Institutions do not make disciples. They have other goals,
primarily the preservation of the past for the comfort of those who are long
term participants. Cell church author Ralph W. Neighbor described the
institutional church as the program base design church.
The program base design church is a consumer-driven institution, marketing a
variety of programs to meet the needs of strangers and attract them to the
church. They intentionally assimilate uncommitted people. These congregations
grow by receptor growth;
newcomers remain consumers of pastoral care while leaders overfunction codependently
and burn out. Jesus and John Wesley focused on the development of individual
people exercising diverse gifts rather than developing institutional programs
where leaders burn out.
 The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html. In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through CreateSpace.com.
   
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.
Neighbor, Where Do We Go, 57-76. For a discussion of the differences between the institutional and organic concept of church, see Neil Cole, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 34-35. Guder describes the emergence of the Program Base Design church in 1850-1900 as third of Russell Richey’s five distinct historical stages of the American Protestant church in the past two hundred years. Cf. Guder, Missional Church, 65.
Carl F. George, The Coming Church Revolution: Empowering Leaders for the Future (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1994), 37-38.