There are lots of things that frustrate church consultants. For me, at least lately, the biggest bang-my-head-against-a-wall issue is denominational distractions.
Let me give you a real-world example. Last summer, my denomination (Disciples of Christ) took a historical vote on who’s welcome on which side of the Lord’s Table. We’re not the first mainline denomination to be confronted with this issue and we won’t be the last – I’m not convinced the issue will be resolved in my lifetime. Unfortunately, in our case (and in the case of a number of other mainline denominations) the vote was organizationally pointless. It had no bearing or force on either the judicatory or on any local church. The resolution and the vote were divisive and frankly, no one changed their minds about the issue because of the vote. Those in favor were in favor before the vote was taken, and those opposed remain opposed – and will largely continue to do so. Unfortunately, the vote was close enough that the only “message” the vote sent was that the church is still and probably will continue to be seriously divided on the issue.
And here’s where my frustration lies. The vote and the issue has created a huge distraction for many churches. There are quite a few churches that have decided they’ve had enough and are going through the process of leaving the denomination.
Now, hear me well. I get the significance of the vote and the message it ostensibly was trying to send. And I totally understand and sympathize with those churches that are joining the mass exodus from the denomination. But for many of these churches that have taken exception to the vote, some (most) have taken their eye off the ball. Instead of focusing on mission alignment and vision achievement, they’ve become embroiled in an internal conflict because – surprise, surprise – not everyone in the local church wants to leave the denomination.
Again, I understand and sympathize with both sides of the aisle at the local level too. But for many of these churches, the fight will drag on for months while the members wrestle to make a faithful decision. Sadly, too many of these churches simply can’t afford to take a couple of months off from their mission (frankly, can any church afford to distracted when the only thing shrinking faster than the number of Christians seems to be the number of churches?).
I wish I could offer a good solution other than putting an end to voting on resolutions that have no bearing or import on the local church. The only recommendation I have for those churches that have become embroiled in this distraction is this: make a decision one way or another. You’re going to lose people regardless of your decision to stay or to leave, just like the denomination is once again losing churches – this time probably a lot of churches. So, rip the Band-Aid off. Make a decision as quickly as you can. And then get back to being both faithful and productive in making disciples of Jesus Christ whether you land inside or outside of the denomination.
Question: What denominational distractions have you faced? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.