Here is a weird thing. One of the biggest highlights in my life was volunteering in prison where I would discuss Jesus with one another on Thursday nights for about 4 years. Yeah there were guys in there for a couple years for drug possession and selling, and guys in for well over 20 years for rape or murder.
One phrase that come up once in a while in our discussions was “being institutionalized”. When I hear this phrase my mind rewinds to one of my favorite movies of all time… “The Shawshank Redemption”. If you have seen this movie, then you know what the phrase “being institutionalized” means. For those that have not seen the movie (and shame on you for not.. haha), being institutionalized is what happens to a person when they are in a controlled environment for so long that it becomes the only way of life for them.
This is exactly where I was headed entering into my 10th year while attending “church”, and that is when I had to say STOP, this is all I can take! Now of course, I am not trying to fend off some other dudes that want to do bad things to my body or out on a roof sipping some cold suds while applying tar with my inmate buddies. I was free to go home after being indoctrinated. But even though I could go home, I felt stuck in a mundane existence many of us know as “institutional church”, or our local church we hold a membership.
Millions of people every Sunday morning, or Saturday night for those that like football 🙂 ,go to church just because they feel like they have no other options and no other choice in the matter. They go because they feel guilty not going (I wonder who put that in their heads?). I see this as a tragedy, and I know many others will not, and that is fine. I am just spelling it out the way I have learned to see it.
Throughout the years my family and I attended a local church, we were all trained on how to become sheep. Yes, we learn to become sheeple (people who are unable to think for themselves). We are taught to read our bibles everyday, go to bible classes each week, go to church service, join a small group, go to Sunday school (oops I meant Weekend Groups), and also pray a soon as you wake up. We are then led to believe that if we do not do all of these things, we lack spiritually, and are not fit to be a member.
What ever happened to just getting together, eating together, and sharing Christ together wherever we are. Why do we need these multi-million dollar sanctuaries with a paid staff to love each other. Instead we go to all of these classes, and hear all these sermons that show us all these “rules to live by” that we must function under together. And, if you do not follow the rules you are looked down upon (or an accountability partner will slap you in the face for being a heathen).
Sure, trying to be a better person has merit, but are those type of classes going to help us out in the real world? that is if your local church even lets you out in the real world. Do they teach us how to love one another? Do they teach us how to take on each others burdens? to be there for people all the time in community together? I honestly cannot think of how any of these classes helped me after I left the “system”. Sure, they filled me with a ton of knowledge about Christ, but left out one important ingredient… Christ!
So now we have thousands and thousands of different denominational church congregations meeting in their multi-million-dollar-state-of-the-art campuses, separating themselves from most others every Saturday or Sunday. I see many (not all) church going people the same way I saw many of the prisoners I met with … institutionalized and do not even know it. They accept the weekly grind of “going to church”, “going to programs”, and “studying the bible” as their way of life (without ever interacting in communal living with others around them). They mainly see the same people in the same institutionalized bubble. People that go to church and are afraid to consider a different way of life in the Body are institutionalized. People who never question the church “system” are institutionalized.
Look at WHY you do what you do, and WHY you attend a local church. Is it really helping others, or are you just bettering and entertaining yourself. Don’t be a sheeple of the “system”. Be a sheep in Christ.
Here again is the definition… being institutionalized is what happens to a person when they are in a CONTROLLED environment for so long that it becomes the only way of life for them.
I was blind, I popped that bubble, and now I see…