Navigation key

The Article Archives

How Institutionalism Inhibits our Expectation of the Supernatural

February 18, 2013
S. Michael Craven
tweet this  share this on facebook  

By reducing our conceptions of the church to an institution or organization to be managed, there often follows a decreased expectation of the supernatural in the affairs and activities of the church and, by extension, the individual Christian. Rather than seeking results beyond our human schemes and expectations, we find ourselves managing the church as an enterprise in which results can be forecast and progress measured using metrics common to modern business. The watchword becomes “measurable results,” without which an activity is deemed unworthy of pursuit or, if implemented, unsuccessful. Lost is the concept of faithfulness to our Lord and the principles of his kingdom, which may not always yield success in terms visible to us.

This, I think, is why “making disciples” is often exchanged for proselytism—because conversions are more easily measured than spiritual growth. The result can be evangelistic efforts and campaigns that are aimed at obtaining professions of faith, which as we now know are often nothing more than assent to a set of ideological propositions. This might explain why seventy-seven percent of American adults claim to be Christian and yet a mere four percent agree with the most basic tenets of the Christian faith. In the absence of true spiritual growth—in which our conceptions of reality are informed by Scripture—we can remain immature in our understanding and practice of the Christian faith.

Additionally, conversion through mere intellectual assent may remain devoid of real spiritual transformation. In the absence of an incarnational experience, one is left with an understanding of being Christian as merely following a set of do’s and don’ts—a life of self-reliant sin management. The unhealthy institutionalization of the church only reinforces this false notion, thus perpetuating a false understanding of what it truly means to follow Jesus.

Lastly, institutionalization has a dramatic impact on our expectations of the office of pastor. Instead of shepherd, the pastor is expected to function as the CEO—the person primarily responsible for the so-called success of the organization. As a shepherd, the pastor is devoted to the spiritual well-being and maturity of the flock. This is an activity beyond the scope of measurable metrics. In contrast to task-oriented church leaders, the pastor who shepherds a faith community through the competent exposition of the Scripture in a spirit of self-sacrificial service to those entrusted to his care leads a flock that thrives.

Sadly, the institutional mind-set has little patience for such pastors who invest more in the spiritual growth of their people rather than the numerical growth of the congregation. This might explain why only one out of ten men who enter the pastorate today will survive until retirement. This is an appalling statistic that reveals unhealthy expectations, which when unmet result in the pastor being kicked to the curb. I can’t imagine Jesus treating people the way we frequently treat those who have been called to preach the gospel!

© 2013 by S. Michael Craven

Back to Top

Response from : Greg Williams  

February 18, 2013 11:28 AM


Thanks again for another excellent article on the 'state of the Church' in our culture! One of the most succinct and compelling articles I've read and very prophetic! Praying for you and God bless in Christ!

Response from : Susan Pena  

February 18, 2013 12:27 PM

Great article! I have known this in my heart for a while now and you have put it into words. I am so sad that our church leaders have chosen to rely on business like techniques instead of the spirit of God. I am just a sheep of one of these flocks and I am confronted with a question. What can I do? I know I have to start with prayer but then what. I don't want to leave my church; I feel that all the churches are the same to one degree or other. Thank you for so clearly stating what is happening now.

Response from : JKWilliams  

February 18, 2013 1:43 PM

While I don't disagree with this article there are some things that need to be better informed. It is true that the institutionalization of the church has produced a ministry that is rather self seeking and lacks compassion. There is a lack of true spiritual connection, and in reality no or little church growth...even churches who want a ceo rather than a pastor. Some of the fault lies with pastors who consider themselves the ONE in charge and make demands on the congregation that are unreasonable or unthinkable. A true church grows numerically because the members are growing spiritually. These two things go hand-in-hand. What we have these days are pastors who preach a self help gospel that has no substance. No substance equals no growth either spiritually or numerically. So, while some of the blame goes to the congregation, there is equal if not more blame to be placed on the pastoral staff. I'll take my share of the blame as a Bible Study leader. That is only right. But, there should be some examination of how the pastorate is being handled these days as well. By the way' I am a preacher's kid who has stayed faithful to the call God has given me as a believer.

Response from : David Rupert - The High Calling  

February 20, 2013 12:58 PM

Michael, i feautured one of your articles here -- And I have several more over the following weeks. Blessings, David Rupert, Newsletter Editor, The High Calling


Return to topics Return to articles
Back to Top

Respond to This Article

Form Authentication: 

Refresh the page if  
image does not appear  

Please enter the form validation code
you see displayed above.

Your Information:
You must include your full name. Submissions that do not include both first and last names will not be posted.



Email Address:


Respond to This Article:

Your comments will be reviewed and either approved or denied publication.


Back to Top

Navigation Key

 Return to topics
 Return to articles 
 Read article with responses 
 Respond to this article