July 26, 2007

Denominational vs. Nondenominational Churches

Here is an interesting article at the Out of Ur blog. In it Andy Rowell discusses some observations he has made as he is looking for a new church. He is a doctoral candidate at Duke University, and has been looking for a church to attend.

Here are some of his observations:

The Top Nine Things I Appreciate about Mainline Churches:

1. The leadership of mainline churches does not center so much on one person – the pastor. When a senior leader leaves, there are mechanisms for finding a new pastor including trained interim pastors.

2. Mainline churches have a greater appreciation for Christian history. The liturgies of the mainline churches reflect the thought and deliberation of several centuries of Christians. Many evangelical worship leaders say whatever springs to mind.

3. The worship services at mainline churches have intellectual substance. The liturgies at mainline churches are usually very rich theologically. Someone has taken the time to craft the words of the liturgy carefully.

4. Mainline churches care for the poor and are more aware regarding social issues. Though evangelical churches are coming around, they have been slower than the mainline regarding racism, care for the poor, empowering women, and care for the environment.

5. Mainline denominations take intellectual excellence seriously. They want their pastors educated and their scholars properly trained. I know an evangelical megachurch (which I like) with 100 staff members and only the senior pastor has a Master of Divinity.

6. The ordination process in mainline denominations usually screens out the mentally ill. The ordination process of the denominations takes a few years, includes a battery of psychological tests, and is done in consultation with lots of people who know you. Many pastors of evangelical churches simply decided to plant a church. Whether they have any education or preparation is irrelevant.

7. Mainline denominations care for their pastors more thoughtfully and equally. Mainline pastors are usually paid fairly and their benefits are good and fair.

8. Mainline denominations honor the arts including classical music. Mainline people seem to be the people supporting museums, visual art, architecture and NPR.

9. Mainline churches have better accountability structures. There are structures for dealing with crises and for preventing crises from happening in the first place.

The Top Seven Things I Appreciate about Nondenominational Churches:

1. Nondenominational evangelical churches structure their worship gatherings so newcomers know what is going on and want to come back. They have an elaborate plan for welcoming people so that even irreligious people will want to come back. This includes signs, greeters and the overall style of the environment.

2. Nondenominational evangelical churches acknowledge that churches are organizations that need competent leadership. They tend to value pastors who organize and inspire the church toward more effective mission.

3. Nondenominational evangelical websites are usually better. Websites should be designed for someone who is totally unfamiliar with the church but might want to go there.

4. The music at nondenominational evangelical churches is more like the music people listen to on the radio. This is a preference thing I know but it just seems to me that churches can be faithful while still evolving to connect with people today.

5. Nondenominational evangelical churches question traditions that no longer connect with most people. When only 1% of the people really want the ministry, it should not get time on the podium and space in the bulletin.

6. Nondenominational evangelical churches are more eager to experiment with new technologies.

7. Nondenominational evangelical churches highly value Scripture. This covers a multitude of other shortcomings.

What do you think about his list? One commenter said that nothing spiritual surfaced until the very last point...do think that statement is true? Is there nothing spiritual about accountability, missional focus, theological and historical integrity and care for the poor and hurting?

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