Gene Mims book, “The Seven Churches Not in the Book of Revelation” gives 7 types of churches that he sees as being unhealthy.
1. The University Church—where the emphasis is on teaching, learning, and doctrine.
2. The Arena Church—worship-centered, where performance and entertainment are key.
3. The Corporate Church—large, complex, intricate, and a model of efficiency.
4. The Machine Church—program-oriented, focused on building, missions, and task management.
5. The Family Chapel Church—based on family ties, where personal relationships come first.
6. The Legacy Church—rich in tradition, often focused on a great event or personality of the past.
7. The Community Center Church—committed to community service and local issues.
The problem with these 7 churches is the over emphasis on one aspect of its role. Some of these churches are easily the result of missionary church-planting. I am sure that in different parts of the world, different ones are more likely. The most common probably is the Family Chapel Church. One of the MacGavran principles for church growth is “homogeneous groups”… probably the most controversial of the principles. Whether one actively seeks homogeneity in a church or not, small churches in mission areas often grow along blood lines. This is not bad, but the initial phase can become a stagnant condition that starts to keep others away.
The arena church with its focus on worship/entertainment is also common. The tendency to equate entertainment (music and movement) with worship certainly promotes this. It is actually amazing how one can visit a tiny rural church. It may be tin roof and cement blocks or bamboo and nipa. Yet they have an electric guitar, drum set, and amplifier… even when they don’t have space or resources for training, programs for discipleship and outreach, or even bibles. Don’t get me wrong. I am not against music, singing, and such. I am concerned when it becomes the central aspect of the church. Some have argued that worship is the central function of the church. But that really depends on how you define worship. Music, singing, dancing, and such is clearly NOT the central function of the church… nor is it the major part of worship.
The machine church is less common, but this is seen at times. I think part of this comes from the presumption that there must be ONE WAY TO DO CHURCH. This fallacy is common worldwide, but where there are lots of different types of churches, I think there may be a greater realization that different types of churches can be healthy churches. Where churches are less common, I suspect that there is a greater tendency to look for a method that will work. Some churches gravity to a popularized program and desperately keep trying to “make it work.” Commonly, methods that have come and gone from other regions drift into missions regions given a new life. Other churches keep jumping to different flavors of the moment, trying new things… hoping to find the “right one”.
I am sure the other four churches are a possibility… particularly the legacy church in the 2nd and 3rd generations. The challenge is to create a Christ-centered church that has healthy aspects of the above 7 churches. After all, all churches should be involved in:
-teaching and learning
-having music and performance as part of corporate worship/fellowship
-developing structures for efficient use of resources
-customizing programs to fit the uniqueness of the local congregation
-enhancing family structures and developing relationships that go beyond the familial
-maintaining a sense of history and tradition within the congregation
-working to serve the broader community in which the church is enmeshed