Chinese emperors. What source of humiliation have we provided them to help them keep their pride in check? But it is actually convenient for the laymen to reckon the leadership as super-Christians and themselves as nothing but stupid sheep incapable of doing nothing but the most menial tasks. Why? Because, it frees up the laymen from responsibility. The laymen present themselves as immature Christians running around in diapers who only take but don't give. Then the leadership complains of how busy and burned out they are. Whose fault is that? I thought they were supposed to be super-Christians. The yoke would be easy and the burden light if Christians would simply grow up and start taking responsibility. But institutionalism hinders that objective. This is one reason why Christ’s home-based church model is exempt from this nonsense.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" ~2Timothy 4:3. Previously, Paul talked of deviant church leaders gathering disciples. But here it speaks of disciples gathering deviant teachers. Laymen are at fault when they seek to hear that which is contrary to what God has to tell them, which is not uncommon. What is popular is often unbiblical. But, institutions will inevitably form around popular ideas regardless of their Biblical basis. And yet all will invoke "God's Sovereignty" saying that since their institution exists (therefore it must be from God) and therefore whatever doctrine they advocate must be from God. Furthermore, the congregation often assigns leadership. When the church deviates from the Biblical, whether in doctrine or practice, the congregations cannot wash their hands of the blame, for they chose the leadership to begin with, and they often fail to deal with such deviations when they first arise. 

How Can We Fix the Problem?

The things I've pointed out are quite obvious, especially to the less institutionalized, and perhaps even to some in institutional leadership. This is nothing new. But what should be done about it? The most common response is to try to fix the institution, either internally or to get out of that institution and start another one. But realize that institutions due to their very nature will never be perfect in this life. Institutions just naturally have their own life cycle. *Why? Because the Institutional model is a species all it’s own. It is opposed to and separated from Christ’s original and authentic local, physical assemblies*. Institutional Churches may generally start off well - Bible based and such, but inevitably they become corrupt. As members get sick of the corruption, then there is either a galvanizing of the members within or a split. The split of the Protestants from the Catholic Church is such an example. And as the Protestants continue to institutionalize they also begin to deviate from Biblical theology.

Should we not develop institutional forms of Christianity? That's not the solution either. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. ~Hebrews 10:24,25. But, is this being accomplished in your institutional church? 

Much of the Christian life involves getting together and interacting with other Christians. How else can we make disciples? This is the thought pattern generally accepted as true: “It's just part of the way society operates, that when we get a bunch of people together there needs to be some organization.” But, with organization comes leadership, rules, regulations, definitions of what constitutes a member of that group, and what kind of behavior is expected of that member, and so on. Before you know it you've formed an institution. I would say that institutions - whether they be institutional churches or Para-church organizations - are inevitable. They tend to breed themselves. *The apostle Paul didn’t established institutional churches, but home churches. Those whose minds are stuck thinking institutionally need to break this pattern and start thinking independently from the model of the institution.*

What I propose is that Christians *shouldn’t be involved in institutional forms of Christianity, for doing so stunts the growth within the Christian life*. Christians need to be aware and avoid the corrupting effects of institutionalism, *while at the same time not avoid the precious souls within the institution itself.* Jesus is a model. *He went to synagogue and used it as a place to bear record of Himself among those of the institutional religious establishment*. He and his followers were cast out of the synagogues from town to town. *His church was founded outside of the synagogue among John’s disciples in Luke 6. Christians spouting his philosophy today should expect the same kind of abuse from institutions they are a part of. If we as believer’s of Christ were to tell the same story as we see him telling in Scripture, we should count ourselves blessed for suffering for his name sake*. The history of the true "Christian Church" proves this point. But, when a church becomes so corrupt as to reject any possibility of an internal change preventing us from fulfilling our ministry or role as a member of the body of Christ, then just as Paul shifted his focus to the Gentiles, perhaps it's time to find another church or start a new one.

The institutional problem is inevitable and cannot be fixed from within. Some might say, “It's simply a cross to bear.” This is not to say that we should tolerate institutional corruption, but rather that we should walk as Jesus did. *Withdraw yourselves from the institution*. Live the Christian life, make disciples, and do as the Lord commanded in spite of the institutional corruption. Point out the problems, the hypocrisy and such, just as Jesus did. And expect to be treated with hostility. That's just part of the Christian life. And if in the end the institutional elite manages to have you crucified, I say, "Congratulations, you have shared in Christ's sufferings!"