Todd over at MondayMorningInsight.com posted a very interesting article this week about the decline of denominations last year. For the first time, Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics were among those in decline, rather than the sole growing groups in the survey.
To be honest, I have very mixed reactions to the article.
On the one hand, my denominational colors fly, and I struggle with the knowledge of the Southern Baptists (the church of my youth and upbringing) declining membership. It breaks my heart. I was raised in a southern baptist church, received my bachelor’s at a southern baptist university, and have earned roughly 2/3 of my master’s degree from a southern baptist seminary.
On the other hand, I believe that this is the natural order of things. Where there once was a movement of God among like-minded churches, the denomination was established to protect that movement. Unfortunately, in building fences and walls to protect the denomination from outside attackers, it also prevented movement of the denomination. Thus, the once-rolling stone, is now gathering moss.
I believe that the denominational lines are blurring and are being replaced by like-minded churches gathering in networks for accountability, training, and sending. Groups like the Acts 29 Network, The Association of Related Churches, and the Willowcreek Association are the new denominations.
The key difference, is that churches are able and encouraged to participate in multiple networks in order to see the Kingdom furthered.
My prayer, is that God would keep the younger pastors (myself included) humble enough to respect, love, and honor those still clinging to the denomination even if we, ourselves, believe that time is past. There is still much wisdom and experience to glean, and we would be fools not to listen.