Second Systemic Problem: An Institutional Worldview
An institutional worldview inhibits
disciple-making as well as innovation. The Temple and the Sanhedrin were
institutions in the days of Jesus; modern denominations exhibit this hereditary
The generation that survived World War II understood the power of institutions;
the generations that followed mistrust institutions.
Institutions call for sacrificial conformity for the sake of the community and
the greater good.
Modern generations seek personal fulfillment and authentic supportive
community. Many approaches to change involve redecorating the surface of
institutions with a veneer of postmodern innovation, similar to creating a
sports car powered by a steam engine. The attraction paradigm leads churches
today to attempt to attract a generation that rejects institutions by creating
an oxymoron, a “hip institution.”
 The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html. In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through CreateSpace.com.
   
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.
One could call an institutional worldview “the leaven of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6, 11-12).
Cf. Craig Kennet Miller, Ministry in the Postmodern Age, http://www.gbod.org/generation/ articles/postmodern.html (accessed June 18, 2007). Craig Kennet Miller, From Generation to Generation, http://www.gbod.org/generation/articles/generation.html (accessed June 18, 2007).
Most churches today exist in tension on a continuum between a denominational central authority (a Vatican) attempting to command and control rampant Congregationalism, where the local church functions as its own Vatican; both are institutional ecclesiologies. “Wesley’s theology provides third alternatives to ‘all the barren polarities generated by centuries of polemics.’” Weems, Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit, 85. Wesley’s “third alternative” to the polarities of an institutional ecclesiology is a systemic, network based paradigm he called “connectionalism.”
The attraction paradigm is perfectly satirized as “Catholicism Wow!” in Kevin Smith, Dogma, DVD (Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures, 2002). Steve Lansingh’s review included the following: “Does the movie have anything to say to the community of believers? I believe so, although the message arrives more like an indictment than encouragement. For example, Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) unveils a promotional campaign called “Catholicism Wow!” in order to attract parishioners, which includes retiring the crucifix and replacing it with “buddy Jesus” — a cartoonish Jesus giving a big wink and a thumbs-up sign. Nothing in the film made me laugh harder than the absurd buddy Jesus, and nothing convicted me so forcefully.” Cf. Steve Lansingh, “Dogma: ‘Smile, God Loves You!’” Christianity Today, November 15, 1999.