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Thursday, May 3, 2012

How To Recognize Institutional Christianity

How To Recognize Institutional Christianity

A few years back before we ever heard of the term "institutional" Christianity, the closest thing to that was the  mysterious ecclesistical structures of Catholicism and some other groups. Words like "prelate", "parish", "diocese",  abbots, monestaries, and others were shrouded in obscurity. Since we read our Bibles fairly regularly, and found none of those terms in Holy Writ, we  brushed them off as non-relevant to our spiritual reality.

As my wife and I became more involved with our Pentecostal denominational church, we became familiar with our own SectionsDistrictsRegionsDistrict PresbyterSuperintendentsGeneral Superintendent, the UPC General Boardand other "officials". 

Like our Catholic brethren we nodded and blithely accepted these positions andtitles as "normal" and the way things were done.  Our focus was more on getting people baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost than it was pondering the ecclesiastical structure we were part of.
Without us being remotely aware of it, we had become part of the Institutional Church.
(referred to as the IC)

Because we loved God and His Word, to us it was not even in our conversation although as licensed ministers with the organization, we attended District Conference meetings, Ministerial fellowships, but never attended the Holy Grail called "General Conference" held every year. 

Later in the corporate life of our beloved church, we were led by the pastor into becoming a State Registered, 501c3non-profit organization called a "church", and recognized by the IRS as such.
(BTW. the pastor profited very nicely from the corporation. He appointed the board, and he came up with the By-Laws which governed our assembly. He was also the only one on the payroll and personally administered the checking accounts. We found out we also had a "church charter".  

In other words, we were now a corporation, i.e. a legal entity!
Our legal name was "Life Challenge, Inc." 
We were also licensed by our city as we owned and occupied a commercial building down town.  Because we were a 501c3 tax-exempt corporation called a "church", we needed to have a CEO, Secretary, and Church Board. I was a member of the board. In addtion, we now had a dozen pages of BY-LAWS and "Membership" requirements.

Because we were a 501c3, non-profit "church", tax-exempt status, and our "contributions" to the corporation that was called Life Challenge Church, "donations" could now be recorded for tax-deductions from the IRS.
BTW, "donations" were a mandatory 10% for voting members. Corporation members agreed to abide to church By-Laws and rules governing the assembly which included voting rights, tax-deductions, and the expectation of finncial commitment

Leadership requirements were spelled out in the membership Rules and included signed agreement to pay a 10% tithe and 5% offering. 
As we morphed into an independent "Evangelical, Inter-denominational"assembly after leaving the denomination, we modified the corporation  and membership rules
Still, as is very common, the pastors family remained in sole control of spending (general fund) and the tithe account. The 10% tithe requirement remained, as well as a modified "loyalty" pledge for anyone in ministry ranging from Sunday School teachers to Choir. Board members had an unwritten expectation to be solid financial supporters.

Next, as the church grows into a structure, DEPARTMENTS are formed and people are given TITLES for their departments. "Benevolent Ministry", Women's Auxillary", "Food Ministry" Childrens Ministry, Music Ministry, "Video Ministry", "Sound or Audio Ministry", "Youth Ministry", "Women's Ministries" are a few examples of various departments that are represented. 

We sat in on many of these meetings, as well as our Corporate BOARD meetings where the Pastor CEO oversaw the TreasurerSecretary, and Board Members. As a Board of Directors, we oversaw the church operations and conducted business meetings.

Typical Church Government
In the IC world, the hierarchy structure of authority works like or similar to this in the LOCAL assembly:
  1. (Bishop. -sometimes a titled Bishop may have some authority over the pastor. He may be part of the assembly, a semi-retired minister, or an out-of-town person of importance.) 
    pastors wife, and or associate pastors               
     (and their Head(s)elders
    official members
    regular attendees
In some churches like this:
     2. Church Board
          assistant pastors or associate pastors
          attendees and visitors

And in some: Pastors family run the church.
Complete control, ownership, and administration by the pastor and his family. (See our article "Nepotism: the Family church")
A retiring pastor may install his son or son in law as pastor and retain control behind the scenes.
Family members may be salaried, become Youth Pastor, or other "plum" positions within the assembly whether they are scripturaly qualified or not.

Of course, there are variations many

In the hierarchy, there may be either a Bishop over the pastor, or a titled denominational position. Sometimes the lines of authority are blurred, overlap, or not clear.

The folks in the pew that just go to a "church" to worship God most likely have no idea of who or how the church is "run".
The church corporation may even have a President, Vice President, CEO, CFO, Secretary-Treasure, Board, etc. Not only do "churches" run this way, but so do most, if not all famous "ministries". 

So there is a definite "business side" to most ministries. Some for better, some for worse. When writing "The Tithe That Binds" God told me to go find out about 501c3 church organization. I was shocked, and you should be also! 

Here is one of many sites that explain this agreement with the "beast", our government and the IRS.
That's right kiddies, there is an excellent chance YOUR church and favorite ministry is married to a kingdom run by Satan.

But because "churches" do not openly disclose this in their advertising or in the Sunday brochure-program, it takes a little more effort by asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS from the smiling people.

Do you have a church board?
Are you 501c3 registered so our donations may be deducted on our taxes?
Who is the head of this church?
Can I see the "Rules for Members"? 
What Departments do you have? Childrens? Benevolent? Food Pantry?
Are there written "leadership requirements" ?
Is the pastor on a payroll and or taking tithes for his support?

That is more than enough, there are plenty more, but they will get suspicious real fast when you ask intelligent questions. 
 -Or you can play it safe and just ask  if they have Sunday School, a Nursery,  and what time is the evening service...

Politics and financial manipulation and shennanigans abound in these structures, especially the family run types.   People, including pastors,  take carnal ownership of ministries, positions, titles, and people. The Organization takes on a life of its' own and begins to exist for its' own comfort, name, and purpose. 
The church also becomes controlling and threats real or percieved  are cause for damage control, mind and thought control, manipulation, and loyalty enforcement. 
Protecting ones turf and position are very important especially when ones ministerial livelihood is involved.

We know, because we saw and participated in that process.

Formerly loved and cherished brethren may find themselves suddenly outside, margianlized, avoided, or expelled. -sometimes in the wake of misunderstanding mis-communications, and mis-reported words.
The Institution is what must be preserved....

Now go back and look at the words highlighted in red, these reveal the nature and characteristics if the IC.  The majority of these have absolutely nothing to do with scripture EXCEPT where Jesus warned "beware of the leaven of Herod".

  If you think God is happy with these institutions, understand these are the structures supporting the "Nicolaitane error which I hate". -Jesus said twice in Rev. 2, and are houses "built on sand".