Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, current Moderator of the Presbyterian (USA) church writes a great reflection on institutional change. Read it here.

I, for one, believe he is on the right track.  Don’t get me wrong.  I firmly believe that a faith worth practicing needs a track to run on.  Thus, I encourage everyone to discover a faith tradition that ‘suits them,’ to learn it the best they can, and then to practice it while not insisting that everyone else in the world sign up.

Bruce, I think, is talking about institutional structures.  Read: Denominational structures, judicatories, local church committee structures, etc.  On the real local level, I am keenly aware that some people enjoy being ‘visitors’ because if they join, they are afraid that we’ll ask them to be on a committee.  Most want to do something, they want to practice their faith.

There is a lot of talk about all the folks out there who are ‘spiritual but not religious.’  This is because (in my estimation) they equate the church with an institution that no longer serves their needs.  It may be that our practices are perfectly good and suitable, but the institution that is dated.

I agree that there is something sad about ‘letting go’ of an institution that my parents helped construct and my generation has maintained.  There is and will be a certain degree of grief involved with this process.

Still, it may be (as Diana Butler Bass has so accurately noted) that it is Christian practices that are the real hope for the revitalization of the church.  It isn’t some slick new revitalization program we can complete in 3 years.  It is practices that we engage in, as H. Richard Niebuhr said decades ago, to increase our love of God and one another.