Church: Incarnation vs. Institution

In today’s sermon I contrasted an institutional view of the church with an incarnational view of the church. The diagrams below illustrate the differences in these models.

Note: this discussion was part of a broader sermon, so it might be helpful to listen to the sermon to gain the fuller context (theology –> philosophy –> methodology).

Here are some contrasts we drew:

  • An institutional model seeks to build members; an incarnational model seeks to build missionaries
  • An institutional model tends toward separatism (leave the world to go to church); an incarnational model teaches integration of faith and life (be the church in the world)
  • An institutional model has the goal of moving people up; an incarnational model has the goal of moving people out
  • An institutional model tends to breed consumers (member mindset); an incarnational model tends to breed contributors (missionary mindset)


Leave a Comment

  1. Bob – This was such a helpful sermon. It explains why some just can’t assimilate into an otherwise Gospel-preaching church that has an institutional model (practically-speaking). There are people that don’t want to belong, move up, separate or consume. I have assumed that my lack of involvement with (the institutional model) church was an obedience issue. More recently, I’m just sensitive to being defined by the church I attend for fear that it would harm my witness to non-Christians. How does a person know when they are bristling at the sub-culture (or model) of a church VERSUS being convicted by the Holy Spirit or simply avoiding transparency (which apparently isn’t an issue when blogging)? Also, isn’t my non-Christian friend, with whom I’ve had meaningful spiritual dialogs, part of the extended Coram Deo “greater-than sign”? Sweet. Thanks again.

    BTW – In our house, your dad’s a rock star, so it was great to see your folks Sunday. I thought he was at CD before Christmas, but that was just you wearing a red sweater.

Leave a Reply