Thursday, November 08, 2007


It is the goal of Mission Catalyst to facilitate the planting of healthy churches with certain basic beliefs and focuses. What does a healthy church look like? Having pastored many churches through the years, I have a mental picture of a healthy church. There are several factors, but I want to focus on one that is basic: Affinity. This means that there is general agreement on basic beliefs and goals. Affinity goes farther than beliefs, however. Affinity includes a natural sense of agreement on worship styles and life’s values. When two people are introduced, they usually make small talk until they hit on some common ground — they both lived in Tennessee at one time; they both graduated in the same year; they both listen to Rush Limbaugh; or they are both fans of the Chicago Bears. When some affinity is reached, no matter what it is, there is more joy in being together and sharing. That is essential with a church. When all like the fact that their church has a “great” band and plays music they can really get into, that is an affinity that causes them to love their church. When all like the direction in which their pastor or point person is leading the church, that is affinity. When there is affinity, there is joy, excitement, and enthusiasm. Where people are enthusiastic, churches grow. Healthy churches grow just as healthy plants grow. If they are not growing, they are dead. In my experience, there is little affinity in congregations. Because people are poles apart on various methods, goals, or even basic beliefs, there are mediocre methods used and middle of the road compromises on almost everything. The intent is to please as many as possible so as to keep everyone on board. In reality, many bail, and evangelism tries to replace them so that we do not have negative growth. Affinity, on the other hand, breeds joy, and people invite their friends. This is human nature. If we buy a new Chevy truck and just love it, we tell others and are very convincing. If we went to an amusement park that really was worth the money, we tell others and they plan their vacations accordingly. Church growth is best done magnetically. Joy is contagious. This is true with any style of worship or beliefs. Their must be affinity, not tolerance. How does your church rate on affinity?

Dennis Pumford
Assistant Directional Leader


Anonymous said...


Your article on an affinity really got me thinking about the current state of countless churches across our continent today.

First, I must say that I am Canadian and that current church practices in many ways resemble the Canadian Democratic political system. The Canadian system is based on parties being elected to the legislature. Therefore, in order to secure the popular vote and win the right to govern, political parties will endeavor to run an election campaign that highlights the interests and demands of as many constituents as possible. Ultimately, this leads to policy and decision-making based on compromise, and does not necessarily encompass the best needs of the country. This is quite similar to what you elaborated on in your most recent article.

Therefore, finding the common ground, a.k.a. affinity and the wellspring of joy that naturally goes along with it must therefore be the key to church success. This does however leave me kind of puzzled and looking for some answers.

The question that I find asking myself is, "How does a church arrive at finding its own unique flavor of affinity and in the process how does it assure that the whole church will jump on board with their hearts of joy on their sleeves?"

If I may be permitted to try and answer my own question I will take a stab at it. I think the answer lies first and foremost in establishing affinity on the central theme of God's written word, which is Jesus, who crushed the serpent's head and as a result freely offers a way back to God. An affinity based on this central theme in conjunction with a sincere and joyful effort to keep the Lord's statutes, laws, and ordinances is, I believe, a starting point.

The psalmist once said that the "joy of the Lord is my strength". It stands to reason then that if the Lord is happy then we will also be happy and joyful in pleasing the Lord. The Lord said that he is pleased to show mercy and kindness unto those that love and keep his commandments. It is interesting to note that when the Israelites were erecting the first tabernacle in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt everyone after having solemnly sworn to keep all the commandments, statutes, ordinances, and laws of God now had an affinity for which they were all joyful thus enabling them to work together in harmony. This is evident in the fact that when asked to supply materials for the tabernacle all gave with a willing heart as they were all so full of joy. The giving resulting from their overflowing joy was so abundant that Moses had to turn them away and tell them to stop bringing items for the tabernacle.

This I believe is what churches must endeavor to do. That is to find affinity based on the central theme of the Bible and run with it.

I would certainly appreciate your thoughts on my question at your convenience.


David Simms "Skipper" a

Mission Catalyst said...


You make a good point -- our affinity should be Jesus and His gospel. What we are finding today more than before are churches that have doctrinal harmony and philosophical disunity. People do not agree on how things should be done, while they agree on the basic Bible teachings. This is true today because we live in a pluralistic society. What is the solution? We at Mission Catalyst have tried so many things through the years in churches that we have come to the conclusion that church planting is the best way to affinity. Someone with a vision, and others who buy in. Why are there so many different types of fast food facilities as compared to the 50's? Affluent society becomes discriminating in its choices. There should be many churches with different "flavors" yet the same in doctrinal teachings. Then each one has a chance at growth. Our churches try to be all things to all people who attend -- like radio stations that have a little Country, Jazz, Gospel, Contemporary Christian, Blue Grass, Rock, and Rap. How many listeners would tune in?


Fred said...

What are your beliefs?
Do you believe in the inspired pen of EGW?

Fred Collins

Mission Catalyst said...

Our beliefs are on our website -

We Mission Catalyst Network leaders believe Ellen White to be inspired by God and a blessing to His church. As to her writings being authoritative, we believe that the Bible is our only rule of faith and practice. She believed that also. (Evidently the early church did not believe that everything Paul wrote was authoritative or the other letters to the Corinthians would have been included in Scripture.) We do not mention Ellen White in our summary of beliefs because we rest our beliefs on Biblical authority alone. Also, she herself did not think that faith in her writings should be a test of fellowship.

Anonymous said...

My church seems very friendly at first, but as you get to know people, you find out that a lot of people don't like a lot of other people! Is that normal? inevitable? Does affinity mean good friends with everyone? We tolerate each other enough, and don't bash each other publicly, but we don't really cooperate a lot on much.

Are we really planting churches that are pleasing to God if people can't love each other and be friends despite lifestyle differences? I can see how reaching people with a unique style could work, but eventually everyone will discover deep differences of conviction on various issues. How do we create a new church environment of affinity and teach believers to learn to love without partiality?

Mission Catalyst said...

Obviously, Christians should be able to get along with others who do not see things as they do. We are not talking about Christians when we talk about affinity groups. We are talking evangelism. People are drawn to others who have interests as they do -- common ground. All churches have
an "atmosphere." Right now, most SDA churches have the same or similar atmosphere, and only a small cross section of society -- those hunting for
"truth" will be attracted. Why not have each church in a metro area with a different atmosphere or affinity? They can all teach the same truths. It is back to the "Denny's" article that Ron Gladden wrote. People go to various restaurants because of the atmosphere. They like Italian,
Country, etc. Then they enjoy the food which may even be better at a
place where the atmosphere is different, but they go where they identify with the atmosphere. Paul said he does all things that by all means he might reach some. That means laying aside our own hobbyhorses and preferences to do what works for the spread of the gospel as long as we do not compromise Bible principles or truths. Reality is that even
though a true Christian can get along and love the others in any church environment, he will be happiest where he has an affinity, and that joy is contagious -- he or she will be excited to invite someone to their church because they feel good about it.

Dennis Pumford