Sunday, August 29, 2004

Structural Issues, Part 2

See also Structural Issues, Part 1 - What the Church Does

What Mission Catalyst Plans to Do
Mission Catalyst plans to place the focus more on the local church than on the overall organizational structure. Local churches will accept all funds for themselves. They will then return a tithe (10%) of these total donations to the administrative center (called a "network support office"). The local church will pay pastors; the network will not. The local church will raise money for buildings; the network will not. The network will provide initial funding of $15,000 for new churches started by leaders with network approval. The 10% of donations remitted to the network office will be used for administrative support. World missions will be funded by the local congregation -- each church in the network is required to sponsor a mission project over 100 miles away from their community. Information about this plan can be found here and here. Incidentally, this type of structure is already used by many Protestant denominations.

Some advantages:

  • Local churches will have flexibility to use their money however they see fit. This could include staffing for growth, purchasing property, advertising, and various forms of outreach -- whatever best suits the needs of the local community.
  • Emphasis will be placed on the local church and enabling it to reach out. Ideally, a lean, mean central office can still provide support and vision, while not sucking the life out of local ministry.

Some disadvantages:

  • Worldwide outreach will unquestionably be limited. Coordination of mission efforts will be difficult, though not impossible.
  • Pastoral salaries, since they are set by the local church, will likely provide monetary incentive for pastoring at larger churches with more income.

Some questions:

  • One thing that creates connections between Adventist churches currently is the use of church materials over a wide territory. The most notable example is Sabbath School, and it is indisputable that we have some of the finest children's programming available. Will Mission Catalyst continue to use these materials (thus drawing on a ministry funded by means they have chosen to reject)? Do they plan to create their own at the network level, or will each church be responsible for creating materials locally? This may place a large burden on local churches.
  • Is this use of donations biblical and supported by prophetic guidance?
  • What forms of accountability will be put in place for local churches in their use of money?

There is little doubt in my mind that the Adventist church currently over-emphasizes denominational structure. In many ways, this has stunted the growth of local congregations. However, is Mission Catalyst's approach the correct solution, or has it swung too far toward the local church at the expense of denominational unity?