A Comparative Analysis of Denominations and Networks

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In the last 15 years, American Christianity has seen the rise of networks and the decline of denominations. On the blog this week, I’m in the midst of a series discussing denominationalism. On Monday, I wrote about “10 Quick Thoughts On Denominationalism in 21st Century American Christianity.”


When I mention “networks,” I’m talking about groups like C3 Global, Acts 29, ARC, and others who involve a grouping of churches to learn and go on mission together. These networks are not necessarily in existence to replace denominations, but they inevitably hurt them. Networks take money, energy, and people away from denominations and shift them toward networks.


Anecdotally, networks seem to be significantly less bureaucratic than denominations. They seem to have better conferences, cooler marketing efforts, and are less pressurized.


Denominations are more politicized and older, but they also have a lot more resources to advance the mission. The systems in place for denominations are a two-edged sword. Many of the systems for missions, publishing, etc., are in existence, but some of them have multiple layers that seek to do the same thing.


Denominations will not cease to exist altogether, but their dollars will decrease as The Great Evangelical Recession hits, unless something changes. Southern Baptists are already seeing this with mass layoffs at NAMB, the IMB, and multiple state conventions (e.g. Florida and Tennessee). Meanwhile, networks like ARC and Acts 29 appear to be growing.


The future of churches partnering together will be important to watch. My hope and desire is to see churches partner with multiple groups to advance their efforts to reach the nations with the Gospel.


Do you have any thoughts on networks and denominations? Let me know in the comment section below.

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2 Comments on “A Comparative Analysis of Denominations and Networks”

  1. The biggest reasons networks are growing is the networks are lean in their operations, focused on very few things, and typically innovative groups/churches.

    Denominations have many years of history that adds many layers of complexity, a lot of financial expenses that many church leaders see as a waste and sideways, and lastly the focus is to broad of most denominations. Trying to do a million things and none of them are very effective, rather than doing a few things with excellence.

    It’s the same things when you look at the church with the same lens. More focused and a leaner operation typically leads to more effectiveness. For denominations to regain relevance and traction they must make some hard choices.

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