Christian Unity
How Church Size Culture Is Affecting the Decline of Denominations
The size of the church we minister in has almost invisibly become a greater point of connection and disagreement than our denominations.

We live in an increasingly post-denominational world. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, it’s just the way things are now.

Years ago, virtually every friend I had in ministry was within my denomination. Every program we used came from our denominational headquarters. The idea of ministering in any significant way outside our ranks wasn’t forbidden or scary – it just didn’t occur to me.

Not any more. Now my denominational connections are just one factor among many that determine my pastoral friendships, my church’s programs and my ministry opportunities.

I haven’t rejected my denomination. They haven’t rejected me. It just doesn’t factor into our decision-making in the way it used to.

Something else has taken over as a stronger factor in how my church makes its decisions.

The size of my church.

And I’m not alone in this.

Every Church Has a Size Culture

In The Grasshopper Myth, I quoted Lyle Schaller, who said “Churches have more in common by size than by their denomination, tradition, location, age, or any other single isolatable factor.” Since then, I’ve come across a very good paper by Dr. Timothy Keller, entitled “Leadership and Church Size: How Strategy Changes with Growth”. In his lengthy piece, Keller makes a similar argument.

According to Keller, every church is hugely influenced by its “size culture”. He writes that “The difference between how churches of 100 and 1,000 function may be much greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist church of the same size.”

Church Size Culture is a much bigger factor than most of us realize, until we know to look for it.

Church Size Culture is a much bigger factor than most of us realize, until we know to look for it.

For instance, while I have ministry friends from churches of all sizes and denominations, when it comes to talking shop, the greater the difference in church size, the less we’re able to find common ground, unless I have a prior relationship with them. But when church sizes are similar, we tend to connect rather quickly, and denominational differences disappear.

Again, I don’t know if that’s good or bad, it’s just the way things are now. But I do think it presents us with some wonderful new opportunities.

From Denominationalism to Post-Denominationalism

The old ways of connecting and separating along denominational lines are fading away.

When I started in ministry, it wasn’t unusual to hear the members of one Christian denomination referring to members of another denomination as “those poor, lost people”, even if their theology was all but indistinguishable to anyone else.

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June 08, 2016 at 10:33 AM

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