Dependency: not just a “substance” issue

Very often, I think about what is being termed “simple/house/organic” church.  I’m persuaded that many who are content in institutional churches may not understand what it is that makes their churches (more or less) institutional.  They may even bristle inwardly at the suggestion that their churches are more organizations than organisms.

Aside:  a church that believes it is nondenominational may in fact resemble a full-blown denomination.  The noticing of this resemblance can cause similar resistance, excuses, and concocted explications, but the alarm doesn’t negate the resemblance.

Once or twice a month, posts from Roger Thoman’s blog come to my inbox.  Thoman is not a particularly active writer, and I suspect he is more engaged in living out “simple church” than he is in writing about it, yet I infer that he feels a sense of responsibility to share thoughts periodically.  Personally, I would have much the same bent without having read Thoman, but he has helped to form my thinking with some well-placed words in recent years.

From time to time, I have republished Thoman’s thoughts.  (This link will bring you to a listing of prior posts.)  Before giving you a link to a recent post of his, I’m spotlighting some thoughts from the article that I find the most salient. . . .

I think people today have trouble being who they really are because as social creatures we live in a hierarchical world in which we’re highly dependent on others.

. . .

. . . In other words, at some level we are comfortable with hierarchical structures because they meet our need for external affirmation and approval.

As long as we need our approval and identity to be affirmed by externals, we will likely create hierarchical type systems to be part of–even in simple/house church models.  As long as we need our approval and identity to be affirmed by others, we will probably relate wrongly to spiritual authority including genuine, servant, spiritual authority.

The answer, therefore, is not simply to reject forms of church that are hierarchical.  Nor is the answer to reject community all together.

. . .

In other words, just attempting to come out from under “hierarchical, unbiblical church structures” does not get to the root of the issue. . . .

Emphases in bold are mine, not Thoman’s.

To read the full post, click here:  Roger Thoman:  Hierarchies Create Dependency

2 thoughts on “Dependency: not just a “substance” issue

  1. John Eoff 11/28/2015 / 4:24 pm

    Brian, there is no confusion over what is institutionalized and what is not. There is no blending of shades. Any group of people either constitute an institution or they do not. If the group forms an institution then the institution which is formed can do deeds. It can buy, sell, hire, fire, dictate laws and bylaws, determine terms of entry and exit, etc. etc. It can have a bank account, own property, conduct commerce, etc. etc.. Some things are limited by government laws, requiring incorporation to perform certain acts but any body or group of people which performs any action or conducts any business is an institution. Probably most “home churches” are institutions, no different, other than in name than churches of any other nature. Out called people are simply out called people until and unless they form something of themselves other than individuals. When they form something else they must assign it a name to distinguish it and identify it as the perpetrator of any of the activities it undertakes. There is nothing in the New Testament which can create such an entity. All institutions, no matter to what extent they are “institutionalized” or “denominated” are external from new testament formation or teaching.


    • Brian Casey 11/28/2015 / 5:35 pm

      My experience in communicating with others suggests you may be talking with a different set of people than I am. The blank or agitated looks in people’s eyes tell me they are confused; they have no idea they are in institutional groups. They don’t know what I’m talking about sometimes. You may understand the pitfalls better than I, but you and I would find “institutional” under most of the same rocks. There absolutely *is* confusion — in most other Christians, at least. But you’ve given some good hallmarks of “institutional” here.

      I have been in more than one group that doesn’t resemble an institution much at all. I guess I can live with 5-10% institutional. Shoot — most private households are a lot more institutional than that!

      The concern in a group that’s *not* very institutional may be there, but it’s more transparent to most eyes:

      Is there an unhealthy sort of dependency at work in a good, informal group, or not? (Most of the time, in my observation and opinion, there is some measure of dependency at work, but at its best, a moderate amount of dependency is *inter*dependent *accountability … *”iron sharpening iron,” no?

      Are the people simply the “out-called ones” who happened to be together for this or that purpose? Sometimes, that’s all it is, and I wish you could have been in some of these groups so you’d believe me. 🙂

      At the risk of offending you (nah, I know you don’t offend easily), I’m going to append something here. I once had a boss who came from what he thought was “our” background. He was mistaken, in large part. Hailing from West Texas, he overestimated the similarity of our Restoration backgrounds. He assumed that I, despite being raise in a more melting-pot part of the country, was as narrow as many West Texas fundamentalists tend to be. His narrow experience of CofCism, I believe, led to his not believing I could possibly have an ounce of spiritual insight within me.

      I don’t know when you started down a different path, but all this is to say that you may not have any idea how wide my experience has been, compared to most Texans with “our” background! I believe some groups can be good groups. And I’ll wager you’ve been in some good ones, too. I’m including the fishing talks w/your friend here!


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