Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Congregationalism

A friend said to me recently, “I could never be a part of Mission Catalyst because they promote congregational churches, and congregational churches are a dangerous trend.” I agree with him completely on one point, and must strongly disagree on the other. The point of agreement: congregationalism is not good. Point of disagreement: Mission Catalyst plants and promotes congregational churches. I had heard this myth from others. First impressions say that if you are not a part of a denomination, your church is congregational. Why is this a myth? Because most independent and growing, healthy churches are not based on the congregational model. Many denominational churches are congregational. Congregational churches are those in which the congregation makes the most important decisions through the democratic process of voting. Therefore, they are congregationally run. Healthy churches are leader driven churches from Biblical models. Rick Warren makes a good point in his book, The Purpose Driven Church. He says that democracy is definitely not a New Testament model. Most churches and denominations are based on the American political model, not the Biblical model. Biblically, when God wanted to do something big, he raised up a leader and put a passion on his heart to lead and persuade others to follow. Nehemiah did not go back to Jerusalem and announce that they were going to have a vote on whether or not to build the wall. Moses did not bring Israel together to vote on whether the time had come to leave Egypt. Nor did he have the people vote on what colors should be used in the new sanctuary. In fact, they voted on nothing. I’m sorry, they did vote once — they voted to go back to Egypt. The plan went well until Aaron, the democratically chosen leader, was confronted by the true visionary leader, his brother Moses, who vetoed the entire congregation’s vote. Leaders that were in tune with God led. The growing mega-churches in America are led by inspired and visionary leaders who often allow spiritual leaders in their congregation to be involved in decisions, but I do not know of any who have their congregation vote on matters that affect the direction of the church. One such church leader says that, the larger the decision, the fewer people are involved in the process. On the other hand, in the denominational churches in which I have pastored, leaders who have great visions have to submit them all to the congregation for a vote. This reduces the vision’s outcome to the lowest common denominator of faith. Often people who are neither spiritual nor visionary kill the plan, and the church regresses back into mediocrity. You might say, “But a visionary leader might run the church way into debt or bite off more than the church can chew.” That is true. That is why good churches start with bylaws. A good bylaw might say that debt cannot be incurred without the consent of the board of elders, that 50% of the projected monies must be in hand, that a loan cannot be incurred for more than seven years, and that the payments must not go beyond 30% of the average monthly income. Bylaws contain but do not kill the vision. I would argue that, if there had not been a drift to congregationalism within the denomination, there would have been no need for Mission Catalyst. Hence, the argument that MCN plants congregational churches is exactly upside down. Think about it!

Dennis Pumford
Assistant Directional Leader

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Entrepreneurial Threat?

I was recently in conversation with some denominational administrators. They said something that I had not heard before. They said that the threat of congregationalism has been superceded by the new threat of entrepreneurialism. I had no reply because it was a totally new concept to me. It did not take much later reflection for me to realize that when entrepreneurialism is a threat, it is a bad indicator of the health of the organzation. Any organization that does not appreciate its entrepreneurs is headed the wrong direction -- especially if they stifle or lose them. We almost worship the ground that the pioneers of our church walked on. We restore their homes and barns. We go on pilgrimages. But we fail to remember that a pioneer was an entrepreneur of a different time. A pioneer, by definition, is one who is so dissatisfied with what is that he or she strikes out to find or create something new. Pioneers are usually young, or at least young at heart. They do not accept the status quo because they are driven by a vision of what could be. They are often rejected by their contemporaries, but revered by their later followers. When their followers so revere their forefathers that they reject the current "pioneers" (entrepreneurs), then the climate is created for new models and new organizations. The dissastisfied few will always explore and invent, their contemporaries will always stand back with folded arms and criticise, and their followers will always lay concrete on the new path. I guess it is just the way it is. But should it be that way? Let me know what you think.

Dennis Pumford
Assistant Directional Leader