Jesus didn’t establish denominations, he established the Kingdom. Jesus didn’t die and conquer death for policy, he did it for people. Believers created denominations and political order to make sense of the unimaginable grace that Jesus gifted us. Sometimes denominations are wonderful organizations that help build the Kingdom and extend that grace, while other times, denominations become derailed and ineffective, protecting the organization instead of the mission. No doubt there’s a cycle of effectiveness, but the question is: Do we allow ourselves to recognize, filter, and change, so as to pursue being effective again, or do we ignore problems, retreat, and remain, so as to protect what once was safe and familiar?
In my last post (The Kingdom Is Too Valuable To Become Bitter), I made mention of the fact that in order for denominations to remain effective, they must recognize and overcome issues that arise. Because denominations are man-made, we have to ensure that we let go of our creation so that we hold on to God’s creation.
I love the Church. So much so, that I long for every part of the Church to be as effective as possible – that includes every denomination (whether I’m a part of it or not). To help in conversation, let me offer a number of things that cause denominations to become ineffective, and some simple solutions that could help.
A denomination is no longer effective…
1. When it protects itself over its people.If the Kingdom is about people, then we need to be about preserving relationships, not an organization. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom is all about people. When denominations make decisions that selfishly protect the future of the denomination, rather than protecting the future of the people within the denomination, ministry is actually derailed. It may sound like an act of preservation, however, if the Kingdom is about people, then we need to be about preserving relationships, not an organization.
SOLUTION: When making decisions, discuss the impact on people BEFORE the impact on the organization.
2. When policy drives the mission and vision.
Any healthy organization is driven by its mission. In turn, polices are created to help roll out that mission. If the mission isn’t kept in the forefront, however, long standing polices eventually become ‘the way it’s always been done,’ whether it helps in the mission or not. If allowed, policy will eventually trump mission and vision every time.
SOLUTION: When answering the question ‘why are we doing this?’ make sure the answer is based from the mission, and not policy.
3. When financial success is confused with missional success.Financial success will only mask the need for intentional discipleship. #BecomeEffectiveAgain Click To Tweet
Growth happens in so many different ways. Yes, financial stability is important, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate missional success. In fact, having a lot of money in the bank may actually indicate a lack of missional growth. Denominations have to find ways to measure relational discipleship in order to be successful. Financial success will only mask the need for intentional discipleship.
SOLUTION: When preparing a budget, ensure expenses are actually funding relational discipleship and not helping church members remain comfortable (Small Groups are vital).
4. When leadership ignores conflict.Peace is always short-lived when conflict is ignored. #BecomeEffectiveAgain Click To Tweet
Conflict is everywhere, and especially within the Church. While it’s difficult to tackle sometimes, denominations become ineffective when conflict is ignored or handled inappropriately. Peace is always short-lived when conflict is ignored.
SOLUTION: Navigate all conflict – ignore the silly stuff and engage in the small stuff, before you’re derailed by the big stuff (Click here for more on navigating conflict).
5. When decisions are fear-based.Be more fearful that the mission will be sidelined, than whether or not the denomination will change. #BecomeEffectiveAgain Click To Tweet
Fear has a way of getting under our skin. The challenge, is not allowing that uncomfortable influence to weigh our decisions. The pressure is there for leaders to give in to threats, and control the fear of ‘what if…’ Especially, when it impacts finances. Fear-based decisions, however, will always get in the way of effective ministry.
SOLUTION: Be more fearful that the mission will be sidelined, than whether or not the denomination will change (Click here for more on working through fear).
6. When the truth of a matter is so convoluted that transparency is no longer considered an option.A lack of transparency comes across as being dishonest, and that will stop any denomination from being effective. Click To Tweet
Up until recent years, leaders who are transparent and vulnerable, have been viewed as being weak. The problem is, when leaders aren’t transparent and the narrative around them implodes, everyone witnesses their weakness anyways. What’s even worse, a lack of transparency comes across as being dishonest, and that will stop any denomination from being effective.
SOLUTION: Be transparent BEFORE things get out of hand. Thinking people will respond negatively to transparency is a myth. It’s a lack of transparency that people respond to negatively.
7. When fear stops conversation.Fear paralyses the conversation that's required to overcome our problems. #BecomeEffectiveAgain Click To Tweet
The Church has some serious topics and issues to discuss (this post is a good start). But fear, namely asking, “What will happen to me, if I bring this up?” stops us from having these conversations. Truth be told, if that fear exists, it actually proves that there’s a significant problem. Fear paralyses the conversation that’s required to overcome our problems.
SOLUTION: Welcome conversation – it’s not scary. When we discuss and listen to understand those around us, we effectively help each other journey in the faith and understand how important cultural issues intersect with our faith. After all, “Iron sharpens iron.”
8. When problems are justified.
We can justify just about anything. When we want to ignore a problem, we simply justify them. For example, ‘the policy has been in place for years’, or ‘no system is perfect,’ or ‘let’s create a committee, to discuss why we have so many committees.’ These responses may help us feel comfortable, but they will keep denominations from effectively identifying issues and working through them.
SOLUTION: Evaluate all ministries on a regular basis. Discuss why something works, and why something doesn’t work. Address the negatives, and recognize the positives.
9. When it pretends tomorrow can (and should) be like yesterday.Assuming what worked for yesterday will still work for today, is a sure way to become ineffective. Click To Tweet
Denominations have the potential to be a part of the greatest mission on earth. That mission has the ability to NEVER change, and yet, become RADICALLY RELEVANT to every generation. That means what while the mission never changes, the methods have to change as each new generation experiences the Gospel. Assuming what worked for yesterday will still work for today, is a sure way to become ineffective.
SOLUTION: Study the gospel, and remain in the truth; study culture, and learn to be relevant with the truth.
I was a part of a denomination for several years – 6 years as a Lead Pastor of a local assembly. I recognized many good things about organization, but as time went on and my interaction with the man-made system continued, it didn’t take long before I started to experience the issues above.
There came a point when my wife and I realized we no longer had a place in the organization. We no longer fit, and we found ourselves without a position to even navigate, let alone, agree with.
We wanted to be effective for the Kingdom, but we didn’t want to experience unnecessary bitterness from navigating denominational politics and poor leadership. Bitterness only tears apart the one who is bitter.
We had no desire to leave, but knew we had to leave. There were pockets of success in the denomination, but the organization itself was fighting against their own strategic initiatives with protected policies
I urge all denominations to seriously evaluate ministry and their contribution to the Kingdom. In fact, this post could be a great start, if people are willing to discuss their effectiveness. If you agree, please take a moment and share this post with those around you, and encourage positive conversation.
What are some other signs a denomination is no longer effective? How can a denomination become more effective?
Share with me in the comment section below (or on social media). You never know how you may encourage someone else!