Being a part of a denominational church has its challenges. There are structures that have existed for a hundred years. There are political positions and there are power players. There are traditions that are amazing and there are traditions that are very out of touch and out of date. There are names that have become very dated, Sunday School, Sunday School Superintendent, The Sunday School Secretary, that is just a short list of names. The Communion Table, the little plastic church that sets on top of it, to take your offering for your birthday or your anniversary. The altars that are where people come to pray, before service or after service when there is an altar call given. Altar call is a time when people are challenged to make decisions during the persuasive end of the service. If you are going to move forward in your relationship with God it would be the place that you would tarry and hold on time the Holy Spirit encounters your life. All of this started with a group of people who were hungry to follow God and wanted to do it in an organized manner. Sometimes these traditions have become stronger than scripture and more divisive than the Red Sea!
The other side of the denominational journey is “like faith” across the states and even around the world. I was privileged to eat with the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Ireland and his assistant this past week. (They have changed their name to Christian Churches Ireland because no one in Ireland is in an assembly, ever) As we were eating a meal (another denominational tradition….one that I like), we are connected by a faith that is the same. We believe in the same purpose and the same Jesus. Our relationship is instantly rekindled even though there has been time in between our last meal and meeting. Our love for the lost and discovering a new way to reach people is always part of the conversation and rejoicing in the victories and hurting in the losses.
So, when I was reading in Martyn Percy’s very culturally aware book about the denominational churches and their ability to grow, I was very intrigued. I agree with his implicit theology and how it shapes every part of faith but I was incredibly encouraged as I read his very simple but very pointed strategy for even denominational churches to change and grow.
I will simply highlight what I thought was very insightful thoughts for churches within a denominational structure.
- What is the churches core message? What is it that gave the church life in the first place? Going back to the roots of the church and finding what is the good news for the neighborhood that it is in? Going back to this can cause the congregation to engage in a collective outreach that is energetic and explicit.
- Celebrate the different types of growth that happens with a churches life. Maturational growth, organic growth, and transfer growth are the three mainstays of growth. How does the church celebrate these different seasons so that each church sees itself as a place of transformation and energy? Always viewing the church as being in maintenance phrase is life draining.
- Each church must constantly confront the myth that only certain types of churches can experience growth. An established church can continue to grow. There must be a constant sense of the need to discover new ways in which to celebrate Christ and that growth can happen in the depth of discipleship and in the connectedness to the community and to spirituality.
- Instead of focusing solely on the numerical record, mainline churches need to worry about size a little less, and concentrate on worship, discipleship and outreach just a little more. Whoever planted and no matter who watered, it is only God who gives the growth. 
These four very straight forward and pointed points give a road map for taking what is considered sacred or traditional and turning it toward the positive instead of the negative. What has been the foundation in the past can continue to be the fuel to ignite a new fire into the future. The exploration of the depths of the past to find a reason for the future is so brilliant.
Martyn really has made me think differently about things that I have experienced in being involved with the church over the past half century. He simple put up some really clear signs to point out what has happened to the church. His insight into the international church was really refreshing and the conclusions drawn has great insight.
I know as I have explored discipleship there are always individuals who bring thoughts to the surface that help to transform and transition into the next generation. I am very thankful that my path has crossed with this brilliant mind to help me think differently into the future of my own ministry. This was a great book.
 Martyn Percy, Shaping the Church: The Promise of Implicit Theology, (Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010), 92-94.