I would like to provide some context for the previous post's discussion. It seems to me that, in some ways, we are debating the question: "just how sinful are the institutional church's structures" and thus "how harsh should we be in judging it?"
I suggest we look at how we deal with "sin" on a personal level and the stages that we go through.
In our process of growth, there comes a time when God awakens us to the ugliness of a particular "sin" in our life. We suddenly become aware of how destructive and diabolical that area of our life has become. At this stage, as we begin to emerge from the lifestyle involving that sin, we see that sin everywhere, we are convicted by it, we are horrified by it. We become people who rant and rave at the sickness and terribleness of that sin.
Then, as we find freedom in that particular area, we find ourselves no longer in that "reactionary" place... in fact, we simply begin to go on with our life and don't concern ourselves as much with that "sin" area because we are free of it and we are now busy building new and healthier patterns.
Finally, we get to the stage where we realize that we are not, and never will be, completely free from that sin. We have come out of some of the most destructive elements from it, but we humbly recognize that the "bentness" of that sin is within us and we know that we walk in a measure of freedom only by the grace of God. We are freed up, to a degree, from the sin but we don't feel superior or prideful... simply grateful.
I suggest that, as we discuss the "sinfulness" or the "ugliness" of the institutional church, we may need to recognize where we are in the stages, and perhaps where others are.
When I first began to emerge out of the institutional church I saw the sinfulness of it everywhere: in me, in every church, in every gathering. I was horrified by the pride, the arrogance, the control, the systems that perpetuated greed, the mis-use of power, the pulling down of the dignity of the "lay" Christian. To me, it was and still is horrible. I needed to rant and rave... not to tear anyone else down... but to help free myself from the quagmire I had lived in.
Yet, I have also moved into the stage of a certain amount of freedom from some of that yuck and I am finding myself spending more time trying to build healthier patterns rather than trying to tear down or deconstruct what I came out of. However, I still find the voices of those who are ranting and raving against to be helpful. They remind me of those things that I do not want to return to. These are important prophetic voices.
I hope that I will come to the final stage of both humility (recognizing that the sin is still within me and that I will always struggle with the greed, pride, and control that plagues God’s church) along with the clarity that sin is sin and that freedom comes from turning from it.
My point is that we need both voices still. We need the prophetic voice that says “Sin is sin. Those sinful structures are horribly sinful.” We also need the forward-looking voice that says, “Let’s move beyond tearing down and let’s re-construct, by the grace of God, something that reflects Him in a greater way. Let’s remember our own sinfulness and walk in humility lest we fall into the same trap as before."