What is the Institutional Church?

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Pews in the church
Pews in the church

The Institutional Church is the collected group of professing Christians who’ve erected their own Jesus in place of the real one.

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 saved11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie12 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).


About Nealreal

I'm a follower of Christ, a Bible teacher, a Hebrew, and a husband. I'm tasked with helping people understand and enter the kingdom of God.

32 Comments

  1. Praise God Neal. This is the truth and is very well written. Thank you for sharing it with me. We all need to remember our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spirits that bring this deception and fake Christianity. Love our neighbors by telling them the truth about God.

  2. Thank you for this article. I’d like to read what you suggest instead institutional church…

    1. Jesus Christ — that’s what I suggest. Lots of people are coming out of the IC only to find that it’s difficult to find another church home. I believe God wants us first to detox from the filth put in our souls from the IC and then learn to follow him according to his standards. As you do that, I’d suggest gathering with others who’ve left the IC and be the church as God intended it to be outlined in his word.

  3. As a pastor, I found this information to be extremely helpful in teaching my congregation. I appreciate this greatly. God Bless!

  4. bless you for this great insight is a mind opening to me and will teach on it to get the churches to Aline herself for the end time harvest again bless you

  5. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I wrote this myself! 🙂 I have something called the 4’d’s where it comes to churchgoers: the deceived, (which I once was) the deluded, the derailed and the diabolical. We have a similar ministry. There may be ways that we can work together. 518-477-5759

  6. It’s becoming difficult for me to find a good church that preaches the truth, and not watered down or conformed to the modern world. A church I have recently attended seemed like a place to socialize, and play popular music (not all Christaian music). Also in their singles group, they said for us to date many people to “test the waters.” I didn’t agree with that, and that is not in the Bible. I don’t know what church to attend, or if I should keep attending.

  7. Man, I thought it was just me!! Being southern baptist in the Deep South, it has been hard to understand what God has been revealing to a few of us the last few years. We thought we were suppose to reform the Church, tell others in the IC, but man they swore us as enemies. Thank you for this glorious read.

  8. Thank God,
    I too have been seeing he same problems crop up around the local churches. Especially when you begin to teach Scriptural Truth. Where I live many are not interested in truth only having their emotions fed. Thank you for speaking out.

  9. My husband and I left our local church when the fellowship and leadership didn’t like me pointing out the heresy of one of their favorite “apologetic” authors. We tried many other local churches, but each one had a problem with false teaching. As you say, we must follow Jesus Christ, be in His Word and obey it. I also appreciate your definition of Calvinism. Only the can also be very legalistic. We have been set free from sin to serve the living God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit empowering us to obey His Word. God bless us.

    1. @Eliza Yes, Calvinist can also be very legalistic as well. Glad to see you’ve been set free.

  10. What a fantastic, spot-on article! It’s so encouraging to know that there are others in the body of Christ who see the institutional church for what it really is. I also greatly appreciate your pointing out that the IC “mentality” is not exclusive to a traditional church structure, but that it can permeate a home church just as easily! Great article; thanks for sharing!

  11. I have not attended church for over a year now. I was an active member of a church. My problem with the pastor started in Sunday school. The Sunday school teacher was teaching on the Levitical Priesthood and tithes.
    I told him that we all are preast once you confess, accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour and is baptised.
    I also told him that, in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ we are exhorted to give without measure, hence no more tithe.

    That was when the pastor became uncomfortable with me. I was warned not to discourage others from paying tithe if I don’t want to pay. One thing led to the other and i left the church. While all these was going on, some of the elders who knew the truth kept silence; some even came to me in private to lecture me on authority and why i should not challenge it.

    Many are of the belief that these so called men of God are called by God therefore whatever they say are from God, hence even if they are wrong , that it is only God that can correct or call them to order. I cannot function in that type of institution in the name of church.

    God does not dwell in a house built by human hand. My heart is His temple, hence i must make it His dwelling place by leaving a Holy and righteous life, obedience to His word which is better than sacrifice and also know that my works cannot serve me.

  12. Your summary at the top of the article sums it up perfectly: we too often want a church that follows OUR agenda (conservative/liberal, feminist, pro-homosexual, emotionally-led, etc.) rather than God’s. It’s so hard for we moderns to check-in our egos at the door and let Jesus do his work. I’ve been through the mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches and found exactly what you talk about. Now I’m just with a small “home” church of genuine bible-believing Christians. So refreshing! Carry on your great work, Neal!

