Many are proclaiming the decline and death of denominations. David Lose (a Lutheran) gives five reasons why denominations will shortly be history.
In one sense, he’s right. Denominations, as we have come to know them, may well cease to exist. In reality, what’s happening is that denominations are undergoing a change of DNA and returning to the essential mission that gave them life in the first place.
Groupings of congregations that share a mission and a common theological identity are, however, important to the on-going work of the church in the world. So denominations aren’t going anywhere instead they are becoming leaner and effective at advancing the Gospel.
Denominations will look different in the coming years in at least three ways:
- More relationship and less structure. At their best denominations facilitate partnerships through relationships. Relational should be stronger than the structural element, although there will always be a need for structure since the church is both organism and organization.
- Greater emphasis on the local. Ministry is highly contextual on so there will be less decision making at the national level in favor of allowing local groups of churches to decide things together.
- Greater focus on the essential. By this I mean greater focus on what denominations do well–streamlining their mission. There’s no need for denominations to proliferate printed material for use by churches. There is, however, a need for denominations to provide health insurance and benefits for its ministers.
- The need for oversight. Churches and ministers have to be answerable to something other than themselves.
- The need for mediation. There needs to be a mechanism for resolving disputes within congregations.
- The need for partnership. We can do more together than separately, especially when it comes to planting new churches.
- The need for comradeship. Pastors need colleagues and churches need to be able to band together to advance the mission of God locally.
- The need for structural support. It’s not popular to say but there is a critical need for effective structural support for churches and ministers.
Will denominations survive?