THE CHURCH: Institutionalism vs. Kingdom of God

© 2016 by Wendy A. W. Berthelsen, presented at the NALC Mission Festival 2017

“Churches” or congregations are not purely “institutional” or “kingdom,” but tend toward one of the other.

Some things mentioned under “institutional” may be used effectively in the “kingdom” if they are subservient to “kingdom” values and dynamics.

Kingdom-and-Institutionalism Chart – Click here if difficulties with format on your device

Definition of


·         Organization

·         Institution

·         Building

·         Place

·         “Called Out Ones” (literal Biblical Greek Word for church)

·         Ordinary people called by Jesus, out to transform the world

·         Body of Christ, Body of Disciples, Family of God

Language ·         “I go to church”

·         Church is a “what”

·         “I am the church 24/7”

·         “We are the church 24/7”

·         Church is a “who”

Goal ·         Maintain and grow the organization ·         People…disciples bringing Jesus’ rule, reign, redemption and resurrection power to people, problems and places

·         Making and mobilizing disciples of Jesus through teaching and baptizing

Values ·         Organization’s activities and programs

·         Meeting members’ needs

·         Being nice

·         Prayer (talking/listening)

·         Holy Spirit

·         Call

·         God’s Word

·         Faith

·         Salvation

·         Renewal

·         Mission

·         Discipleship

·         Healing

·         Hope

·         Law and Gospel

·         Mutual accountability



·         “In” (focus on what happens inside of the walls ·         “In” for the sake of going “out”



·         Attendance, buildings, cash (“Butts, Buildings and Bucks”)

·         Growth of the organization

·         Analyzing and projecting organization’s numbers (on paper and in meetings)

·         Where is the rule and reign of Jesus increasing?

·         Fruit of the Spirit and Character of Jesus

·         Salvation of Souls (not people switching churches)

·         Individuals: Is the rule and reign of Jesus greater in one’s life than last year?


and Definition

of “Out”reach, Mission and Evangelism

·         Do something to “attract” more people “in”

·         Offering the right services and activities

·         Employing people who can perform and produce more people

·         Right location and type of building

·         Marketing, websites, social media, demographics

·         Waiting for people to arrive “in” and welcome them

·         Getting people involved “in”

·         Conclusion: Get more members!

·         Mission-Latin: “sent out”

·         Witness and sharing Gospel (repentance and forgiveness of sins) with those who don’t trust in Jesus

·         Healing our broken world and expectation of the miraculous from God

·         “I am a missionary 24/7” so, what is my mission field?

·         Sending and supporting foreign missionaries

·         Church planting and transplanting and city transformation

·         Bringing “Good News” where there is “bad news”

·         Making what is “Wrong” … “Right”

Jesus ·         Sometimes: allergic to “J” word (Jesus) ·         Jesus: “Only name by which we can be saved”

·         Still ALIVE and ACTIVE because of His resurrection

Source of

Power and Guidance?

·         Books, programs, or methodologies, especially the latest or trendiest

·         Copycat Church

·         Human excitement, enthusiasm, and energy

·         God’s Word: Written (Bible), spoken, revealed and in the flesh

·         Call and power of the Holy Spirit

·         Spiritual Vision: God revealing creative wisdom and the future

·         Earnest prayer

Discipleship ·         Offering Education and spiritual growth options

·         Sunday School

·         At “church”

·         Including children and youth options

·         DISCIPLE: Being transformed and trained as an apprentice of Jesus

·         Daily repentance and conversion

·         In the Word (Scriptures)

·         Spiritually formed through prayer and disciplines

·         Called by Jesus, 24/7

·         Inviting the Holy Spirit… continually

·         Producing and reproducing: More disciples and fruit

·         Living relationship with Jesus and His followers

·         Endlessly and to the End of Time: Know, Follow, Serve

Member ·         Name on a list to be tallied

·         Consumer of the church’s activities and services

·         Pew-sitters

·         Person with important “Part” in Jesus’ Kingdom purposes and empowered by the holy Spirit to be that “Part” and function 24/7

·         1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12

In Charge? ·         People ·         Living “Lord” God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
“Preacher” ·         Ordained pastor or priest ·         ALL followers of Jesus: a Preacher is a proclaimer of the Gospel

Priests, and


·         Those who receive wages or financial support for this role ·         ALL followers of Jesus are missionaries, priests and ministers

·         Missionaries (Latin: “sent”) – those “sent” by Jesus, 24/7

·         Priests 24/7 (from Latin: “Bridge-Builder”), see 1 Peter 2:5

·         Ministers (Latin: servants) Servants of Jesus, 24/7



The Gathered


·         Weekly worship services

·         Social gathering

·         Philanthropy: community service

·         Being nice to others

·         Offering activities and services to members

·         Word and Sacrament

·         Worship: Bowing down to the living God

·         Community: Healing, encouragement, and accountability

·         Saving, transforming, training and mobilizing ordinary people for Kingdom purposes

Operations ·         Operate like business or community organization

·         Methodologies: trendy programs, business plan; meetings; committees; finding the “right” structure, programs, location and kind of building; employing the “right” people; assigning tasks; schedules; timelines

·         Prayer, call of Jesus, and recognizing His Voice 24/7

·         Waiting upon the Lord

·         Spiritual vision revealed by God: Seeing with God’s eyesight

·         Calling and mobilizing ordinary people to be the Body of Christ

·         Inviting, equipping, and empowering of the Holy Spirit

·         Wise stewards

·         ALL: operating according to God’s Word

Structure ·         “Like it was done in the past”

·         Filling slots and getting people involved

·         Committees (or their equivalent)

·         Whatever is trendy

·         Form follows Kingdom function in the Body of Christ

·         Making unique “members” effective for the Kingdom, 24/7

·         ConclusionBlog for Oct 2: Every gathering of believers is unique

·         Unique structure that facilitates unique people, time, and place

Leadership ·         Most capable: Those with worldly success

·         Oftentimes business people

·         Top-Down

·         Control

·         Facilitating: Making others successful (bottom-up)

·         Most capable: Mature in Christ (any career)

·         Empowered by the Holy Spirit

·         “According to Scripture”: God’s Word, ways, and voice

·         Leadership, Spiritual Gifts

·         Reproducing oneself



·         Lead and run a successful organization

·         Preach and lead weekly services

·         Meet member’s needs

·         Omni-competency

·         Employee of the congregation

·         Tending the Flock: Word and Sacrament ministry

·         Lead using one’s unique spiritual gifts, ensuring the ongoing mission of Jesus happens within a gathering of believers

·         One part of the Body, called and set apart for a designated role

·         Mobilizing the Body of Christ to transform the world

·         Called by congregation in covenant relationship

Stewardship ·         Using time, talents, treasure for the sake of church organization (filling “slots” for “church” tasks)

·         Getting funds to meet the church budget needs

·         Tithing: A practice designed to get people to give more to church

·         Followers of Jesus wisely managing ALL that God has give to each of them, 24/7, and spending it according to God’s call

·         Generosity works against greed

·         Tithe: Giving one’s first and best 10% in thanksgiving to the living God who is the only Provider; practice initiated by God to keep people in the knowledge that He is their Provider


[from Pastor Ramey]

This chart is an interesting comparison/contrast between conventional “church” understanding and what the “kingdom of God” is all about. Circle the things that “stick out” to you: What needs to change at Resurrection to shift from “institutionalism” to “kingdom of God” thinking?