MinistryMatters: What is Your Church Structured FOR?

Guest Blog at UM-affiliated website

I have been contracted to write six blog posts for Ministry Matters that deal with the Call To Action and General Conference.

My first one was a repost of “Blowback: Lamenting an Open Source Call To Action.” My second one is an original piece that I have a teaser for below, with a link to the full article at

Ministry Matters™ was launched in 2011 by The United Methodist Publishing House, based in Nashville, Tennessee. As with most other resources developed by UMPH, Ministry Matters™ aims to serve Christians of many denominations—or no denomination at all!


What Is Your Church Structured For?

I am envious of my friends who know architecture. They can walk around a building and say it is this style from this century made famous by this architect who had this type of weird hair. They know the building not by its pieces, as, apparently, even if it has Roman columns doesn’t mean it is Roman. Rather, the architect has arranged the pieces in such a way as they become distinctive when you look at the whole structure together.

It is only when I bring those friends into a church that we are on a level playing field. As a pastor, when I walk into a church I can also usually guess what type of church it is or was. Here’s the way to do that and impress your architect friends: look at the chancel.

  • If the preaching pulpit is in the center of the chancel, then we are likely in a Protestant church that values the Word in the language of the people.
  • If the communion table is in the center, then we are in a likely Catholic or high-church Protestant congregation that values the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. (And if the communion table is against the wall, then we are likely in a Catholic church that doesn’t recognize Vatican II, which recommended that priests face the congregation while celebrating the Sacrament rather than put their back to them).
  • If the baptismal pool is in the center, we are likely in a Pentecostal church or a nondenominational evangelical church that views baptizing new Christians as their primary mission.
  • This also works when you watch TV. What’s behind Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America? A spinning globe, which represents Osteen’s mission to preach and teach to more and more of the world each week (as evidenced by book deals, streaming services, and an ever-increasing worship footprint).

Sometimes these do not apply, of course. But the way a church is structured in its most sacred of spaces often reveals what it holds up as most important. Be it pulpits or communion tables or spinning globes or a Bible or a baptismal font, the worship space is structured towards that object of the congregation’s adoration.

Form Follows Function

With such a diversity of structures that point towards a diversity of values, then the question is not “what is your church structured like?” but rather “what is your church structured for?” What does your church have as its center both in its physical structure and its organizational structure? And what do these structures allow the church to do?

Read the rest of this post here.

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