With all this critiquing I am doing on the institution, I want to insert some objective thoughts about them along the way so I do not paint my self as being too short sighted. Withdrawing from the conventional church model and doing this organic church thing has given me the time and opportunity to reflect on all the negative dynamics that institutions can exert on people when it comes to life in general. But specifically, an application was intentionally being made to Kingdom stuff as well. These insights and applications are coming from several sources really.
First, there is my experience in the IC, along with the many experiences of other people I have had the privilege of conversating with along the way. As a person who has been employed by various IC's for 10 years, I have had the opportunity to see the institutional dynamics play themselves out on both ends of the spectrum's. Sort of a front row seat and a back stage pass if you will. Second, there is the book realm. I began to read books like The Social Construction of Reality, The Shaping of Things to Come, The Spider and the Star Fish etc. These books gave me a language to express a lot of the ideas running around in my head. They also served to open up new horizons, while at the same time focusing my attention on key elements of institutions.
Initially, I was all about critiquing the IC and institutions in general. I had the reactionary thing going on with a sort of cynical posture towards anything that smelled of institution. However, the more time I spend thinking about institutions, the more I am beginning to develop a more objective paradigm for the role of institutions in the Kingdom.
The foundations for this objectivity is, ironically enough, provided by the metaphor of The Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is to invade all aspects of life. It is an all encompassing action and presence in the world. Now think about this: Institutions are a reality of life and they are not going any where. They will always be around for a number of reasons. So if the Kingdom is to permeate all of reality, then there has to be something redeemable about institutions. As a neutral entity, they have the potential to be harnessed for Kingdom agendas.
So the real question becomes, how do we realign the institution to serve the needs of the Kingdom? This is a daunting question with many subheadings and footnotes. It is a necessary question none the less. We have to grapple with this if we are to be Kingdom people. We can not afford to withdraw into ideological communes where we mutually reinforce one another's ideas of organic, simple or house church ecclesiologies. We need to grapple with questions of organization, leadership and how these interact with organic systems, simple networks and the like.
My good friend Mickey has perceived God to have been taking us away from the institutional model so we can detox from the funk. He sees God doing this for the specific purpose of relearning what it means to be intimate with God and other people. After this crucial phase, we are ultimately repositioned in relationship to organization, structures, forms etc. Invested with new life from the Spirit, we can approach the "necessary evil" of organization with new eyes and new perspectives.
A sign of this new life can be seen in our struggle to find language to express what we see. We wrestling to find terms, phrases, and metaphors that adequately describe what this new angle we see. Really, what most of us are doing is taking concepts and principles found in sociology and anthropology and baptizing them into Christian dialogue. These concepts have already been plowed in the fields of sociology and anthropology. We just need to go and harvest them.
The institution and organization in general needs to be realigned and re framed from those who are already immersed in the organic model of being the church. It is out of a seasoned cycle of being in this organic environment that fresh, fruitful, and objective dialogue about this whole topic can be engaged. Everyone needs to detox and deconstruct the institutional beast within us. But after this tearing down has been done, we need to check out of the detox facility and re engage this vital topic of organization.
This engagement of organization will need to be in done in conversation with certain disciplines. Theological, ecclesiological, historical, along with anthropological and sociological fields need to be thrown into the mix for a well informed approach. This task will involve networking, a skill many of us are excited about developing and using.