So You Want to Launch a New Denomination?

Denomination NamesJoshua contacted me the other day to tell me he wanted to start a new denomination. My first thought was,
 “Are you crazy? It is not yet the ninth hour and already you are ingesting weird substances?”

I did not verbalize this thought to him. I was more Rogerian. “Tell me more,” I wrote, “Or, would you like to talk?”

We talked by conference call a few days later. He had two other people with him on the call, so I knew it was not just a nightmare he had one night. There might be some substance to it.

Actually this was not the first time I had talked with Joshua about this. And, it was definitely not the first time I had talked with anyone about it.

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What is Slowing Down the Decline of Many Denominations?

HandcuffsAs a group, established denominations are in decline for various reasons.

Typically this happens when the collection of congregations in a denomination do not innovate the style of their ministry to present the substance of the gospel in a manner that is relevant to subsequent generations. These generations do not necessarily go to a church of their denominational heritage, they seek other approaches to spirituality, or they become unchurched or dechurched.

At other times it is because a certain denominational approach was popular for a season of years or decades, and now it is not. New waves of denominational expression are closer to the leading edge where new people are connecting with congregations. Being part of a specific denomination is no longer as important to congregational participants as it once was.

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If Your Congregation is Not Already Affiliated With a Denomination, Why Would It?

Recently a long-term ministry acquaintance contacted me for advice about his congregation. He had People Networkretired from his religious publishing position and moved to the other side of the country. During his life he had been a member of churches affiliated with various denominations. In retirement he had connected with a non-denominational church.

Now his church was considering affiliation with a denomination. It had interviewed leaders from various denominations present in its area, and was seeking to decide with whom it should affiliate.

Knowing my life-long work with dozens of denominations, he asked me to address the question as to why his church should consider affiliation with a denomination. Here is what I told him.

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Christianity Does Not Equal U.S.: A Global Perspective

Twyla HernandezHere is a response to the Pew Research Center's research report on American's Changing Religious Landscape by Twyla K. Hernández, Ph.D. of Campbellsville University in Kentucky. It is well worth your reading and pondering time. 

Download Hernandez, Christianity Does Not Equal U.S.

"We must all remember that Christianity is a global religion and, since the first century, has never been limited to a single country. As Philip Jenkins states in his foundational book The Next Christendom, Christianity 'is returning to its roots,' to where it was embedded for three-fourths of its history. While Christianity is on the decline in the United States, it is flourishing in other parts of the world."

Certainly the role of the Pew study was not in providing a global perspective. Yet, it is important to remember the geo-political boundaries do not contain movements; especially movements of the Holy Spirit.

Initial Random Reactions to the Pew Research--America's Changing Religious Landscape

Landscape CharacatureMake no mistake about it. A surface review of America's Changing Religious Landscape research report from the Pew Research Center is a downer. A more in-depth review does not change the fact that it is a downer, but it does explain some things and remind us that the measuring criteria for religious passion and participation has changed significantly during the past several decades in the USA. We cannot count things the way we once did.

This means that religious affiliation cannot be measured in the same way as before, and that trend research using old categories or perspectives do not tell the real story. We must think more deeply and more broadly. In spite of protestations to the contrary, no research is purely objective. All research has a bias and a prejudice.

When the research is reported and publicly analyzed it almost becomes editorial opinion rather than solid truth. Different people can look at the same research results and come up with radically different insights, discernments, and strategic initiatives. As a consumer of these various perspectives you have to pick one you like and follow it, or become your own prognosticator of the meaning of the research. I choose the latter.

The Pew Research Center report and the early articles about it have the same characteristics and must be questioned and challenged in order to get to the deeper and broader meanings. This is one of the values of good research. We hope the researchers have a mature dimension of emotional health so they can respond appropriately to the debate.

While to this point I have not read the full research--and probably will not take time to do that--the overview reports already call for very significant questions to be raised to deepen and broaden our thinking. This is not to say the research is wrong. It may very well be right on target. It is to say that this type of research calls for us to ask more questions and raise more issues to give greater meaning to the research.

OOPS! This introduction is longer than I intended. Look for my next post or two to see the questions or issues I would raise. The 2nd random reactions click HERE.