Every church falls somewhere on the continuum between missional and institutional. However, the fact that the vast majority of churches in the United States are either plateaued or in decline would indicate that there are far more institutional churches than missional. One of the primary jobs of leaders is to keep pushing the church in missional directions and resist the temptation to move into the comfort zone of the institutional.
Institutional churches place an emphasis on organization and status quo at the expense of other factors. Common characteristics of institutional churches include the following:
- A focus on themselves
- Love of meetings, boards, committees and bureaucracy
- Guarding of the status quo
- Resistance to innovation
- Inward rather than outward focused
- Infighting and power struggles
- Live in the comfort zone
- Few spiritual conversions
- Threatened by strong missional leadership
- Change resistant
- Lots of rules
- Self reliant
Most sadly, they usually live with the allusion that all is well!
Missional churches on the other hand have a deep and abiding commitment to the great commission (more believers and better believers) and that mission always comes first and is the driving force of all energy, direction, funding and personnel. Their characteristics are very different from the institutional church:
- Leadership is about the future. They celebrate the past but are always reinventing the future whereas institutional churches worship the past and want the future to look like the past.
- Understand the mission of the church: more believers, better believers
- Are outward focused
- Flexible in methodology
- Empower everyone to be involved in ministry in line with gifting and wiring
- Regularly innovate
- Have little bureaucracy: The structure serves the mission
- Have great trust
- See significant fruit
- Have an attitude of “Whatever it takes.”
- Few rules
- Allow leaders to lead
- Keep the main thing the main thing all the time
- Spirit empowered
When you think about it, Jesus was all about mission while the Pharisees were all about institution. It makes one think...