There are only two forms of the church that ultimately matter.
The universal church and the local church.
Everything else is an add-on. Including buildings, furniture, styles of music, types of preaching, curriculum, and the subject of today’s article, denominations.
I’m not against denominations. I’ve been in one my whole life and it’s been a blessing to our church and to me personally.
But, like church buildings, pews, choir robes or skinny jeans on the worship leader, it’s a temporary condition that has a limited life-span.
As I’ve traveled around the world over the last several years, I’ve ministered in churches of almost every denomination and non-denomination. By doing so, I’ve learned a lot about the state of denominations today.
Here are 14 of my observations:
1. We are in a post-denominational culture.
It’s not coming. It’s here.
Like hymnbooks and pews bolted to the floor, there are still a lot of denominations around, but they’re becoming less common, especially among younger, newer churches.
Also like the changes from pews and hymnbooks to portable seats and video screens, this is not all good or all bad.
Whether we like it or not, the Baby Boomers are likely to be the last generation that will care, commit to, or fight over denominational labels. (More on that in point 12.)
2. Denominations are still extremely helpful, especially for small churches.
Big churches have the size, the money and the infrastructure to operate independently far more easily than small churches.
Plus, as I’ve pointed out in Small Church Essentials, bigger churches have a lot more in common with each other than small churches do, so they have a greater ability to lean on each other through conferences and informal networks.
But many small churches still depend on denominational support. A lot of them wouldn’t be able to survive without funds, programs, curriculum and other help from their denominational structure. So, even as most denominations downsize, there’s still a place for their structures, fellowship, accountability and financial support for a lot of struggling smaller congregations.
3. Non-denominational churches are starting to discover some of the problems of independence.
Big churches may not be as dependent on denominational support as their small church counterparts, but flying alone has hazards – as many of them are coming to realize – especially when there’s a scandal, a tragedy or a pastoral transition.