Three years ago, I wrote a post called “What is a ‘traditional church’?” The post was inspired by a couple of paragraphs in a book that I was reading. In the book, the author defines most of the terms that he used, included the term “traditional church.” Do you agree with this author’s definition? Should anything be added to his definition? Should anything be removed or changed?
I recently acquired a book by J.D. Payne called Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel (Colorado Springs: Paternoster, 2007). The author surveyed 33 leaders concerning “missional house churches”, and this book is the result.
In the introduction, Payne spends much time on definitions. He explains what he means by all of his terms. As a comparison, Payne also defines what he means by “traditional” church. This is his definition:
In this study “traditional” describes the generally held understanding of the local church. Traditional churches usually have Sunday morning as their primary time to gather. The Sunday worship gathering generally requires much time and energy to prepare for a one- or two-hour weekly event. For many such churches, the majority of their income is devoted to minsters’ salaries and physical properties. These churches tend to be campus-based in their identities. It is at these locations that the majority of their ministry events occur.
Traditional churches tend to be program-oriented, event-oriented, or categorically purpose-oriented in their identities. Pastoral leadership tends to be more positional in orientation and less relational. Evangelism is, many times, one program among many programs of the church and/or is primarily accomplished through the members inviting unbelievers to a worship service where the gospel is shared. The number of members usually far exceeds the number of people who gather weekly for worship and actively use their gifts and talents to build up the church. Many traditional churches identify themselves primarily in terms of their services, events, structures, buildings, and organizations.
I appreciate the fact that the author attempts to define the “traditional” church in terms of trends and generalities. I also appreciate the fact that Payne attempts to write his definition without making value judgments. He does not say whether these are positive or negative characteristics; he merely states that these are the general characteristics of a “traditional” church.
What do you think about this definition? Does this definitional adequately describe what you would normally consider a “traditional” church? Is something missing?