A quick thought. Normally, I don't appreciate when ministry methods and philosophies are based on a Western business approach and not the wisdom of the New Testament Church (e.g. impersonal and numbers-based practices). However, I recently stumbled across the story of Saturn (the automobile manufacturer) in Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position and I actually think there's something churches can glean:
Saturn has not only lost its way; it has gone out of business. Saturn was a company where people carefully thought through the total brand experience. The carmaker extensively reengineered its operations to radically alter the consumer car purchase experience, calling it itself "a different kind of (car) company."
One of the brand managers who worked for me at Hallmark had previously worked on the Saturn brand. He confided in me that after Saturn had become successful, GM dismantled its separate structure and approach to mage it centrally, as GM did its other divisions. The brand was highly successful but the organization's leadership and the United Automobile Workers ultimately did not allow it to live as a different king of company and "a different kind of car."
Could this apply to the relationship between denominations and member churches? Or maybe to any type of ministry method or evaluation implemented on more than one church? What we have here is a story of a business that was once successful because of its differentiation of services, only to go out of business because its approach was dismantled in favor of a traditional process that supposedly works everywhere else. Saturn's success could have even helped GM as a whole.
I understand (and have written about) the important benefits of denominational membership: e.g., accountability for theological essentials and ethics, resources in times of crises, and the blessing of fellowship and belonging across borders. However, some denominations have arguably abused power and/or ministry methods/evaluations have been implemented, dismantling what was once a growing ministry in its own right.
It may be desirable to have simplicity, universality and (extra-biblical) formula, but the New Testament Church embraced the nuances and diversity of ministry. Why shouldn't we? I say let each church have its own brand.
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