Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why the Institution's Top Priority is Self-Preservation


Institutional Christianity has three non-negotiable characteristics. First, the leaders are "experts" from outside the church family who are paid salaries to preach, marry, baptize, and bury. They are administrators (otherwise known as pastors). Second, scripted religious ceremonies that take place on Sundays are the high point of the church week. These we know as worship services. Third, expensive buildings are the location for large church gatherings, but these edifices sit mostly empty for the vast majority of the time. They are so ingrained in the life of the church that the buildings are often referred to as "the church."

The above three attributes - pastor(s), worship services, and expensive buildings form a sort of unholy Trinity that stifles church life. These three go largely unquestioned by the vast majority of Christians.

One of the three in particular is the primary reason that self-preservation is the top priority for the institution. That one is the building.

Institutional thinking goes like this: Doing ministry occurs primarily in the building. A church building requires significant money. The need for money requires a focus on giving by the church to the church. This leads inevitably to a focus upon self-preservation. This is part of the reason why pastors usually preach at least an annual dreaded "stewardship series" (translated as "Why you should be giving more money to the church").

Further exacerbating the focus upon self-preservation is the pastoral salaries. This can consume a massive portion of the church offerings. The pastor, who usually does most of the preaching, therefore speaks repeatedly about how "God wants you to give to the church." After all, the pastor's income depends upon it.

The constant need for money by institutional churches actually has very little to do with true ministry. Rather, it stems from local churches needing to pay their bills; and their two largest bills are the building mortgage/utilities and pastoral salaries. This necessitates self-preservation as priority numero uno.

Many churches like to say what the most important thing is to them. Some say the Great Commission, some say caring for the poor and needy, others say preaching and teaching, while others say prayer. None of these are accurate.

When it comes to the institution, the dirty little secret is that the top priority is unfailingly one of self-preservation. Everything else falls in line after that.

3 comments:

Peter Horvatin said...

Eric,

I agree with you about self-preservation. Again, I believe most of this goes back to the fact that ingrained traditions are not easily broken. I think a key word here for all Christians is "discernment." If believers took the time to really examine church history, they would find some very disturbing truths. However, a majority of Christians today have become fat, lazy, and complacent when it comes to examining the past. George Santayana once said, " Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Peter

manthano said...

AMEN.

Tim A said...

Self preservation is a key element, but I think it goes to a twisted version of obedience to the Word. Everything they do is driven by some proof texts. They feel, to the core of their bone marrow that they are doing what God asked for. They are doing the work of the Lord. They are obeying God, in their mind. I say this because I was in this bubble myself pretty deep. But God led me down a path of re-examining all these proof texts to see that they did not say what they were said to mean. He also showed me amazing scriptures that do describe the "work of God" which is the exact opposite of what I was led to believe while in the bubble. Why this very powerful bubble of tradition? It comes down to the unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil all working in sync to deceive those who aspire to holiness to consider holy what is actually unholy. They really want to obey, but just a convoluted form handed down to them by a previous generation who did the same thing and never tested it with the scriptures. Part of the convolution goes to the translation level of the Bibles we use that justify men claiming to be "rulers" so everyone else has to suck up and obey them. "Rule" and "obey" are bogus translations. Even if the new translation fixes it, the preacher still uses those words from the old translation to preserve their control to preserve their pay check, title, and elevated status.