A tale of four congregations

This is a comparison of four churches we have attended. I want to stress that all four are specific churches (which I am not going to name) and are not intended to be archetypes. All four are truly seeking God’s path, but have very different ways of going about it.

  • Startup
  • MiniMegachurch
  • Organic
  • Liturgical

The Startup church was wonderful; its distinctives and culture resonated with us. It stressed dynamic and semi-autonomous small groups. It stressed discipleship. It stressed growth by church planting. It put a lot of importance on child ministry. We enjoyed true fellowship and found people which whom we could do life together.

The MiniMegachurch has succumbed to the “businessification” of the American church. Its early distinctives and culture have been mostly swallowed up by a cult of personality. The senior pastor is now the CEO, and his vision and priorities are what set the culture and tone. He is the Authority. The sermon is now the pinnacle of every service. The services are very tech-heavy and performance-oriented. Worship is no longer an end in itself; it must now support the sermon, so it has turned into mere manipulation. Small groups, while encouraged, are important only in serving the overall agenda. The church has grown quickly, and there are many new or immature believers. Therefore, the sermon is generally about what the individual must to do improve. Guilt seems to be the prime motivator. Growing at any cost has replaced discipleship.

The Organic church is very small and seems to be made up mostly of people who have been injured elsewhere.  They do things in a fairly non-traditional way; but they have not yet decided who they are. They don’t seem to have clear principles,  distinctives or culture.

The Liturgical church is surprisingly warm and inviting. The service is fairly formal, yet has a balance of reverence and playfulness. At the end of the service, all of the children join in the final songs. Their dancing and simply joy brings a wonderful reminder that we all must approach God as children.  The messages are clearly to the community as a whole. The priests are there to serve the community as we all do the liturgy together. At the end, one of the priests holds the Scriptures in the air, walking down the aisle — again, the image being that are all focused on God, our Savior, and the Scriptures; and not the priest himself.

As you can probably tell, I am finding myself consistently drawn to the Liturgical church. There are a few reasons: They have clear principles, distinctives and culture. They clearly delineate what are core Christian beliefs and what are their own traditions. The priests see themselves as servants of the community, and not as Authority. Therefore they are not threatened by differences. They do not feel the need to micromanage individuals or groups within the church. They know where they have been, and they know where they are going. The people there seem to be going somewhere deliberately rather than running from something else.