    1. I feel that prayer is the power house of the real church. When people stop praying they use religion to feel the gap in their lives. Thanks for explaining the signs of a back sliden church so well…

  13. I’ve wrestled with this idea for years. I appreciate your words; there’s some good food for thought there. You said “… 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.'” That’s an accurate statement, but it can also apply to how one approaches the Bible, and to those who decide to leave an IC. When I was converted the thing that struck me almost immediately was how “church people” act (at church) for an hour on Sunday, and the fact that NO ONE acts like that outside the church Mon-Sat. I suppose my biggest issue is Hebrews 10:25. I know the IC likes to misuse that verse to affirm their existence, but whether it is actually referring to the IC or not, the fact remains that it is a Biblical mandate. If you don’t gather together at an IC, then where? Where else do you find members of the true body to fellowship with? Almost everyone my wife and I know calls themselves a “Christian” and a few actually attend an IC. But any serious discussion about Christianity, or God, or Jesus is ALWAYS, ALWAYS avoided like the plague – UNLESS you’re in the safety of an IC

  14. I appreciate your article. I belong to a church now that has grown into a theatre style sanctuary, bistro area, children and youth areas with video games. There have been gatherings on the outside of the Church with worldly music and youth events with youth doing worldly dances to worldly music. There is plenty of teaching at the church and I am in a class now that is absolutely teaching the Word of God; however its like the church looks into the mirror and walks away and forgets what it looks like. There are effeminate males singing in the choir, masculine females ushering, I mean sin is running rampant and everyone seems to be in a deep sleep. I am in search of a church home that believes in HOLINESS unto GOD. I definitely belong to the Institutional Church, Jesus I want to be Free. I live in Houston, Texas if you know of any True Church please, help.

  15. Wow thanks I’ve always knew something was wrong I didn’t belong since I started staying at home and searching my eyes are wide open. Your talk on the this conformed what I felt keep it up.

  16. This was a great read. I was woken up by The Holy Spirit during a service . But before my awakening I would always question pastors on their theology and their sermons using scripture . They never had a answer . it was always learn how to submit , loosen my pride , learn how to serve and quilt tripping me because I didn’t have a father in my home. I instantly felt the Lord sharing with me how they use manipulation and comfort to deceive which is witch craft.

    I started doing a whole lot of studying and even read the Bible from cover to cover a few times.

    I instantly became knowledgeable on all the pagan and unbiblical traditions being kept inside the building.

    I have outcastes by former brothers ,friends , and so called believers . Their loyalty to the building and fellowship is more crucial than being achored in Christ and in truth .

    Lately I started fasting and becoming really confused . The Lord would always give me dreams and visions . I know emotions are connected to the flesh which can be very devieving , bUt I became used to feeling the presence of God around me .. He brought me this joy and peace . Lately I haven’t felt the feeling, the dreams and visions aren’t as prevelant , and I started questioning what’s going on.. Because I def needed clarity on life changing decisions !

    Im currently cleansing my body and dedicating my spirit and more time with him to go deeper into intimacy with Father !

  17. Can you explain why so many churches today are using a symbol like this > either up, down, or to the left or right.
    What does this mean?

    It seems many churches where I live use the word “point” also.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      You’d have to send me a link with some visual examples. However, if a majority of churches are presenting similar styles of marketing, it’s because they’re being led by the same spirit.

      1. Thanks Neal, please take a look at these website and the logos/symbols used, pay special attention to the photos on the bottom right of the very last link, and notice how there are three triangles hovering within the body of the congregation.

        stjamescmbc.org
        pointaustin.org
        highpointeaustin.org/home
        gracepointaustin.org

        Thank you!

        1. Well, it looks to be some occult symbolism going on. Most mainstream churches are not churches of Christ, but of the world.

  18. Thanks Neal, I knew it had to be that, just wanted your input. It’s so sad and scary downright depressing. I feel bad for the people going to these establishments as they are being fooled. I’m sure many of them have good hearts and are also seeking truth. The primary thing I feel people need is to study the Bible for themselves and not look to a human being on a large stage full of lights and emotionally charged music to make them feel good. I try to spread the word via my social media, but no one seems to listen or ever comment on what I post. But I will continue to keep striving to be Bold for God.

    1. While it seems that a lot of people are deceived today, they’ve been given over to it because they don’t love the truth. Yes, there are some who are blinded, but the rest are delusional and placed under a delusion by God himself because they kept rejecting the truth. While you spread the word via social media, be led by the Spirit because you can end up wasting your time on some people who’ve been given over to deception and delusion. 2 Thess 2:11 tells what God is doing to people in this last hour. Be blessed, Lisa.

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