I found this in my inbox today as a part of a daily email sent by Richard Rohr. I found it quite powerful and as such I wanted to share it here in its entirety. Rohr's roots as a Franciscan Roman Catholic make this all the more poignant to me and I appreciate the balance and the perspective in his thinking about institution and institution of church.
He also communicates so well, in my opinion, a healthy appreciation of how the institution of church serves the Kingdom. I think this is an important message for many of my fellow pilgrims in search of healthy, relational, love centred ekklesia to realize that despite the challenges of the IC, we too have benefited from what she does well. While the big box form of Christian community may not be for all us, we must not dismiss it out of hand as many faithful, thoughtful and genuine people experience life within her – and yes, some very, very deeply. God can, does and is at work everywhere!
I do think however, even within the context of the IC, the "Deep Church" Rohr speaks of occurs in the twos and threes. The IC, like the coffee shops, family rooms and deliberately unstructured gatherings can provide a good context for these two's and three's to connect and to be Church in deep ways.
Jesus says that the Reign of God “is close at hand” (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17). So we should not project it onto a later or other world. The Kingdom of God breaks into this world whenever people act as God would act.
It is sad to say, but institutions as institutions can seldom operate at a Kingdom level—except in vision, philosophy, and mission statements, in corporate decisions they make now and then, and writings that stand over time. They can also raise up, educate, protect, and promote enlightened individuals, as many churches and organizations often do. There has to be a container to carry the message from age to age, or we all have to start at zero, so I am not so naïve as to think we do not need institutions.
When Big Truth can happen in terms of structures, organizations or groups, then you have a momentary taste of the true Kingdom descending to earth. This seldom happens with more than “two or three” rightly gathered (Matthew 18:20). It is the critical mass, or “leaven” and “salt” who can and will change the world and reform institutions. This is Jesus’ basic and first image of church. Nowhere is there found an institutional image of church as such. “Deep church” is invariably something shared between a small group of believers, which is probably why he speaks of “two or three gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:20).
Richard Rohr, Adapted from Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount, p. 110