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Why Do Christian Denominations Have Such Difficulty Sharing a Common Story?


Denominations were created to celebrate common perspectives and practices of certain groups of churches.  But today, when you look at the stats on denominational growth, the future doesn’t look too promising.  With few or no exceptions, independent churches are leading the growth curve, and many major denominations are struggling just to keep their finger in the dike.  I wonder if part of the challenge is their difficulty telling their story about why they exist at all.  In the business world, the reason McDonald’s is so powerful is they render a common user experience, regardless of the city you’re in.  The minute you walk in the door, you recognize the store, the menu, the look and feel of the advertising, and perhaps most of all, the values and mission of the company. That is brand recognition.

But most denominations aren’t the same way. Walk into a Baptist, Methodist, or other church in Atlanta, then visit one in St. Louis, and there is little that makes one feel they are similar at all.  One of the big things denominations should think more about is having a national expression, so that people moving from one part of the country to another experience a common look and feel in the presence, advertising, and the kinds of things common to their churches.

It doesn’t mean you have to over-control your local churches or that they all have to match.  It’s just about sharing a common story.  It’s really about celebrating unity.

Can you imagine the cultural impact if thousands of local denominational churches had a unified voice and a unified message so the local paper on Saturday ran a common thematic ad for “Come to the Easter service,” no matter what state you were in?  So that people instantly recognized the shared unity?  I think that it would immediately multiply the impact and the recognition of denominations nationwide.

What do you think?  Do you believe major denominations could get beyond autonomy enough to make a national impact?


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Phil Cooke, Ph.D, is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking." Find out more at philcooke.com.