How Church Institutions Get in the Way of God's Mission
Too many Christian leaders make this mistake..
How is it that people outside the institutionalized church are sometimes better at furthering God's mission than the people who brand their organization as Christian?
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Jesus drew attention to the problem with a story. It’s not a new or uncommon problem:
Two leaders of the religious institution, a priest and a Levite, came upon a man who was beaten and left on the road to die. Both stepped around the wounded man without offering him help.
A man excluded from the institution came along. We know him today as the Good Samaritan. In his day, the institutionalized church excluded the Samaritan from fellowship. All Samaritans were held in contempt by God’s official church on the basis of their wrong theology. The church's official position was that Samaritans were bad--their theology was a threat to their institution's integrity.
In contrast to the church's position on Samaritans, it was the Samaritan who stepped up and saved the man’s life. And, he took it a step further, giving from his own financial resources to ensure he received the care needed for his recovery.
All in their right minds could see that the Samaritan had furthered God's mission by showing love to his fallen neighbor.
How is it that the church institution too often misses opportunities to further God's mission?
Many church leaders make a mistake. They assume that their primary role is risk management. Their priority is to protect the institution from internal and external threats. The church's mission takes a lesser priority, and opportunities are lost.
People are hardwired with a natural aversion to loss. Many times a day our brains are running calculations on costs versus benefits for each choice we're given. When we do the math, we always decide in favor of the option that seems to offer the greatest gain at the lowest cost.
Unfortunately, we often miscalculate the value of our potential wins and losses. Our gain is really our loss.
From the perspective of what the Bible calls "the flesh," the greatest value is placed in those things that give us immediate pleasure and cause the least pain. This mistake is seen in the priest and Levite.
What were they thinking? Their decision to leave the man lying wounded on the road suggests they had institutional business at the top of their minds. Perhaps they had a meeting to conduct, or a temple service to perform. Like many church leaders, their thoughts may have been on tending to the needs of sustaining their religious institution's operations.
They'd lost sight of their God-given mission.
From the perspective of what the Bible calls "the Spirit," the greatest value is found in offering peace to others and providing relief for their pain.
The Good Samaritan may not have started his day looking for someone to help. But, presented with the opportunity to render aid, he knew what he must do. He offered dignity to the broken man lying in the road and lifted him up. He provided care for his wounds and a place for healing.
God inspired a man outside the church institution with the mission that the church institution lost.
God's mission is the priority. The church's institutions and those who lead them must decide which priority is theirs--to protect the institution from loss, or to give everything for the mission.
If their priority is not God's mission, God will give it to someone else.
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