I was reading a few interesting blog posts today and came across a call for input. Here's the opinion I volunteered:
"Churches are human institutions and to address the problem of church (small 'c') we must address both of its components: humanity, and institutionalism.
One of these components (humanity) will always be broken by sin until the second coming. That's not to say we give up hope on humanity, but it is to say that changing human nature is Christ's territory, not ours. Our efforts toward improving 'church' will be better spent on the other component; institutionalism.
Human institutions embody the characteristics of the people who comprise them, and churches are no different. Because of human nature people are sometimes gracious, sometimes critical; sometimes selfless, sometimes selfish; sometimes innocent, sometimes corrupt; sometimes transparent, sometimes guarded; sometimes honest, sometimes manipulative. All these inputs go in one end, and out the other comes a speckled identity the whole world over that we're forced to call 'church'.
Trying to maintain an institutional identity can sometimes work for companies and organizations; they emphasize positive customer experiences and product improvement and generally impact only a tiny fraction of an individual's life. For 'church' to attempt this masquerade is an instant invitation to criticism. Episode after inevitable episode of hypocrisy is illuminated for the world to see, exposing the difference between what 'church' hopes to be and what it really is.
And here lays our solution.
People have a very different type of relationship with other individuals than they do with institutions. People are forgiving of other people; understanding of their faults and weaknesses. A relationship between two people is give and take and frustration and harmony; it's messy and real, and that's the way it's supposed to be. I don't want that sort of relationship with an institution. Institutions won't receive that kind of grace from me.
The only way to overcome the weaknesses of 'church' is to discard the institution altogether. Let the REAL Church (big 'C') replace human institutions with human relationships, one by one, two by two, four by four -- at the leading of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, let the Spirit continue to work through institutions despite themselves, or let them limp along until they become irrelevant. Unless my history is incorrect, the Church thrived and grew at a faster rate -- even under oppressive persecution -- prior to the invention of institutional church by Constantine (~400 A.D.?) than it ever has since"