Did God’s Plan Call For An Institutionalized Church

I was asked this question in my Church History class in college. Here was my response.

Did Jesus ever intend to create a full-blown organization complete with creeds, conflicts, denominations, and doctrines?

Shelley said it best when he said, “If He founded a society at all, they say, it was an invisible one, a moral or spiritual company; not an institution with rites and creeds.”1 I do believe that Jesus did not institute what we now experience as church. I believe not that the church is doing the mission wrong but that the church is not doing it well. Jesus never commissioned his disciples to build a building and present Him there. He never popularized a strategy as a come and see model. He commissioned his followers to go and do meaning take the gospel out into all nations and make disciples. He even exemplified this very structure.

We don’t disciple the way Jesus would. We give information to others. However, information does not bring about transformation. Living and working through life with each other brings about a heart transformation Jesus is looking for. The only way to fulfill the great commission is to carry out the great commandment, love God and love others. Doing life together, not church!

Now to say that the church does not have it’s place is to be reckless. The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia meaning “to gather” and even the writer of Hebrews said that we should not forsake the gathering (Hebrews 10:25). There is strength to be found in gathering and worshiping together. Jesus did gather with his followers as well as in the synagogues and temples so there is nothing inherently wrong with gathering. However gathering was not the purpose that Jesus had in mind. Scattering to make disciples was.

The come and see model creates an institution and fosters consumerism. It allows people to come take part in an empty tradition as evidenced in Amos 5:21-24, and supports an event driven ministry. I believe Jesus knew this. This is why he did life with his disciples rather than meeting with them once a week for discipleship training. Living life on mission is about living everyday full of intention of reaching others and discipling others in Christ. Intentional community is how the Church will battle the decline it has recently seen.2 Church is not a bad thing but it has the potential to present a lazy christianity.



1. Shelley, Bruce L.. Church History In Plain Language. Updated 2nd ed. Dallas, Tex.: Word Pub., 1995. (4)
2. Allen C. Hughes. “Renewing community in the American church.” . http://udini.proquest.com/view/renewing-community-in-the-american-pqid:1912694111/ (accessed June 9, 2014).


About Kevin Riner
child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged

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