Here’s a good article for you all that you might want to spend a little time with. It’s essentially saying that Mainline Churches, because of their social-stances, money, facilities, etc., should be growing. However, there’s a problem:
“George Barna… commented that mainline Protestant churches seem to have weathered the past decade better than many people have assumed, but that the future is raising serious challenges to continued stability. He identified the quality of leadership provided – especially regarding vision, creativity, strategic thinking, and the courage to take risks – as being the most critical element in determining the future health and growth of mainline congregations…”
We have a problem:
On the one hand, the union-like conditions for leading in Mainline churches, i.e. “having to put in one’s dues,” seems to stifle any creative means of formulating new ways to interact with one’s culture. You might even say that processes such as ordination are less about learning to serve within one’s community than they are about learning the rules of tenure and hierarchy. Quality control can equal a formula of ‘don’t rock the boat.’ Because of the bureauocracies, “entrepreneurial” leaders go elsewhere.
On the other hand, these entrepreneurs, while bringing the Gospel to the culture with great success, risk forming cults of personality. When any such entrepreneur leaves his or her community, the question remains as to whether that community can actually continue to not only survive, but also thrive. And if not, whether it, too, was even truly dedicated to the Gospel or just an entrepreneurial vision, a personality.
I don’t see any particularly easy answers, here. But I would like to begin fighting for one small change in my own denomination that could make something of a symbolic difference. I’d like to see it made Canon law that all Episcopal Bishops have to take communion from a child once a year. Not only do I think that this idea is good theology, but I also think that it would help to remind the above mentioned bureaucracies (bishops and priests, in this particular case) whom they have been called to serve: not themselves but ostensibly Christ and his people.