Over the past couple of months, I’ve been conducting interviews with pastors of church planting churches, and a couple of things keep reoccurring in all of the interviews. I thought I would single them out and show what mainline denominations could learn from them.

Church Planting Common Denominators

A Kingdom orientation is the number one thing I hear over and over. A kingdom orientation allows pastors to:

  • Care more about how many people they give away than about how big their church becomes.
  • Focus more on reaching their community than growing their church.
  • Work with pastors from all different affiliations instead of just their own tribe.
  • Not care how many new churches are planted in their area.
  • Pray for the success of all the churches in their area and around the world.
  • See the harvest and take the risks needed to do what hasn’t been done before.

Disciple Making and Small Groups

An emphasis on disciple making and small groups is the second common denominator I’m hearing from these churches. Disciple making takes precedence over programs and strategies. And in every case small groups are the primary tool for disciple making. One pastor told me that the way he chooses his church planters is based on how many times the person had multiplied his or her small group.

What about Mainline Denominations?

You don’t need to be a genius to see how these two issues can apply to any church in any situation no matter what tribe. Having a kingdom mindset allows one to be open to all kinds of ministry and keeps one from being lost in his or her personal silo.   And an emphasis on disciple making focuses one on the heart of Jesus’s call to “go make disciples.”

These these two common denominators go to the heart of why mainline denominations are dying. They aren’t Kingdom oriented and they make church members instead of disciples. Let me explain with two stories.

I was working with a United Methodist Conference on where to plant churches. My research pinpointed the places where a UM church was needed. When I showed them the map their response was “We already have churches in that area.” And yes they did, but all of them were small, aging and dying. They agreed that a new church was needed in each of the areas but they wouldn’t do it because it might upset those nearby dying churches. That is not a Kingdom orientation. And I’ve found that lack of Kingdom attitude many, many times in many denominations.

Another story highlights mainline denominations’ lack of understanding of biblical disciple making. I was working in a mainline church that had a bloated organizational structure. They were a church of around five hundred in worship and had around a hundred and fifty people on committees and the board. I recommended they cut that number to twenty or fewer people total to free up people to lead small groups. Their response was, “Then how will we know who is faithful and who isn’t?” They were equating faithfulness with serving on a committee. Serving on a committee has nothing to do with being a faithful follower of Jesus.

Question: Have experience with mainline denominations? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.