I am increasingly convinced that there are three kinds of churches — three prevailing characters of congregations, carrying implicit theological underpinnings — and that these three church types exist across denominations, across worship styles, from small churches to megachurches, in rural and urban settings alike. (And I’m interested in your own experiences and perspectives on these characterizations, if you’re willing to comment.)
As I see it, these are the three kinds of churches:
+ the church that asks you to be a sanitized self
+ the church that welcomes you as a wounded self
+ the church that invites you to live as a healed self
She calls the first an “Easter” church, the second a “Good Friday” church, and the third a “Pentecost” church.
The Easter church “holds the belief that new and resurrected life in Christ looks a certain way and lives by certain standards.” It may be a conservative congregation that has strict doctrinal or behavioral standards or a progressive church that implicitly forces conformity to particular social justice perspectives.
The Good Friday church functions as a hospital for the wounded. They “make room for our woundedness … they also allow us to remain there.” She notes that they often focus their ministry on a particular demographic or specialize in responding to particular needs and devote themselves to tending the injuries of those broken by life.
The Pentecost church “witnesses to our worst wounds and our best actualizations, and it echoes the Spirit’s unending call to fuller life in Christ.” They regularly challenge people to refuse to settle for the outward righteousness that may pervade the Easter church or the wallowing in woundedness that may characterize those in the Good Friday congregation.
Each type of church tends to attract people with similar perspectives, and there are strengths and weaknesses in all of them. Although she has clearly set this paradigm up to favour the “Pentecost” church, she notes that even this church culture can be provincial and make others feel unwelcome. Hackenberg concludes by saying:
Importantly, I believe that congregations’ characters do not need to be regarded as entrenched or eternal. The Easter church can be taught to bleed and make room for life’s disorder. The Good Friday church can be encouraged to risk discontentment with its unending woundedness. And the Pentecost church can be challenged to widen its witness to healing, to embrace holy restlessness more boldly in its life & work.
What do you think of the way she has framed this?
Though her categories are obviously broad, do you think she makes helpful observations about the way communities of faith generally approach, define, and live out their beliefs?
If so, what examples have you seen of these basic types of churches? What strengths and weaknesses do you see in each approach?