Types of Churches

There are different models or

Back in the 1990s, as I became aware of the troubling times ahead, I sketched out an analytical graphic that would help evangelical leaders understand what kinds of churches will be the most likely to succeed in the days ahead and what kinds of churches will be the most likely to fail. The kind of church most dominant in American culture is the "bureaucratic" type - with its emphasis on programs and goal achievement. But in times of trouble - social, political, and economic chaos - that's precisely the kind of church most likely to fail. The word "charismatic" used here does not equate with Pentacostalism. It's a sociological term (Max weber) - and can apply to both Pentacostal and non-Pentacostal churches.

----------------------Basic Types of Churches----------------------





Source of Authority

Inheres in a "father figure."

His authority tends to be defined and restricted – but by tradition, not by a constitution or a written code.

There is always a constitution or a well defined “written code” outlining the nature and scope of the leader’s authority. The force of the leader’s personality is largely irrelevant. Personal charisma and motivational skills may enhance his effectiveness; however, neither adds to the legitimacy of his authority.

Inheres in the person of the leader, not in any office or position into which he has been installed. It is the force of his personality and the vision he espouses that matters – and the fact that he conveys a sense of destiny.

His authority tends to be both undefined and unrestricted.

Inheres in the relationships which have been cultivated among the leaders and between the leaders and the congregation. Both “position” and “personality” play a role, but largely secondary.

The authority wielded by the leader tends to be defined, but only broadly. It is more fluid than the authority wielded within either the patriarchal or bureaucratic models, but less so than within the charismatic model.

Features Substantiating Authority

The primary features substan-tiating the patriarchal model are…

  • wisdom; and
  • age.

Unlike the charismatic model, it is not the force of the leader’s personality alone that matters; wisdom and age must “stand out” as well.

There is always a constitution or a well defined “written code” outlining the nature and scope of the leader’s authority. The force of the leader’s personality is largely irrelevant. Personal charisma and motivational skills may enhance his effectiveness; however, neither adds to the legitimacy of his authority.

The leader possesses great personal magnetism, charm, and verve.
He always conveys a well artic-ulated vision – usually of “mes-sianic” proportions.
The leader always imparts a sense of destiny – and that sense engulfs his followers and helps to charge their lives with meaning and purpose.
He is a good communicator.
He is very motivational.

Friendliness and companion-ship, but without collapsing into sentimentality – because the leader must also convey the sense of strength and confi-dence.



Willingness to be entreated – and able to embrace construc-tive criticism.

Open and frank – without betraying matters of confi-dence.

Nature and Degree of Community

A very high degree of community is attainable – but only of a certain type:

1. The relationships which are fostered tend to be more of a “sibling” variety and are not based upon a sense of peerage and friendship.

2. The community here is perceived in familial terms.

3. Its “tone” tends to be quite masculine.

There is very little sense of community. The only sense of community that’s fostered is what might be termed “water cooler community” – referring to the inadvertent friendships that develop informally and casually even within depersonalized bureaucracies. Indeed, bureaucratic models of any variety – including church bureaucracies – tend to devalue the role and significance of “the personal.” It is a well established fact that bureaucracies actually encourage depersonalization so that efficiency isn’t undermined.

There is an intense sense of community; but it’s a false sense. Any transgression of the leader’s authority – any doubts concerning his character, vision, or mission – subjects followers to immediate ostracism.

The sense of community stems from the “vertical bonding” between the leader and his individual followers, not from any “horizontal bonding” between the followers themselves. Consequently, the loss of the leader usually dooms the community.

This model eventually transitions to either a patriarchal or bureaucratic type.

A very high degree of com-munity is achievable – but only if there is an authentic break-through in the development of relationships. Otherwise, the sense of community is aborted – and frustration becomes inevitable.

Unlike the community forged by the patriarchal model, the community here features a bonding based upon peerage and friendship – and is not perceived in simple familial terms. Moreover, the bonding is both horizontal and vertical.

Goal Achievment

This model does not normally stress goal achievement. Instead, it tends to focus upon its own survival – and the needs, anxieties, and concerns – but not necessarily the aspirations and ambitions of its members.

Ideally, this model is highly goal oriented – and stresses the achievement of its defined objectives. It is specifically designed to “get the job done” – so much so that no great premium is attached to the relationships between the constituent members or their personal needs, aspirations, anxieties, or concerns – which, more often than not, just “get in the way of pushing the job through to completion.”

This model, like the bureaucratic model, is highly goal oriented; however, its goals are not defined in a written code or “organization manual,” but are, instead, apt to amount to little more than the personal goals of the charismatic leader. Moreover, the goals are far less rationally justified, and, instead, much more “intuitively justified” – and usually call for a far greater level of sacrifice. Finally, the goals can incorporate a very destructive, violent component - and the means of achieving those goals can likewise be very violent and destructive.

This model can be very goal directed; however, that potential is not easily tapped – simply because priority is always attached to “personhood” and “friendship,” not to the attainment of organizational goals or to the twin virtues of efficiency and effectiveness.

However, once relationships based upon trust, integrity, and commitment have been established, this model can very decisively sustain “goal achievement.” In the meanwhile, however, “nothing seems to get done.

Difficulty of Attaining

It is achievable only if an appropriate “father figure” is found. Otherwise, it cannot be established

Moderate to high degree of difficulty.

Few persons are gifted with both administrative and high-level leadership skills. Moreover, during the formative stage of any organization, administrative skill is not the only or even the primary skill needed. Motivational skills are also necessary; and that combination – administrative skills linked to motivational skills – is extremely rare. This model is far less difficult to maintain than to start.

This model is achievable only if an authentic charismatic leader is found and only if a minimum level of cultural turmoil is pre-valent. Otherwise, it’s impossible.

However, if a charismatic leader can be found and if a minimum level of cultural turmoil has developed, it can be established rather quickly – often almost overnight.

This model is the most difficult of all to achieve – largely because of the need to cultivate relationships based upon trust, integrity, and friendliness – especially within the leadership.

Inevitably, the time-frame is very lengthy and drawn-out – requiring a tremendous expenditure of spiritual and psychological energy. Spiritual maturity is of the utmost importance – and that maturity is neither easily nor quickly attained.


This model is extremely durable – once established.

Even if the community suffers the loss of the original “father figure,” there is ordinarily an “elder brother” who can step into that role – but only if the community has been long established and the designation of the “elder brother” has been made clear by the original “father figure” well before his loss.

The “patriarchal model” is durable even during times of great cultural upheaval.

This model, like the “patriarchal model,” is very durable – but only during times of relative social, economic, and political stability. It’s very fragile during periods of cultural turmoil. It simply does not provide for the sense of personal support and affirmation so necessary during such historical junctures.

During periods of cultural upheaval, this model is usually abandoned in favor of the “charismatic model.”

This model is very transitional and unstable. It is very intimately linked to its charismatic founder – and is not easily “passed on.” It is very vulnerable to the tactic: “strike the shepherd and scatter the sheep.”

The community it helps to organize and sustain usually degenerates following the demise of its founder. Or it undergoes a profound structural and dynamic change – a change which causes it to assume the form of some other authority model – usually the “bureaucratic model.”

This model can be very durable, but not until the persons who comprise it have fully cultivated relationships of trust, integrity, and friendship.

Its durability is usually sufficient to withstand the stress of great cultural turmoil.

If relationships of trust and integrity are not established or if those relationships are not carefully nourished, this model cannot survive – and the community it undergirds quickly degenerates.