Movement or Institution, Which are You Part of?


“I don’t like change in the church.” I hear this statement and several like it from churchgoers across our nation. Even, “We don’t need change in the church.” Are these truly valid statements? In my opinion, no, they are not valid. The fact is since its onset the New Testament Church has been an agent of change for the culture. Even before the initiating of The New Testament Church Jesus upset the applecart of the Jewish religion – all religions.

I love the wording Erwin McManus uses, “Jesus deconstructed the religion of Israel and ushered in the religion of God.” We must admit a fundamental characteristic of The New Testament Church is uncompromising change. Jesus’ ministry pointed out the heresies of the people’s religion trading the word of God for the traditions of Man.

The early church was birthed out of Jesus’ transformational ministry. If you still are not convinced that the early church was about change, consider one of their actions. Saturday for centuries was the sabbath, a day of rest and worship. Even before they were known as a church, the earliest of believers set not Saturday, but Sunday as their day of worship. Why? Were they trying to anger the religious leader even more? No. They chose Sunday because it was the day Christ rose from the dead. Christ’s mission was not completed on Friday’s cross, nor in Saturday’s tomb. It was on the third day, (our) Sunday, Resurrection Day. With this one move, the early church has influenced worship culture ever since.

These early believers were not considered a church until years after Christ’s return to heaven. They were simply known as The Way. I like that term. The Way indicates progress, forward advancement. The Way is a movement. Today’s church has become an institution. I personally do not believe God ever intended the church to become an institution.

Some call marriage an institution. While the bride is part of the marriage, she is not the institution. Neither should the bride of Christ be considered an institution. I believe God’s intent for the church was not to be an institution, but a movement, as initiated in the opening chapters of the book of Acts.

An institution is a fixture, an established (fixed in place) organization. Or a place of confinement (as asylum). Either way, I do not believe God ever intended His New Testament Church to be an institution.

A movement is the activities of a group of people to achieve a specific goal. For the New Testament Church would that read, every step we take is to fulfill The Great Commission as the Bridegroom, Jesus, stated?

True, God may have instituted the church. That is, He established its origin, He initiated its existence for His purpose and cause. But He never reconciled the church as an institution.

Thinking in terms of the church as a movement, what are your first words to God today in regards to the way you have perceived His bride and your role in His movement? What will you change?

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at

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