What is the Institutional Church?

Pews in the church
Pews in the church

The institutional church is the collected group of Christians who don’t want a relationship with Jesus Christ on his terms, but on their terms. Therefore, they create and serve a false Christ which leads to bondage, a lack of power and a delusional mindset that believes he/she will inherit eternal life when in fact will be damned to hell if there’s no repentance.

The bible warned us about the institutional church explaining that it would be a Christian’s departure from the faith:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron … (1 Tim 4:1-2)

What is “the faith”? It is the true teachings of Jesus Christ, the foundation of what was originally taught. Anyone can open the gospels right now and hold it up against the mainstream teachings of Christianity and see that there’s been a deviation from the truth. And how did they deviate? Because they were seduced and led away by doctrines of demons. The bible continues to foretell:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2 Tim 4:3).

The institutional church is a group of people who desire teachings that appeal to their own lusts (or desires) — they’ve got itching ears waiting to be scratched. So the bible reveals that they were led away because they wanted to be! So it’s not just the church leadership who are at fault, it’s also the people themselves who lift up these false teachers. This is why it’s so hard to witness to people in the institutional church, most of them want to be there.

So why do they reject the message of Christ? Because Jesus’ message of self-denial is a hard thing to hear. Giving up fornication, the love of money and all other sinful pleasures is a hard message. Being taught that only the humble will make it into the kingdom of God is offensive demanding a change to many who live in pride. Hearing a message that commands you to forgive others or be rejected by God is too hard to bear for some. So men have taken the words of Jesus and added, twisted and downright removed them to suit their sinful lifestyles.

A form of godliness, but no power

With the desecration of the teachings of Jesus comes a lost of power. If you read the gospels and the book of Acts, you’ll find the believers had power to raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out devils, do miracles and, most importantly, overcome sin. But the institutional church has replaced the raw power of God with emotionalism, performance and light shows. This is why the bible also foretells:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Tim 3:1-5)

It says they will have a “form of godliness”. In other words: all the right religious talk and outward appearances, but no power. The institutional church is powerless over sin, powerless over demons, powerless to heal the sick, powerless to do all the things Jesus said believers in him would do (Mark 16:17-18). And why, because they denied the source of the power which is Jesus Christ.

Substituting Jesus and the consequences

Man’s natural inclination is to serve something — for we were created to worship. So when the true God comes to the human race and says this is the criteria for eternal life, these people rebel and say, “No, that doesn’t quite fit the way I want to live, Jesus, so I’ll do it my way” and they set up a false god in their minds and worship that instead of the real one. So because us all this, God has a response for the institutional church:

10because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12).

He says, “because you don’t love the truth, (which is Jesus Christ) and you have pleasure in unrighteousness, I will let the demons deceive you; you’ll gladly accept their false doctrines and you will be damned because of it!” God is not playing with these folks! And I don’t blame him. Here’s a holy God offering eternal life in holiness and these people reject it for their temporal, sinful desires?!! Well, it’s their choice.

An organization rather than an organism

The institutional church is often called the “IC” for short, the “False Church” and the “Babylon/Harlot Church” But the reason why it’s most commonly labeled “institution” is because of the meaning of the word:

An establishment consisting of a building or complex of buildings where an organization for the promotion of some cause is situated.

This church is organized by carnal men and women who don’t follow Jesus Christ. The real church is an organism rather than an organization or institution. You wouldn’t call a human being an organization, but rather a living organism. Therefore, the body of Christ is the same, an organism with its head as Jesus calling the shots and directing the body as he sees fit.

I want to make clear that the institution is a mindset and not necessarily a church building structure, or a denomination, although, emphasis on membership and attendance is apart of the ways of the institution. One could have church at home, online, within a segregated ministry and still be considered apart of the institutional church. The problem with the institutional church is its lack of obedience and faith in Jesus Christ.

A complicated Jesus bathed in legalism & Calvinism

2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Cor 11:2-4)

Paul warned us about a counterfeit Jesus, a counterfeit Holy Spirit and a counterfeit gospel message; and it’s already here! But it’s important to note the latter part of verse 4, that our minds can be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ which comes from those counterfeits.

What Paul is saying is: Jesus is simple, his message is simple but when things get complicated, you can know that some corruption has taken place. Religion is man’s bridge to God. Belief and obedience to Jesus is God’s bridge to himself. The institution’s religion falls into two categories:

Legalism is the set of doctrines that teach a person that they must work their way into Heaven — it’s all about what you do for God. God allows them into Heaven based off their amount of works. As long as the believer stays busy, “working for God” they will go to Heaven — this all gets really complicated; but Jesus says: Repent from sin, trust and obey me and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and conform you to my image – not follow a set of rules made by men.<

Calvinism is the set of doctrines that say you can do nothing to be saved. You have no choice or freewill. God elects you and that’s it, you will inherit eternal life no matter if you continue in sin. Many have subscribed to this belief because they don’t have to give up their sins. How far from the truth. Jesus died because sin was offensive and through his blood we can be cleansed. God didn’t create robots but men with choice. God only wants to fellowship with those who willingly love him.

You will know the institutional church by it’s works:

  • promotion of church activity over displaying the character of Christ
  • praising God rather than obeying God first
  • glorifying men as God rather than the true God
  • following emotions rather than the Holy Spirit
  • unifying the world or the things of the word with Jesus

It is a crafty, cunning, killing trap

The institute draws you in with the hopes of family, fulfillment, healing, salvation and a relationship with God – only to rob you of your gifts, suck you dry of your zeal, sexually or spiritually abuse you, kill your confidence, make Jesus look like a genie rather than a lord, and keep you distracted just long enough that you become worn out, complacent and comfortable. Then, when the truth comes, you’re too “fat” and lazy to get up and do anything about it.

It’s highly deceptive because it’s associated with the true God – not some random false god. The most deceptive lies are the ones mixed with truth. It’s the devil’s web for all those who don’t love God, the truth, or his ways, but still want to fill the spiritual holes in their souls with a god.

It is a test for God’s children

Many of God’s people are coming out of the institutional church and some are still there. Those there are naive, young in the faith, and haven’t yet tested the preacher’s sermons against scripture. These people can get free, but only if they love the truth.

We’ve all been deceived, but like a good shepherd, God will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). I was one of them who made the exodus from the institutional church. I asked God why he allowed me to be in such an abomination. He said it’s a test to see if my children really want the true Jesus or not.

If a person stays in the institutional church, it’s evident that they love the world and its iniquity rather than the righteousness and holiness of the true Jesus Christ. God may allow the devil to keep them deceived and they will be damned (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

The institutional church can be a group of people, an external ministry, a house church, or an assemble of people in a building. If you are apart of the institutional church, get out before it’s too late. God refers to the institutional church as a whorish wife and the following words he has for his people who are in her:

Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her (Rev 18:4).

Written by Neal Chester (Nealreal) and published November 20, 2009. If this was helpful, share it using the buttons below. If you'd like to redistribute this article in other ways, visit our terms for more information. For other inquiries, please contact us.